Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans go to work every day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss negatively impacts overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial effects? Does hearing loss impact 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 a short screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This helped to identify approximately 16,000 people with hearing loss.
Working with the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more comprehensive 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 presently own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, future plans, and career information. Each respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss severity, which resulted in one of four categories from mild to profound.
With all of this information, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the degree of hearing loss
- Compare income to those who used hearing aids and those who did not
The results reveal that hearing loss impacts income
Those 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 dropped proportionally.
And the overall 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 a projected $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.
Having said that, all is not lost. The study also confirmed, most significantly, that using hearing aids was found to minimize the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for professionals with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really contribute to a surge in income? Isn’t it conceivable that those who have a higher salary are simply in a better position to pay for hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and use them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, increase income, through enhanced work productivity. In relation to employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, resulting in higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
- Create communication obstacles, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a principal component of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a corresponding decrease in job performance.
For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will likely enhance your job performance, and, as a result, your earning potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?