Businessman holding empty pocket

Of the 48 million Americans that report some extent of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. That means millions of Americans go 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 brief review of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

The Study

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

Working with the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more comprehensive surveys were delivered 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, long-term plans, and work information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss extent, which produced one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the degree 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

Those 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 due to untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

However, all is not lost. The study also showed, most importantly, that wearing 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 boost in income? Isn’t it possible that those who have a higher salary are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and wear them?

It’s a legitimate question, but there’s good reason to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, boost income, through enhanced work productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, 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, restricting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a major element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, fatigue, hindered cognition, and a proportionate decrease 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?