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

We know that hearing loss adversely affects general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial effects? 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 outline of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

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

Utilizing the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more extensive surveys were delivered to the following two groups:

  1. A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
  2. A random sample of 3,000 individuals 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, future plans, and work information. Every respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss extent, which produced one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the amount 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 distinctly 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 an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also showed, 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 bring about a boost in income? Isn’t it possible that those that have a higher income are simply in a better position to pay for hearing aids, so are consequently more likely to own and wear them?

It’s a legitimate question, but there’s good reason to think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, raise income, through enhanced productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, resulting in higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication obstacles, constraining 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, leading to depression, fatigue, hindered cognition, and a proportionate 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 encountered problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?