A recent report from the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) showed that based on the 15% of Americans who have reported some range of hearing loss, approximately 60 percent spend most of their time in the workplace or an academic setting.
Some extra effort is necessary when it comes to hearing loss, but this factor should not interfere with how productive you are or add stress to your experience. The majority of your problems are rooted in misunderstandings, so it is important to have effective communication. Be firm when asking others to accommodate your needs, whether you need to ask someone to speak more clearly, or you need someone to look at you while they talk. These small changes can help make your workplace or classroom run with ease.
If you experience hearing loss, let your coworkers and boss know the most efficient ways to communicate with you. There will most likely be a learning curve, so be patient.
Hearing Loss: Employment
American employers are legally required to implement a workplace with equal opportunities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes workers who have hearing loss. Some adjustments can include providing assistive listening devices or using other accommodations to help ease communication.
The HLAA compiled resources for workers who have hearing loss. There is also a comprehensive employment toolkit that includes nearly every dilemma an employee with a hearing impairment may experience.
Federal Resources on Workers with Hearing Loss
The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has a guide on deafness and hearing loss in the workplace, in addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Using Hearing Aids on the Job
Hearing aids are very beneficial for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. New users should be aware that it takes time to adapt to hearing aids, particularly when you are moving from one environment to another. Talk to your hearing instrument specialist for advice. Your hearing aids can be programmed for different environments, including your daily working conditions and for listening to others through a facemask.
Which Assistive Listening Devices Should I Use at Work?
If you work in an office, you might need more help than what your hearing aids are capable of providing. In this case, use an assistive listening device.
How to Communicate in the Workplace
Effective methods of communication are different for everyone. Generally, people with hearing loss communicate best in person rather than over the phone. The current social distancing rules complicate things, so someone with hearing loss will need to use a series of context clues such as lip reading, facial expressions, and body language to piece the conversation together. An email, chat window, or text, might be more helpful than a phone call or Zoom call unless there are captions available.
If it is necessary to visit in-person, ask others to walk in front of you if you are not responding to their attempts to draw your attention. It’s much less startling to see someone walk towards you than it is to have someone tap you on the shoulder. During meetings, ask others not to speak while facing away from you - for instance, if they speak while writing something on a dry-erase board. Their voice becomes projected at the wall, making it difficult to understand no matter how good your hearing may be.
An office that has an open-layout of cubicles is not the best for those with hearing loss. The bustling workers can be distracting. Having overlapping phone conversations at the same time as your coworker is challenging, even with normal hearing. Ask to work in a private room with a door, if one is available. Noise can be closed off and you can concentrate on your work.
Helping a Coworker who Experiences Hearing Loss
Coworkers of the deaf or hard-of-hearing can help make a positive workplace environment by doing the following:
Noise-induced Hearing Loss in the Workplace
Work environments are the most common places where a person is exposed to harmful levels of noise. This raises the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Your employer should provide hearing protection if the noise reaches dangerous levels.
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing hearing loss, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a free hearing test and consultation. We offer a variety of hearing aid styles and name brands for a wide range of hearing loss.