Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. That means millions of Americans head out to work every day with less than perfect hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely affects general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic effects? 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 quick outline of the study, the results, and the ramifications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing out 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 people with hearing loss, more comprehensive 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 individuals with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, long-term plans, and career information. Every respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss extent, which resulted in one of four classifications from mild to profound.
With all this information, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the amount of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who used hearing aids and those who did not
The results reveal that hearing loss influences 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 clearly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income fell proportionally.
And the overall 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 unrealized federal taxes.
However, all is not lost. The study also demonstrated, most importantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to offset the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for workers with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really lead to an increase in income? Isn’t it a possibility that those that have a higher income 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 believe 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, causing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
- Create communication obstacles, restricting productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a significant component of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, fatigue, hindered 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 earning potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you encountered problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?