Man with mild hearing loss dressed for work with little bird made of money whispering in his ear.

Is a connection between hearing and income potential? In today’s world, hearing impairment shouldn’t make a difference, but research shows that it does play a role in earning. No matter what industry you work in communication is the key to success. Without hearing assistance devices, individuals with major hearing loss struggle, especially if they refuse to recognize the problem. Consider what the data shows about hearing aids and the ability to make money.

What is the Definition of Hearing Loss?

Does hearing loss mean you miss a word every once in awhile or does it indicate profound deafness? There are several levels of hearing loss, but the most common is a gradual decline associated with aging. For research purposes, hearing loss is categorized into several levels including:

  • Number of ears affected
  • Using the Gallaudet Scale — an eight-point scale based on how well a person interprets speech. For example, can you hear a whisper from a distance?
  • Using the Unaided Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit — A scoring system that determines how beneficial hearing devices are and how difficult it is to hear without them.
  • A subjective assessment of hearing ability — Based on a scale from 1 to 10

By creating set designations for hearing loss, researchers add consistency to their study.

How Hearing Loss Affects Paychecks

So, how does untreated hearing loss impact income? In 2007, the Better Hearing Institute surveyed about 80,000 different families to answer that very question. They used the National Family Opinion panel as a conduit for their research.

Currently, more than 31 million people in this country admit to having some level of hearing loss and about 37 percent of them are within retirement age. What this means is 63 percent of these individuals with hearing loss are still part of the work force. They bring home paychecks and, maybe, even attend school. Statistically though, only 23 percent of those working with a hearing problem will wear hearing aids despite the fact that 95 percent of the time they do need them.

In 2004, the institute mailed 80,000 members of the National Family Opinion (NFO) panel a survey covering three topics:

  • Did they undergo physical screening for hearing loss
  • Did someone in the household have trouble hearing in one or both ears
  • Did that person wear a hearing aid

The NFO panel is automatically broken down by market size, the age of household and income, so they used this data when correlating their results. As part of the screening, they eliminated children and anyone else that was not the head of the household or a spouse. The results were:

  • 1,891 households with hearing aids
  • 1,954 households with hearing loss but no hearing aid
  • 39,420 households with normal hearing

They further segmented the respondents with difficulties based on their level of hearing loss. For example, those who were profoundly deaf in both ears went into one group while someone who could understand speech under the right conditions went into another. Using this methodology, the researchers ended up with ten separate groups with number one being mild hearing loss and number 10 being the most serious cases.

What this one study found was the unaided household — represents a person with hearing loss that does not wear a hearing aid — lost about 2.25 thousand dollars for every decile of hearing loss for an average of about 20,300 dollars. The aided household — represents a person with hearing loss that does wear a hearing aid — lost about half that amount per decile with an average of 10,200 dollars.

Escalating Decline

In 2011, the Better Hearing Institute did a second study and estimated that about 34 million people in the U.S. had hearing loss and about 60 percent of them still worked. They concluded that a person working with the untreated hearing loss had issues with:

  • Productivity
  • Job performance
  • Career success
  • Lifelong earnings

As a result, this person is more likely to be unemployed. The unemployment rate doubles for those with hearing impairment when compared to both normal hearing and those who wear hearing aids.

Your hearing is critical for communication and communication is essential in the workforce. It’s really that simple. Hearing aids improve communication, so they impact job performance and, ultimately, income.