Cochlear implant secures job and prevents burnout

Hearing impairments have a variety of effects on education and training as well as in everyday working life: There is an increased risk of burnout and job loss. Timely hearing care, appropriate aids and simple precautions can counteract this.

"When a child spoke in class, I no longer knew where it was coming from," described former AHS professor Mag. Peter Kmetyko in the gehört.gelesen interview , how his one-sided hearing loss in class became "increasingly embarrassing." Not only for pedagogical personnel and professional musicians is good hearing important - in the end, there are hardly any employment opportunities where a telephone conversation with the clientele, colleagues or superiors is not necessary at least on a case-by-case basis.

Mark Laureyns, representing the World Health Organization WHO and the World Hearing Forum WHF, expressed these challenges in facts and figures in his presentation at the EURO-CIU symposium in Rotterdam in November 2022: Poorer education, more difficult entry into the labor market, poorer career opportunities, and a higher risk of unemployment as well as early retirement for hearing-impaired people.[1] Alarming, but not new: CIA President Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Baumgartner presented very similar figures already in 2010 in his work on the cost analysis of cochlear implantation.[2] Less well known are the findings on the connection between hearing ability, work situation and burnout, which Laureyns also presented: Hearing problems increase the risk of burnout; working in an open-plan office exacerbates that risk. Appropriate hearing aids or implants, a quieter work environment and listening breaks can counteract.

Burnout - not a disease, but not a healthy condition either

Stress and lack of rest, coupled with a difficult work situation - this combination is leading to burnout in more and more people. As a general feeling of overload, it leads to exhaustion and reduced performance. Burnout[3] is not considered a disease in a strict sense, but the symptoms and complaints must be taken seriously as a matter of urgency: Burnout can bring serious social, physical and psychological impairments.

As a result, the causes and triggers are currently being intensively researched. In 2011, a study[4] in Sweden found a significant connection between hearing problems and burnout symptoms. In a recent study at the Thomas More University of Applied Sciences in Belgium, Laureyns and his colleagues found a correlation between burnout symptoms and problems with noise acceptance, speech comprehension in noise, auditory concentration and tinnitus.

Open-plan offices: bad for listening and bad for not listening

In this context, Laureyns also mentioned the problems of open-plan offices, not only for hearing-impaired people: Increased background noise levels in open-plan offices lead to poorer speech comprehension and require greater concentration during conversations. Yet it also requires increased concentration if one does not want to be distracted by the conversations of others.

Even employees with normal hearing have to consciously block out noise around them in an open-plan office in order to be able to concentrate on their work.[5] The French philosopher Denis Diderot called this the "Fourth Curtain" or the "Fourth Wall": Three curtains or walls separate the stage from the auditorium in the theater. When all three are raised, the audience can see the actors. Diderot recommended that performers "imagine a huge wall in front of the stage separating them from the audience, and act exactly as if the curtain had never gone up."

Smaller offices are especially beneficial for hearing-impaired workers. There, less concentration is needed in both situations: When listening and when not wanting to be disturbed. This avoids stress and reduces the risk of burnout.

Hearing loss: 6 ways to prevent burnout

  • Timely hearing care helps safeguard the workplace in the event of hearing loss.
  • Combined with the hearing aid, various aids are also available to further simplify communication: for example, AudioStream when making phone calls or AudioLink as a remote microphone during meetings.
  • Address hearing problems immediately and clearly: Those who shamefully hide problems with understanding risk misunderstandings and prevent colleagues from being considerate.
  • Smaller offices and workgroups as well as noise-reduced rooms make communication easier. Curtains or additional furniture often help. (see GG 1.2020 page 32-36)
  • Consciously use breaks from work and after work for listening breaks (see GG 1.2023 page 16ff).
  • Choose jobs and positions with increased communication requirements carefully.

[1] World report on hearing, World Health Organization 2021, ISBN 978-92-4-002048-1 & 978-92-4-002049-8

[2] “Cochlea Implantation. Eine Ökonomische Analyse“, Baumgartner W.D. 2010


[4] “Stress and prevalence of hearing problems in the Swedish working population”, Hasson et al., BMC Public Health, 2011 Feb 23; 11:130, doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-130

[6] “The Truth About Open Offices”, E. Bernstein, B. Waber, Harvard Business Review, Nov.-Dec. 2019,