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Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some level of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. That means millions of Americans head out to work each day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss adversely influences general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic effects? Does hearing loss affect 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 review of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by sending out a short screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify around 16,000 people 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 people with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.

The seven page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and work 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 this information, the researchers could now:

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

The results demonstrate that hearing loss influences 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 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 caused by untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also showed, most significantly, that using 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 possible 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 believe 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, causing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication barriers, constraining productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a major aspect of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, bringing about depression, exhaustion, 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 experienced problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?

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