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Nobody wants to feel like their hearing loss limits them – but that can be the unfortunate truth. Untreated hearing loss makes a person vulnerable to other health issues such as depression and anxiety, reduces mobility and earning power, and can make communication and connection difficult.
Even with legal protections available for people with disabilities at the workplace, there is still much to be done to accommodate and promote people with hearing loss in the workforce. People with untreated hearing loss face lower wages on average. Those reporting more severe hearing loss see their earnings weakened even further. Now, new research is outlining how hearing loss makes a big difference in employment rates.
Disability and Unemployment
Findings published in the research paper “Trends in Employment by Dual Sensory Impairment Status” looked at the impact that hearing impairment, vision impairment and a combination of the two disabilities had on employment status. The study examined data from over 277,000 adult participants in the National Health Interview Survey and tracked their employment relative to their experience of disability.
For the population in the study who did not report vision or hearing impairment, employment rates across the years 2008-2017 averaged 69% employment. This employment rate dropped significantly when a singular impairment was present. For those with visual impairment, the employment rate fell to 54% while in the population with hearing loss, employment was at 56%. In the participants where both hearing loss and visual impairment were present employment again dropped starkly to just 39%.
These statistics show the toll that disability can take on employment, making those with a single impairment 20% less likely to be employed and those with dual sensory impairment 40% less likely. The study shows that there is a long way to go in helping those with sensory impairment even the playing field in the workforce. Current methods for accommodating disability may not be going far enough to help many people in accessing and retaining employment.
This study relied on a large number of participants, but it also opened the door to further research to extend the current findings. First and foremost, disability data in the National Health Interview Survey is self-reported which often correlates with under-reporting of present impairments and their severity. Expanding this research would include studying subjects with medically recorded sensory impairment to add more accuracy to population definitions. The study also did not include adults employed in the military, making jobs in the armed forces not part of the total employment statistics. Further research may look to survey or include military populations.
For people with hearing loss, it is notable that the study did not examine employment differences between those using hearing aids and those with untreated hearing loss. This research is important to see whether managing hearing loss with assistive technology like hearing aids has the potential to bridge employment gaps.
Hearing aids and treating hearing loss have been shown in other research to improve hearing and quality of life on a number of variables, including lessening vulnerability to depression, anxiety and isolation, strengthening comprehension, cognitive and communication skills and improving task performance. Hopefully research in the future can give us a more nuanced picture of how whether or not hearing loss is treated affects a person’s employment status.
Dual Sensory Impairment
For those with dual sensory impairment, everyday tasks may require extra consideration. Working with combined limitations, those with dual impairments may have the most to gain from treatment strategies to improve vision and hearing.
While hearing aids cannot “cure” hearing loss, they use amplification and digital sound processing to make a fuller range of sounds available to the user. Hearing with hearing aids delivers better comprehension and helps the cognitive processes in the brain run smoother.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you are worried that your ability to hear is limiting your opportunities, treating your hearing loss should be your first step. While most forms of hearing loss cannot be reversed or cured, using assistive devices such as hearing aids restores the ability to hear frequencies that may be otherwise inaudible. Hearing aids help you adapt to your hearing loss and take in a fuller and more focused palette of sounds from the world around you. Contact us today! We’re here to help you hear better.