Communicating is one of the most important things we do as humans. Our communication abilities allow us to work with others, navigate workplace struggles, take in multiple perspectives, and move forward to solve problems and learn valuable information about our workplace, our peers, and our customers. While most of us would agree that listening is an essential part of communication, we might not consider that our ability to listen is affected by our ability to hear. Or we might not consider communication struggles with coworkers to be due to hearing loss. Broadening our personal perspectives about our own struggles or the others’ struggles decreases misunderstandings and increases workplace communication.

Who has hearing loss?

Hearing loss is often associated with the elderly, and indeed, age plays a significant role in hearing loss. But hearing loss affects all ages. 

One out of eight people in the United States over the age of 12 have some amount of hearing loss in both ears. The National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from wearing hearing aids; at the same time, only 16% of those adults wear them.

Causes of hearing loss

Besides aging, there are several reasons for hearing loss. Birth defects, diabetes, some types of medication, and continued exposure to loud noises can all cause hearing loss. Most hearing loss is gradual over time. You may not even notice that you have a reduction in hearing capabilities.

Hearing loss Affects Workplace Communication and  it can affect your income

It’s not just your communication that could be affected. A study by the Better Hearing Institute showed that people with untreated hearing loss earn, on average, $20,000 per year less than those with treated hearing loss. This results in an estimated lifetime earnings difference of $200,000 to $400,000. Hearing loss causes unintentional misunderstandings, which can cost employers money and create issues between coworkers. 

Employees who can’t hear well may appear rude or disengaged when truthfully, they simply cannot hear what others are saying. They may be too embarrassed to ask the speaker to repeat themselves, and words or phrases missed in a conversation could lead to workplace conflict.

Hearing loss affects your health

If you’re struggling to hear, you’re using your brain to decode messages. That effort on the message decoding takes away from the focus to solve problems or consider what is being said. This is exhausting and diffuses the focus of your energy.

Hearing loss can have even more serious consequences, such as earlier onset of dementia and cognitive decline. Untreated hearing loss is also associated with important mental health issues and can cause social isolation, withdrawal, and even depression. 

Hearing loss can also affect your physical health too. Quiet sounds in our environment warn us of danger. Think of sounds like a car approaching as you’re about to cross the street or a pot boiling over on the stove. If you can’t hear these types of quiet sounds in your environment, you might be in physical danger.

Next steps to improve your workplace communication 

Hearing is clearly an important aspect of both personal and work life. However, only 20% of doctors include a hearing screening as a part of their yearly wellness checks for patients. Unless you proactively seek out a hearing screening, you may not even realize that you’re struggling with your hearing.

The National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) has created this short quiz to help you decide if you might need to visit an audiologist. If you answer “Yes” to three or more questions, a hearing screening or a visit with an audiologist might be the best thing in your toolbox to help you further your career and improve your workplace communication.

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Brynn Mahnke is a freelance writer specializing in researching, writing, and ghostwriting for clients in the career, finance, SaaS, and B2B/B2C niches. She focuses on writing case studies, whitepapers, ebooks, and articles showcasing the value her clients bring to their customers. When she isn't writing, you can find her running, cycling, or wrangling children. She can be reached through her website or at