Businessman holding empty pocket

Of the entire 48 million Americans that claim some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans go to work every day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss negatively impacts overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial effects? Does hearing loss impact 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 short outline of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing a brief 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 detailed 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 seven page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and employment information. Every respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss degree, which produced one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

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

The results show that hearing loss affects 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 distinctly showed that as the degree of hearing loss increased, income fell proportionally.

And the total economic cost to society?

According to the study, the estimated cost of lost earnings due to 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 confirmed, most importantly, 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 contribute to a surge 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 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, enhance income, through greater work productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, creating higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication obstacles, constraining productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a significant ingredient of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, fatigue, impaired cognition, and a proportionate drop in job performance.

For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will most likely improve 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?