Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some level of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans go to work each day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss negatively influences overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic consequences? Does hearing loss affect 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 concise overview of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing a short screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.
Utilizing the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more detailed surveys were sent to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
- A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and employment information. Each respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss extent, which produced one of four categories from mild to profound.
With all of this data, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the amount of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results demonstrate that hearing loss influences income
Those with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less annually than those with mild hearing loss. The results also clearly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income fell 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 United States is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.
Having said that, all is not lost. The study also revealed, most importantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to reduce the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for employees with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really bring about an increase in income? Isn’t it a possibility that people that have a higher salary are simply in a better position to pay for hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and wear them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, increase income, through enhanced work productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, leading to higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
- Create communication barriers, constraining productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a significant component of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, fatigue, impaired cognition, and a proportionate decrease in job performance.
For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will most likely improve your job performance, and, as a result, your income potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?