Hearing Loss and the Workforce
June 12 2013
When one discusses hearing loss, most people dismiss it as an “old age” problem, and often associate it as an inconvenient part of aging, rather than a real health and wellness issue.
However, hearing loss is a serious condition that affects 1 out of 6 Baby Boomers (ages 42-60) and 1 out of 14 Gen-Xers (age 30-41); this is a significant portion of the active workforce. For this hearing impaired portion of the workforce, hearing loss is not just an inconvenience. If left untreated, even a mild hearing loss can jeopardize safety, result in reduced income, and cost their employers greatly.
Let’s look at safety concerns first – perhaps a nurse with untreated hearing loss has been given instructions to administer medication in the ER. If those instructions do not come through clearly, and we add in outside factors such as room noise, the results could be life threatening. The danger in this scenario is based around the inability to properly hear instructions, which doesn’t factor in the ability to hear sirens, smoke alarms, or other alerting signals. Obviously, the more significant the hearing loss, the more risk to the worker and others.
Besides safety, an employee with untreated hearing loss is at risk for decreased job security and decreased income. Consider an employee with a mild hearing loss that does not hear a series of instructions/deadlines from their boss; this loss of correct details puts the project at risk, and may jeopardize that person’s job.
A survey conducted by the Better Hearing Institute indicates, “Working Americans who ignore their hearing problems are collectively losing at least $100 billion a year in earnings.” The survey showed that, “Even people with mild hearing loss, who may miss a consonant here or a word there, may lose income if they can’t completely grasp the latest news at the water cooler or a phone message from the boss.”
The report estimates that the average worker with untreated hearing loss loses from $1,000 per year (those with mild hearing loss) to $12,000 a year with profound hearing loss.
It is important to note that hearing loss in younger people is becoming more prevalent due to noise exposure, and as our society continues to be noisy, this number of people suffering from hearing loss is unlikely to decline.
To address hearing in the workforce, being proactive is the first step. Hearing conservation programs are in place at most noisy businesses, requiring the employee to wear hearing protection and have annual hearing screenings. In general, it is important to have your hearing tested, and should there be a loss, discuss the options with an audiologist.
Don’t let your hearing keep you from your dream job. Contact 482-2222 to arrange a complimentary hearing evaluation.