Of the entire 48 million Americans that report some degree of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans head to work every day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss negatively affects general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic effects? Does hearing loss impact salary, and does the treatment of hearing loss help?
The Better Hearing Institute set out to find answers to these questions in a study titled The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income. Here’s a short outline of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by sending out a brief screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.
Using the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more comprehensive surveys were sent to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that presently own hearing aids.
- A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, long-term plans, and work information. Each respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss degree, which resulted in one of four categories from mild to profound.
With all this data, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the level of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who used hearing aids and those who did not
The results reveal that hearing loss impacts income
Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less each year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also clearly showed that as the degree of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.
And the total economic cost to society?
According to the study, the estimated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.
However, all is not lost. The study also demonstrated, most significantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to minimize the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for professionals with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really contribute to an increase in income? Isn’t it conceivable that those who have a higher income are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are consequently more likely to own and wear them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s good reason to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, enhance income, through enhanced work productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, producing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
- Create communication obstacles, constraining productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a major ingredient of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, leading to depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a proportionate decrease in job performance.
For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will most likely enhance your job performance, and, as a result, your earning potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you encountered problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?