Businessman holding empty pocket

Out of the 48 million Americans that describe some measure 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 affects overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? Does hearing loss impact 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 quick review of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by mailing out a short screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This helped to identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.

Utilizing the list of 16,000 people 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 presently own hearing aids.

The 7-page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and employment information. Each respondent was also asked several questions about their hearing loss degree, which resulted in one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

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

The results demonstrate that hearing loss affects 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 degree 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 a projected $18 billion of uncollected 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 result in a surge in income? Isn’t it conceivable that people that have a higher salary are simply in a better position to pay for hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and wear them?

It’s a legitimate question, but there’s good reason to think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, increase income, through greater productivity. In terms of 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, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a principal ingredient of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a proportionate decrease in job performance.

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