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

We know that hearing loss adversely influences overall 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 quick review of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by mailing a brief screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This helped 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 people 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, future plans, and career information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss severity, which produced one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all this information, the researchers could now:

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

The results reveal that hearing loss impacts income

Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less annually 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 uncollected federal taxes.

Having said that, all is not lost. The study also demonstrated, most importantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to minimize the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.

Implications for workers with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really bring about an increase in income? Isn’t it possible that those that have a higher income 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 work productivity. In relation to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, leading to higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication obstacles, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a significant element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, exhaustion, hindered cognition, and a proportionate drop 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?