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Of the entire 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 each day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss negatively influences overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? Does hearing loss impact income, 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 brief review of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

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 people with hearing loss.

Using the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more detailed 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 seven page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and work information. Every respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss degree, which led to one of four classifications 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 utilized hearing aids and those who did not

The results reveal that hearing loss affects 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 clearly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.

And the total economic cost to society?

According to the study, the estimated cost of lost earnings caused by untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

However, all is not lost. The study also demonstrated, most significantly, 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 contribute to a boost in income? Isn’t it a possibility that people that have a higher income are simply in a better position to pay for 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, boost income, through enhanced work productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, generating higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication barriers, constraining productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a principal aspect of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a proportionate decrease in job performance.

For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will likely improve your job performance, and, as a result, your earning potential.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?

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