Of the entire 48 million Americans that report some level of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. That means millions of Americans head to work each day with less than perfect hearing.
We know that hearing loss negatively influences general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial 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 quick overview of the study, the results, and the ramifications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by mailing a short screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 people with hearing loss.
Utilizing the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more detailed surveys were sent to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 people 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 seven page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, long-term plans, and employment information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss severity, which produced one of four classifications from mild to profound.
With all of this data, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the degree of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results show 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 US 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 significantly, that using hearing aids was found to minimize the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for workers with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really bring about a surge in income? Isn’t it conceivable that those who have a higher salary are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and use them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, enhance income, through greater work productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job market, 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, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a significant ingredient of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, leading to depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a corresponding drop in job performance.
For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will likely enhance your job performance, and, as a result, your income potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you dealt with problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?