Let’s face it. The Great Recession put a kink in many Americans’ retirement plans. Combine that financial blow with the general uncertainty regarding Medicare and the future cost of private health insurance.
As a result, more boomers are staying in the workforce longer. In fact, between 2006 and 2016 the number of older people in the workforce is expected to soar, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Workers between the ages of 55 and 64 are expected to increase by 36.5 percent; the number of workers between 65 and 74 is expected to climb by 83.4 percent, and even the number of workers who are 75 and older is expected to grow by 84.3 percent. By 2016, the BLS says, workers age 65 and over are expected to make up 6.1 percent of the total labor force – a steep jump from their 3.6 percent share in 2006.
So what does this mean for individuals? It means people need to do what they can to age productively. It means they need to take charge of their health – including their hearing health – so they can maximize their chances for success on the job. Along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s important that boomers routinely get their hearing checked – and that they address any hearing loss so it doesn’t undermine their efforts on the job or their quality of life.
Gone are the days of ignoring hearing difficulties. There are no more excuses. And given the technological advances of modern hearing aids, and the compelling data that illustrate the downside of leaving hearing loss unaddressed, there’s only one reasonable course of action. Maturing workers should be getting their hearing checked. And if there is hearing loss, they should discuss with their hearing healthcare provider whether or not hearing aids could help.
Consider this: More than 34 million Americans suffer from hearing loss – about 11 percent of the U.S. population – and 60 percent of them are below retirement age, according to the Better Hearing Institute (www.betterhearing.org). Research shows that the use of hearing aids reduces 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. Those with moderate-to-severe hearing loss who use hearing aids are twice as likely to be employed as their peers who do not use hearing aids. And three out of four hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life due to wearing hearing aids. The vast majority of people with hearing loss, in fact, could benefit from hearing aids.
More good news: Today’s employers recognize the changing demographics of the modern aging workforce and increasingly are making efforts to hold onto their older workers. Employers value the experience that mature employees bring to the job – along with the strong work ethic and other positive attributes that older workers tend to possess.
More and more companies, in fact, engage in workplace wellness programs to help keep their employees in good health. And hearing health –including hearing checks – is increasingly included in these programs.
“Never before has good hearing been so important - or so attainable,” says Dr. Sergei Kochkin, executive director of the Better Hearing Institute. “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 urge anyone planning to stay in the workforce longer to take that first, most critical step to optimizing your hearing health and enhancing your chances for career success by taking a confidential, online hearing check at www.hearingcheck.org. It will help you determine if you may need a more thorough hearing test by a hearing health professional,” Kochkin continues. “Your hearing health and continued job success are within your control.”