WASHINGTON, June 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- During National Employee Wellness Month, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging employers to make hearing health a key aspect of their workplace wellness initiatives, the institute announced today. 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 healthcare 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 (http://www.hearingcheck.org/) where people can quickly assess if they need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing professional.
"Hearing loss is far more serious than people realize," says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, BHI's executive director. "When left unaddressed, hearing loss negatively affects virtually every aspect of an individual's life. And in the workplace, especially, untreated hearing loss can take a significant financial toll. We urge all employers to take appropriate measures to protect the hearing of their workers and to include hearing health in their workplace wellness programs."
June 2012 marks the fourth annual National Employee Wellness Month. This month-long initiative helps business leaders learn from best practices of how companies are developing successful strategies around prevention and good health to engage employees in healthy behavior change and reduce healthcare costs. National Employee Wellness Month highlights the powerful role the workplace can play in helping employees make healthy behavior changes.
According to BHI, more than 34 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Roughly 60 percent 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 U.S. employers use wellness programs to reduce their healthcare 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. One reason may be that only four in ten people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss use hearing aids. Even fewer people with mild hearing loss use them—just one in ten.
By including hearing health in their wellness programs, employers also encourage workers to treat hearing loss rather than hide it. Not only does this help the worker, but 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 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss.
The vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. In fact, three out of four hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life due to wearing hearing aids. And studies show that when people with even mild hearing loss use hearing aids, they improve their job performance, increase their earning potential, enhance their communication skills, improve their professional and interpersonal relationships, and stave off depression.
"I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of both protecting the hearing of America's workforce and addressing workers' hearing problems," says Kochkin. "When hearing is lost, it cannot be regained. But when hearing loss is appropriately acknowledged and addressed, it does not have to interfere with job performance, earnings, or quality of life. I urge all employers to make hearing health a routine part of their wellness programs."
To obtain a copy of "Assisting Employees with Hearing Loss," visit http://www.betterhearing.org/aural_education_and_counseling/articles_tip_sheets_and_guides/assisting_employees.cfm
For more information on hearing loss prevention, visit http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_loss_prevention/index.cfm
Find more information and resources about workplace wellness, and suggested ideas to celebrate National Employee Wellness Month at www.nationalemployeewellnessmonth.com.
About the Better Hearing Institute
Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org. To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit www.hearingcheck.org. To participate in the discussion forum, visit www.betterhearing.org, click on "Discussion Forum," and go to "Welcome!" to register.
SOURCE Better Hearing Institute