Adults with Hearing Loss at Higher Risk for Unemployment

Adults with Hearing Loss at Higher Risk for Unemployment

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that adults experience. Impaired hearing can significantly impact all aspects of a person’s life and make managing responsibilities challenging. Hearing loss increases the risk of developing medical conditions, experiencing accidental injuries, as well as unemployment. People with hearing loss are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. Understanding how hearing loss impacts job performance, strategic ways to manage hearing loss in the workplace, and how to seek treatment is critical to reducing your risk and protecting your health! 

Impact of Hearing Loss on Job Performance 

One of the most significant ways that hearing loss impacts people is by straining communication. A reduced ability to hear makes absorbing and processing information difficult. People with hearing loss can experience: 

  • Difficulty following conversations as sounds are muffled 
  • Tinnitus which is a ringing or buzzing sound in one or both ears 
  • Needing to move to a quieter area to hear more clearly 
  • Difficulty distinguishing words 
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder, and/or slower
  • Reading mouths to identify specific words 

These symptoms can lead to miscommunication, not thoroughly hearing instructions, and missing critical details. People may also feel like you are not actively listening during conversations and seem distracted when you are actually overextending yourself in trying to hear. 

This makes communicating with coworkers and supervisors challenging, unpleasant even. People may try to avoid these interactions or keep them as short as possible, impacting your work relationships. Strained communication and relationships in the workplace can take a toll on job performance. Managing and completing tasks – especially if you miss instructions – becomes difficult. If you work in an environment with background noise, this can also make it more challenging. 

Hearing Loss & Unemployment 

Struggling with job performance can lead to unemployment. Growing research explores how hearing loss impacts people economically. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Otology and Neurotology, researchers studied the relationship between hearing loss and employment. 

  • Study: researchers analyzed the data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Conducted between 1999-2002, this survey included over 3,000 adults between the ages of 20-69. 
  • Findings: the study found that hearing loss is associated with greater economic hardship. Specifically, compared to people without hearing loss, people with hearing loss in the study were: 
    • 1.58 times more likely to have a lower income 
    • 1.98 times more likely of being unemployed or underemployed 

These significant findings reveal that people with hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to be unemployed or underemployed. This results in less income and possible financial strain and heightened stress. The best ways to prevent unemployment is to seek treatment for your hearing loss and accommodations in the workplace. 


The first step in addressing hearing loss is having your hearing tested. This involves scheduling an appointment with a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests measure your hearing ability in both ears, establish any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. This information informs effective treatment options that will meet your specific hearing needs. 

Hearing loss is most commonly treated by hearing aids which are small electronic devices that are designed to collect, amplify, and process sound. Benefiting from today’s advanced technology, hearing aids are smaller and more innovative than they’ve ever been. There is a wide range of options that have various features intended to create the most seamless listening experience. 

Workplace Accommodations 

A major benefit of diagnosing your hearing loss is that it allows you to benefit from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA not only prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, but requires your employer to provide workplace accommodations. There are various types of accommodations that could best support you in the workplace including: 

  • Changes to work area: you could ask to be moved to a quieter area if you work in a setting that has distracting background noise, you can also ask to place a barrier between your work area and any sources of noise. 
  • Investing in technology: there are various technologies that could be useful such as captioning services, telephones and other electronics that are compatible with your hearing aids 

Treating your hearing loss can enhance communication and allow you to receive workplace accommodations which reduces your risk of unemployment! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.