June marks the fourth annual National Employee Wellness Month, and the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging employers to make hearing health a key aspect of their workplace wellness initiatives.
A growing body of research links hearing loss to several costly chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also link hearing loss to a three-fold risk of falling among working-aged people (40 to 69), resulting in billions in health care costs each year. What’s more, unaddressed hearing loss is tied to reduced earnings, increased absenteeism, and reduced productivity in the workplace—as well as to depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.
To facilitate a timely hearing test for all American workers, BHI is offering an online hearing check where people can quickly assess if they need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing professional.
National Employee Wellness Month is a month-long initiative that helps business leaders learn from best practices and how companies are developing successful strategies around prevention and good health to engage employees in healthy behavior change and reduce health care costs. According to BHI, more than 34 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Roughly 60% of them are in the workforce, making it all the more urgent for employers to include hearing health as part of their wellness programs and to encourage hearing screenings as part of preventive medical care. Today, more than half (53%) of employers use wellness programs to reduce their health care costs.
Studies show that employees with hearing loss take more sick-days than their colleagues with normal hearing—likely the result of the extra energy expended on overcoming their hearing problem. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Audiology found that employees with hearing loss are as much as five times more likely than their co-workers with normal hearing to experience stress so severe that they must take more sick-days.
By including hearing health in their wellness programs, BHI says that employers will be encouraging their workers to treat hearing loss rather than hide it. Not only does this help the worker, but also it creates a working environment where the loss of hearing does not have to interfere with job performance, productivity, safety, or morale.
In a large national study, BHI found that people with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss; that the aggregate yearly loss in income due to underemployment for people with untreated hearing loss is an estimated $176 billion; and that the fiscal cost to society in unrealized federal taxes is an estimated $26 billion. Use of hearing aids was shown to reduce the risk of income loss by 90% to 100% for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65% to 77% for those with severe to moderate hearing loss.