Washington, DC, May 13, 2013 - Addressing hearing loss in the workplace is a smart business strategy that benefits both employer and employee, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is advising during the 5th Annual National Employee Wellness Month, which takes place in June. BHI is urging employers to include hearing health as part of their workplace wellness programs. To help facilitate timely hearing self-screenings for all American workers, BHI is offering an online hearing check at www.hearingcheck.org, where anyone can quickly assess if they need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional.
As the median age of the American worker goes up, it becomes increasingly important that hearing health become a workplace wellness priority. Not only can unaddressed hearing loss affect quality of life, but it can unnecessarily affect job performance and earnings by limiting one’s ability to communicate effectively; restricting interpersonal interactions; making it difficult to receive and interpret auditory information from computers, machines, and individuals; and posing a risk to one’s ability to hear sounds that signal hazards in the work environment. Fortunately, hearing aids—as well as other appropriate treatments and workplace accommodations—can help significantly.
Already, nearly 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. The majority of them are in the workforce. Certainly, as workers continue to age, these numbers will go up. What’s more, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number of older workers in the civilian labor force to increase—by as much as 11,397,000 in the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020 for workers who are 55 and older. Yet the anticipated increase for workers aged 25 to 54 is merely 1,679,000.
It has become increasingly clear that leaving hearing loss unaddressed has significant financial ramifications. A national BHI study found that people with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. The aggregate yearly loss in income due to underemployment for people with untreated hearing loss is an estimated $176 billion. And the fiscal cost to society in unrealized federal taxes is an estimated $26 billion. This doesn’t even measure the impact that unaddressed hearing loss has on worker productivity, absenteeism, and presenteeism.
Fortunately, when addressed, hearing loss is largely manageable. And the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. In fact, eight out of ten hearing aid users say they’re satisfied with the changes that have occurred in their lives specifically due to their hearing aids. The national BHI study, in fact, found that the use of hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss dramatically—by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those whose hearing loss was severe to moderate. The study also found that people with severe hearing loss who do use hearing aids are nearly twice as likely to be employed as their peers who do not use them.
Today, more than half of U.S. employers have some type of wellness program. By including hearing checks in these programs—and including hearing aids as an employee benefit—employers encourage workers to treat hearing loss rather than hide it. Not only does this help the worker, but it creates a work environment where employer and employee can work together to ensure that a worker’s hearing loss does not interfere with job performance, productivity, safety, quality of life, morale, opportunities, or success in the workplace. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, where organizations are coming to rely more heavily on aging workers who have valuable experience and expertise, this employer-employee partnership becomes increasingly important.
A copy of “Assisting Employees with Hearing Loss,” as well as information on hearing loss prevention, can be found at www.betterhearing.org.
To find information and resources for workplace wellness, along with information on National Employee Wellness Month, visit www.nationalemployeewellnessmonth.com.
A Technological Transformation
Out-dated notions about hearing aids may be stopping some employees from addressing hearing loss. Employers can help their workers learn about the latest in hearing aid technology by providing information on bulletin boards, employee Intranet sites, or through emails and flyers.
In the past several years, hearing aid technology has gone through a radical transformation. Today’s hearing aids are state-of-the-art, highly effective, sleek, and sophisticated wearable electronics that can help people stay actively engaged on the job and in life. They are digital, wireless, can connect directly to smartphones and other electronic devices, and can be as discreet or as visible as the user likes. Today’s hearing aids are all about active lifestyles—they’re ageless.
Below are five little-known facts about hearing aids that all employees should know. Although each hearing aid model offers different features, those listed below are on the market and are available to people who want them.
- They’re virtually invisible. Many of today’s hearing aids sit discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal, providing both natural sound quality, and discreet and easy use.
- They automatically adjust to all kinds of soundscapes. Whether you want audibility on a conference call, the ability to hear the audio prompt on machinery or a computer, or ease in discerning conversation at a client luncheon, recent technological advances have made hearing aids far more versatile than ever before—and in a broad range of sound environments.
- Water, sweat, and dust are no problem while wearing them. Waterproof, digital hearing aids have arrived. This new feature is built into some newly designed hearing aids for those concerned about water, humidity, and dust. This feature suits people who work in demanding environments, as well as those with active lifestyles—like swimmers, skiers, and sports enthusiasts.
- They love smartphones, computers, and other prized electronics. Wireless, digital hearing aids are now the norm. That means seamless connectivity—from smartphones, MP3 players, computers, FM systems, televisions, and other beloved high-tech gadgets—directly into the hearing aid(s) at volumes just right for the user.
- They’re always at the ready. A new rechargeable feature on some newly designed hearing aids allows users to recharge their hearing aids every night, so they’re ready, ramped up, and waiting in the morning. There’s no more fumbling with small batteries. Just place the hearing aids into the charger at night, and in the morning, they’re ready to go.
For a step-by-step breakdown of what to expect, ask, and look for when visiting a hearing healthcare professional and purchasing a hearing aid, download Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids.