Sounding the Alarm on the Financial Dangers of Unaddressed Hearing Loss

February 18, 2011

With Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke saying just this week that it may be several years before the unemployment rate returns to a more normal level, it’s time for hearing health professionals to make some noise within their local communities about the dramatic link between unaddressed hearing loss and earning potential.

In BHI’s October 25th eNewsletter, we summarized the significant results of the latest MarkeTrak VIII publication: The efficacy of hearing aids in achieving compensation equity in the workplace.” (Hearing Journal, October 2010)

Now it’s time to organize our efforts to make our local communities aware of the financial risks associated with unaddressed hearing loss.

According to the study, people with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. And the cost to society is estimated to be as high as $26 billion in unrealized federal taxes.

Use of hearing aids was shown to reduce the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss.

The loss in income for people with untreated hearing loss due to underemployment is estimated at $176 billion. And there is a strong relationship between the degree of hearing loss and unemployment for those who do not use hearing aids. Those with severe hearing loss had unemployment rates (15.6%) double that of the normal-hearing population (7.8%), and nearly double that of their peers (8.3%) who use hearing aids.

Now, more than ever before, with U.S. unemployment rates at a steady high, and economic recovery slow, we need to get out and inform our communities of the positive impact people can have on their own economic circumstances and quality of life—simply by identifying and appropriately addressing hearing loss.

Treating hearing loss early is critical for optimal job performance and career success. And maximizing one’s ability to hear well should be part of any smart career strategy.

How an employee is perceived by employers is effected by how he or she hears. Employees who aren't sure what an employer is asking can't answer their best. The ability to hear and listen well enables employees to be more productive. They are better able to understand the work that has been assigned and the expectations that have been set. And people who both hear and listen well are more likely to establish positive working relationships with bosses, clients, and colleagues.

Unaddressed hearing loss is causing families added financial strain, and most don’t even realize it. With the data from this study—and your help in spreading the word—we’re hoping people will listen and take action to help themselves. Below are a number of materials we strongly encourage you to share with your patients, local media, and greater community:

  • Customizable local press release for getting the word out and promoting your practice.
  • A factsheet on the connection between unaddressed hearing loss, income, and job performance to share with your patients.
  • A one page flyer for either the media or patients.
  • An OpEd article on the latest income study for use in your own newsletters, on your web site, or with your local media: “Making Yourself Marketable – Hearing Better May Mean Earning More.”
  • Material to share in your corporate outreach with local HR executives.