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Of the entire 48 million Americans that report some measure of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. Which means millions of Americans head out to work every day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss negatively affects overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? Does hearing loss affect 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 short review of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

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

Working with the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more comprehensive 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 7-page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, long-term plans, and career information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss extent, which produced one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all of this data, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the degree 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

Individuals 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 fell proportionally.

And the overall economic cost to society?

According to the study, the calculated 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.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also confirmed, most importantly, that wearing 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 lead to an increase in income? Isn’t it conceivable that people who have a higher salary are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are consequently 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, raise income, through enhanced productivity. In terms of 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 barriers, restricting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a major element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, fatigue, 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 dealt with problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?