This benefit can improve quality of life just as much as vision and dental benefits do
BY TOMMY MACDONALD
For at least two decades, vision and dental benefits have been considered a standard part of an employee benefit package, such that it is hard to imagine leaving them out today. These benefits provide not only an added revenue stream for insurance brokers, but also the opportunity to deliver value to customers through reduced healthcare costs, increased employee productivity, and high levels of benefit satisfaction. Brokers may wish they had other low-cost ancillary benefits like these to offer as “good news” to their customers, without realizing they can do so through hearing benefits.
Hearing is a critical window to the world around us and the source of much intellectual and emotional stimulation for our minds and “hearts.”
A hearing benefit can improve quality of life just as much as vision and dental benefits do, yet it receives a fraction of the attention. Insurance brokers can open customers’ ears
to the importance of integrating a hearing benefit into their benefits package by focusing on three key areas: understanding the need, the connection between hearing and overall health, and the impact of untreated hearing loss on productivity.
Understanding the need
The rate of hearing loss in the workforce is lower than vision or dental problems, but not by as much as you might think.
According to a recent survey by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), more than half
(51%) of adults reported having hearing problems. While the vast majority of hearing loss can be treated with proper fitting of hearing aids, only 11% of those reporting hearing problems actually sought treatment. Trying to live and work with untreated hearing loss takes a massive toll on health and productivity, but most people do put off treatment — and cost is the biggest factor.
According to 2018 Hearing Tracker research, the average price paid for a pair of hearing aids was a significant $4,744, and most commercial health plans do not cover hearing aids. As this investment is substantial for most Americans, many delay treatment for as long as they can, and the rest still likely feel stressed about the cost outlay.
At TruHearing, we know this better than anyone. Our entire mission is focused on improving the lives of Americans with hearing loss by offering affordable hearing healthcare services and hearing aids. We are touched every day by moving stories about the difference hearing aids make in people’s lives, including in the lives of our own employees.
Brynn, who just recently joined TruHearing as an Order Administrator, went without hearing aids for six years due to the expensive price, choosing to live with her profound hearing loss rather than go into debt for treatment. She worked multiple jobs during that time and says that her productivity and overall mental wellbeing suffered significantly because of it. Brynn shares that it was especially difficult to function without her hearing aids during the pandemic because everything turned virtual, and lip-reading became almost impossible.
When Brynn started work at TruHearing and gained access to our insurance coverage, she was fitted with her new hearing aids for a fraction of the cost, and her life changed significantly. Brynn now keeps a growing list of new sounds she’s able to hear, and she has been able to flourish in her career and personal life.
Hearing benefits help make stories like these possible. With hearing benefits, audiology exams for employees can be fully covered, and hearing aids can be deeply discounted and offered with various coverage limits based on employer choice. Individual providers and plans vary in richness, so it is important to find the right fit. Offering a plan that significantly reduces cost will reduce stress for employees and increase the chance that they get the care they need sooner.
Hearing and overall health — and costs
Hearing is a critical window to the world around us and the source of much intellectual and emotional stimulation for our minds and “hearts.” People who have untreated hearing loss tend to feel isolated during social interactions. It is not fun to keep asking people to repeat what they have said, and eventually people stop trying. Those with hearing loss often withdraw, and opt out of social opportunities, which can lead to isolation, loneliness and eventually depression.
This is especially significant given the well-documented cost of depression in the workplace. According to a 30-year research program by Analysis Group and Harvard Medical School that tracks the cost of major depressive disorders (MDD) in the U.S., the economic burden of MDD reached $326 billion in 2018. As of 2010, the study documented that an employed person with major depression has an annual average healthcare cost of over $10,000, which is more than twice that of an employee without depression ($4,584).
Access to hearing healthcare can help. Research shows that treatment for hearing loss can increase social engagement. In one study published in the March 2016 American Journal of Audiology, adults with hearing loss experienced a significant decline in loneliness after just four to six weeks of hearing aid use. This can quite literally alter an employee’s outlook on work and life.
With so many workers now accustomed to the frustration of dropped sound during Zoom calls or struggling to understand someone speaking through their mask, we should be more sympathetic than ever to those struggling with hearing loss.
It is critical to understand that hearing loss is not only an issue faced by the retired community. While rates of hearing loss increase with age, approximately 60% of people who experience hearing loss are under 65, according to the CDC. And the impacts are very real.
Memory impairment and confusion can worsen for those who struggle to hear on a daily basis, directly impacting productivity. Strain from hearing loss can also reduce collaboration between colleagues, hurting teamwork and reducing opportunities for problem-solving.
Through TruHearing’s first annual “Hearing in the Workplace” survey, we surveyed working individuals and explored the impact of untreated hearing loss on their productivity. The study found that almost all respondents reported significant challenges to doing their jobs prior to wearing hearing aids.
Types of productivity issues varied, with “asking coworkers to repeat what they said” topping the list (87%), followed by “frequently missing parts of the conversation” (84%). Of those surveyed, 37% said they lost more than five hours a week making up for these types of challenges, and nearly 20% said they lost more than 10.
For the relatively low cost of a hearing benefit, employers could see significant productivity gains, while helping employees achieve a significantly improved quality of life.
You can make a “resounding” difference
The next time you go to the dentist or order a new pair of contacts, think about how easy it was to do so — thanks to your benefits package. For those with hearing loss, gaining access to the care they need should be that simple.
Insurance brokers can serve as a trusted adviser to clients by bringing awareness to this need and by providing access to a new, low-cost, high value offering to enhance their overall benefits package.
In addition to creating a new revenue stream for their businesses, insurance brokers who add hearing benefits to standard employee packages have an opportunity to make a real difference by mainstreaming hearing care and lightening the financial, mental and emotional toll associated with hearing loss.
TOMMY MACDONALD is CEO of TruHearing, the market leader in hearing health. TruHearing and the insurance companies it partners with are improving the hearing healthcare industry by making hearing healthcare affordable for more people than ever before.
Call (601) 842-0183 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to incorporate hearing benefits into your plan.