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

We know that hearing loss adversely impacts general 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 find answers to 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 implications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing a short screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This helped to identify around 16,000 people with hearing loss.

Using the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more detailed surveys were delivered 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 incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, long-term plans, and work information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss severity, which led to one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all this information, the researchers could now:

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

The results show 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 calculated cost of lost earnings caused by untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also confirmed, most significantly, 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 surge in income? Isn’t it a possibility that people who have a higher salary are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and wear them?

It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, increase income, through enhanced productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, producing 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 significant ingredient of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, exhaustion, hindered cognition, and a corresponding drop 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 experienced problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?

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