Businessman holding empty pocket

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

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

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by sending out a short screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This helped to identify around 16,000 people with hearing loss.

Utilizing the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more detailed 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 individuals with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.

The seven page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, long-term plans, and work information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss extent, which led to one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all this information, the researchers could now:

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

The results show that hearing loss has an effect on 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 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 United States is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also demonstrated, most significantly, 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 contribute to an increase in income? Isn’t it a possibility that those 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, increase income, through greater productivity. In relation to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, resulting in 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 significant element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, exhaustion, hindered cognition, and a proportionate decrease in job performance.

For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will most likely enhance your job performance, and, as a result, your earning potential.

What are your thoughts? Have you encountered problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?