Businessman holding empty pocket

Of the 48 million Americans that claim some degree of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans go to work every day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss adversely impacts overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial effects? Does hearing loss affect income, and does the treatment of hearing loss help?

The Better Hearing Institute set out to answer these questions in a study titled The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income. Here’s a quick review of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by mailing a short screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This helped to identify around 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.

Using the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more comprehensive surveys were delivered to the following two groups:

  1. A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
  2. 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 use and satisfaction, long-term plans, and employment information. Each respondent was also asked multiple questions about their hearing loss severity, which produced one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the amount of hearing loss
  2. Compare income to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not

The results reveal that hearing loss impacts income

People with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less per year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also distinctly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.

And the overall economic cost to society?

According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also revealed, most importantly, that using hearing aids was found to offset the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.

Implications for professionals with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really bring about a boost in income? Isn’t it a possibility that those that have a higher income are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are consequently more likely to own and use them?

It’s a legitimate question, but there’s good reason to think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, raise income, through enhanced productivity. In relation to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, causing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication barriers, limiting productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a major component of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a corresponding drop 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 dealt with problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?

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