The Importance of Hearing Health: Employees With Hearing Loss Continue to Miss Out in the Workplace
In the UK, hearing loss affects 1 in 6 working age adults (7 million people), costing the UK economy £25bn in lost productivity and unemployment every year. A huge, emerging global health challenge, hearing loss has already overtaken diabetes as the third biggest cause of disability-affected life years across Europe and the US.
More surprisingly, hearing loss is significantly correlated with several co-morbidities of which most people are unaware. These include compromised speech perception leading to increased social isolation and loneliness; depression; falls; cardiovascular disease; cognitive impairment and dementia. In fact, the Lancet Commission on Dementia in 2017 pulled together several key papers to conclude that even mild hearing loss can double your risk of dementia.
The impact of unaddressed hearing loss in working age people is particularly relevant in the workplace. Difficulty hearing quickly becomes an acute source of work-related stress, and presents a significant mental health challenge in both personal and professional life. Employees report feeling isolated as they struggle to engage in the community around them, and anxious and stressed about a reduced ability to perform well in the workplace. Current estimates indicate that, on average, employees with hearing loss earn £2,000 less per annum than their co-workers, and ultimately retire nine years earlier.
Proactive and preventative hearing health measures are critical. We almost all factor regular eye tests and dental check ups into our healthcare routines, yet hearing often remains neglected with an overwhelming 79% of Britons never having had a hearing test.
In addition to co-morbidities associated with hearing loss, noise exposure is a serious safety hazard; although cases of noise-induced hearing loss are completely preventable, they remain the second most common reason for employers’ liability insurance claims for occupational health.
The good news is that there is lots of simple advice we can give to staff to help reduce the risk of damaging hearing. eargym is seeking to bring much better hearing health to the workplace. We are already undertaking a number of pilots with businesses with health and well-being schemes for their staff, and the outcome of this work is informing not only eargym’s product development but also the individual businesses’ approach to hearing health at work. Find out more about how you can take part here.