Businessman holding empty pocket

Out of the 48 million Americans that report some degree of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the labor force. Which means millions of Americans head to work every day with less than perfect hearing.

We know that hearing loss adversely influences overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? 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 short review of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

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

Working with the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more extensive surveys were sent to the following two groups:

  1. A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
  2. A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.

The 7-page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, long-term plans, and career information. Every respondent was also asked multiple questions about their hearing loss severity, which led to one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

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

The results demonstrate that hearing loss has an effect on income

Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less annually than those with mild hearing loss. The results also plainly showed that as the degree of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.

And the total economic cost to society?

According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings caused by 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 showed, most importantly, that using hearing aids was found to mitigate 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 people that have a higher salary are simply in a better position to pay for 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, increase income, through greater work productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, generating 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 assessed as a significant element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, resulting in 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 dealt with problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?

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