Navigating the workplace with hearing loss can be especially challenging. Interacting with coworkers, sitting through and participating in meetings, as well as juggling work responsibilities with hearing loss can be overwhelming. Hearing loss is a condition that impacts over 48 million people, 60% of whom are in the workforce. Learning specific ways you can meet your hearing needs in the workplace can alleviate potential challenges, supporting work performance and success. A few tips to maximize your hearing capacity and create an accessible work environment includes:
- Disclose hearing loss. People with hearing loss often think about whether or not they should disclose their hearing loss to their employer. Thinking about sharing personal information about your health with those you work with can contribute to stress and anxiety. But we highly encourage you to disclose your hearing loss with your supervisors and coworkers. This offers several important benefits that are key to your success in the workplace. Sharing your hearing loss allows you to access accommodations that you are entitled to, opens up the conversation about your hearing needs, and allows you to share with others what they can do to best support your hearing needs.
- Learn about your rights. Knowing your rights in the workplace is also critical. Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act is an important piece of civil rights legislation. It prevents job discrimination on the basis of disbility as well as requires employers to provide accommodations for employees with disabilities. Diagnosed hearing loss qualifies as a workplace disability which means that you are eligible for specific rights and accommodations. Disclosing your hearing loss with your employer allows you to access this and lets you know what your rights are.
- Access workplace accommodations. There are different types of workplace accommodations that are designed to create greater accessibility for people with hearing loss in the workplace. Discussing the options for accommodations with your supervisor is a useful way to see what your options are. Workplace accommodations can include anything from making changes to your workspace (moving to a quieter area for example), to requesting meeting notes, as well as investment in certain technologies. There is a range of technologies that can help meet your hearing needs, this includes:
- Captioning Services: there are a variety of captioning options which provide transcription from audio into text in real time. This makes it easier to follow along in a meeting or while watching a training.
- Assistive Listening Devices: these are other forms of hearing technologies that are designed to amplify and enhance sound quality. This can include amplified telephones and hearing loops in larger spaces like auditoriums.
Be sure to thoroughly discuss options that are available to you with your employer.
- Share effective communication strategies. You likely know specific strategies that make it more helpful for you to hear and engage in conversations. Sharing these communication strategies with your coworkers is a great way to support your hearing needs. This can include:
- Grabbing your attention before starting a conversation.
- Facing you during a conversation so that you have access to nonverbal cues.
- Rephrasing rather than repeating if you misheard something.
- Minimizing background noise and avoiding multitasking so you are better able to hear and concentrate.
It is important to remember that others want to know how to best engage in
conversation with you so providing these strategies is a great invitation.
- Wear hearing aids and hearing protection. Hearing aids are designed to alleviate hearing loss symptoms and process speech as well as sound. It is important that you wear your hearing aid device during waking hours so that you have an easier time hearing and navigating daily life. In addition to wearing your hearing aids at work, be sure to wear hearing protection if you work in a noisier setting. This can include headphones, earbuds, or earmuffs which offer a protective barrier that reduces the amount of loud noise you absorb.
- Prioritize your hearing needs. Always advocate for your hearing needs. Avoid pretending to hear or overextending yourself. Be forward about what your hearing needs are and ways others can participate in creating the most accessible work environment.
In addition to these tips, be sure to have your hearing tested regularly so that you can track your hearing health and ensure that your hearing needs are being met. Call us today to learn more.