Of the entire 48 million Americans that claim some extent of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans head out to work each day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely affects general 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 answer 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 ramifications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing out a short screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 people with hearing loss.
Using the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more detailed surveys were delivered 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 individuals with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, future plans, and work 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 information, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the intensity of hearing loss
- Compare income to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results demonstrate that hearing loss influences income
Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less per year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also plainly showed that as the degree of hearing loss increased, income fell proportionally.
And the overall 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 an estimated $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.
However, 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 employees with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really bring about a surge in income? Isn’t it possible that people that have a higher salary are simply in a better position to afford 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 greater work productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, creating higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
- Create communication barriers, restricting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a significant element of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental well being, bringing about depression, fatigue, 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 income potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?