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Of the entire 48 million Americans that report some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans head out to work every day with less than perfect hearing.

We know that hearing loss negatively influences general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial effects? Does hearing loss impact 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 quick review of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

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

Using the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more extensive surveys were delivered 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, long-term plans, and employment information. Every respondent was also asked multiple questions about their hearing loss severity, which led to one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

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

The results reveal that hearing loss has an effect on income

People 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 estimated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

However, all is not lost. The study also revealed, most importantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to mitigate the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.

Implications for employees with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really result in a boost in income? Isn’t it possible 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 believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, boost income, through enhanced productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, causing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication barriers, restricting productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a principal element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, leading to depression, exhaustion, impaired 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 dealt with problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?