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

We know that hearing loss adversely affects overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic 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 brief overview of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started 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 people with hearing loss, more extensive 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 also asked multiple questions about their hearing loss degree, which produced one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all of this data, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the intensity of hearing loss
  2. Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not

The results demonstrate that hearing loss has an effect on income

Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less per year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also plainly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income dropped 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 an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

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

Implications for workers with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really bring about a surge in income? Isn’t it conceivable that those who have a higher income are simply in a better position to pay for 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, boost income, through greater productivity. In relation to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, creating higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication barriers, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a major component of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, leading to depression, fatigue, impaired cognition, and a corresponding decrease 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?

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