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Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some degree of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans head to work each day with less than optimal hearing.

We know that hearing loss adversely impacts general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial effects? 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 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 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 presently own hearing aids.
  2. A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.

The seven page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and career information. Each respondent was also asked several questions about their hearing loss degree, which led to one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all of this data, 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 show that hearing loss influences income

Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less per year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also plainly showed that as the degree of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.

And the overall economic cost to society?

According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

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

Implications for professionals with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really lead to an increase in income? Isn’t it possible that people who have a higher salary are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are therefore 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, boost income, through enhanced productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, causing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication barriers, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a principal aspect of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, leading to depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a proportionate decrease in job performance.

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

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