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Of the 48 million Americans that describe some level of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans go to work every day with less than perfect hearing.

We know that hearing loss negatively impacts overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? 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 review of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing a short screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify around 16,000 individuals 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 individuals with hearing loss that presently own hearing aids.
  2. A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.

The 7-page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and career information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss severity, which resulted in one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

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

The results reveal that hearing loss influences income

Those 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 fell 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 United States is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

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

Implications for employees with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really contribute to an increase in income? Isn’t it possible that people that have a higher income are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are consequently 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, increase income, through greater work productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, generating higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication obstacles, restricting productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a significant component of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, fatigue, hindered cognition, and a proportionate drop in job performance.

For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will likely enhance 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?

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