Businessman holding empty pocket

Of the 48 million Americans that describe some level of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans head to work each day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss adversely affects general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? Does hearing loss impact 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 concise review of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing out a brief screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify around 16,000 people 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 individuals with hearing loss that currently 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 use and satisfaction, long-term plans, and career information. Every respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss degree, which resulted in one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all of this information, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the degree of hearing loss
  2. Compare earnings to those who utilized 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 each 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 total economic cost to society?

According to the study, the calculated 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.

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

Implications for professionals with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really bring about a surge in income? Isn’t it a possibility 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 use them?

It’s a legitimate question, but there’s good reason to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, raise income, through enhanced work productivity. In relation 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 on the job, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication barriers, constraining productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a major element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, resulting in depression, exhaustion, hindered cognition, and a corresponding decrease 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 due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?