Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some extent of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. That means millions of Americans head out to work every day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely impacts general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic consequences? Does hearing loss affect income, 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 quick outline of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing out a short screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 people with hearing loss.
Working with the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more detailed surveys were sent to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The seven page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, future plans, and employment information. Every respondent was also asked several questions about their hearing loss degree, which led to one of four categories from mild to profound.
With all of this data, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the amount of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results demonstrate that hearing loss has an effect on income
People with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less each year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also clearly showed that as the degree of hearing loss increased, income fell 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 United States is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.
However, all is not lost. The study also showed, most importantly, that using hearing aids was found to reduce the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for professionals with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really lead to a boost in income? Isn’t it conceivable that people that have a higher income are simply in a better position to pay for hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and use them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, increase income, through greater productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, leading to higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
- Create communication obstacles, restricting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a principal part of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, fatigue, hindered cognition, and a proportionate drop in job performance.
For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will likely improve your job performance, and, as a result, your income potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you dealt with problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?