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Out of the 48 million Americans that describe some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans go to work each day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss negatively impacts general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic effects? 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 overview of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

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 individuals with hearing loss.

Using the list of 16,000 individuals 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 presently 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 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 led to one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all of this information, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the intensity of hearing loss
  2. Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not

The results show that hearing loss influences income

Those with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less each 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 due to untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also demonstrated, most importantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to reduce 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 those that have a higher income are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are therefore 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, enhance income, through greater productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, producing 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 assessed as a significant part of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, bringing about depression, exhaustion, 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 income potential.

What are your thoughts? Have you encountered problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?