The Hearing Loss Association of America believes as many as 60 percent of Americans with hearing loss are either in the workforce or in educational settings. That means that the 60 percent of the nearly 40 million Americans with hearing loss are still working.
Make hearing protection part of every wellness program
“In today’s service and knowledge based economy, good communication is critical to business success for both the employer and employee,” writes the non-profit Better Hearing Institute (BHI). And with many jobs involving damaging noise levels, hearing loss should be a workplace wellness priority. For example, hearing tests and hearing healthcare should be included in workplace wellness programs, and hearing protection protocols should be implemented in appropriate industries where noise exposure is dangerous (i.e. construction or factory work).
Additionally, treating hearing loss and making workplace accommodations for employees with hearing loss can help ensure optimal on-the-job performance. “Treating hearing loss early is no longer an option. It is a career imperative,” says Sergei Kochkin, previous executive director of the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). “Great workplace communication is critical to both job performance and to getting a job. Great communication starts with great listening. And great listening starts with the ability to hear.”
Here are six more reasons hearing loss should be a workplace priority:
- Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. By instituting hearing protection protocols, occupational noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.
- Exposure to dangerous noise levels can cause permanent hearing loss and other health problems.Other health problems include headaches, elevated blood pressure, fatigue, irritability, digestive disorders, and an increased susceptibility to colds and infections.
- Untreated hearing loss increases the risk of falling and hospitalization. According to a Johns Hopkins study, middle aged people between the ages of 40-69 with a mild hearing loss were three times more likely than those with normal hearing to report a history of falls. The presence of hearing loss in older populations, age 70 and older, was linked to an increase in hospitalizations and poorer mental and physical health.
- Untreated hearing loss can impact job performance. Ninety-five percent of employees who suspect they have a hearing problem but have not sought treatment admit that their untreated hearing loss impacts their job performance according to EPIC’s “Listen Hear” survey.
- Untreated hearing loss can adversely affect productivity and earnings. A national study by the Better Hearing Institute found that people with untreated hearing loss make nearly $30,000 less annually. The same study found that treating hearing loss with hearing aids significantly reduces the risk of income loss.
- It’s about your overall health, not just hearing health. Studies have linked the top three wellness concerns for American employers, obesity, diabetes and smoking to an increased risk for hearing loss.
Federal and state workplace regulations reduce the health risks associated with noise exposure by protecting employees from unsafe listening levels via the limits set by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA limits the amount of time employees are exposed to noise exceeding 90 decibels and requires hearing protection when noise levels exceed 90 decibels.