As anyone who has ever been between jobs will attest, looking for a job can often be just as demanding as working one. Even in the best of circumstances, interviews are stressful, as is learning the ropes at a new workplace. For working adults with hearing loss, whether they are employed or actively seeking employment, there are additional challenges to be met. Fortunately, it is entirely possible to find a fulfilling job with a hearing loss.
The key is knowing your rights and how to make sure you receive the accommodations that will help you thrive in your chosen career. Read on to find out more.
Disclosing your hearing loss
You have three choices in terms of telling your current or future employers about your hearing loss:
1) Full disclosure
2) Delayed disclosure
When to reveal your hearing loss to an employer is a complex issue. Before you decide which course to take, make sure that you have all the facts and are ready to be your own advocate, if necessary.
Looking for employment with hearing loss
Interviewing for a job is nerve-wracking enough, and being hard of hearing can add additional stressors to the process. Take some of the guesswork out of interviewing with hearing loss by reading some of these common questions and answers regarding your options–and your rights–when meeting with potential employers.
Q: Do I have to disclose my hearing loss and possible need for accommodations during the application/interview process?
A: No, you don’t. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), ensures your right to withhold information about medical procedures, use of hearing aids, or related health conditions in the process of applying for a job.
Q: If I need help during my interview, should I request it?
A: Absolutely. If you require a sign language interpreter or other accommodation to successfully take part in the interview, you should ask for assistance. But be aware that your interviewer is then allowed to ask if you will need further assistance in your daily tasks on the job.
Q: How much will I be asked about my hearing loss and ability to perform tasks during the interview process?
A: Though they may not ask questions specific to your hearing loss, a prospective employer may ask about your ability to perform the most important functions of the job. Questions such as these may arise:
-Can you react quickly in loud, noisy situations?
-Are you able to communicate clearly and effectively?
-Can you meet the legal safety requirements for this job?
When answering these questions, be direct and honest, and keep in mind that “Yes, with reasonable accommodation” is a perfectly suitable response. Employers are required to ensure you can participate fully in the interview process under the ADA act.
Q: What if I disclose my hearing loss (with or without a need for accommodations) after I’m offered the job? Can my employer decide not to hire me?
A: The short answer is no. Unless your hearing loss poses a direct threat to the safety of yourself or others in the workplace, and the risk cannot be reduced with accommodations, your potential employer cannot disqualify from the job based on your hearing loss.
Working with hearing loss — Common questions
Here are a few useful tips for those who are already employed:
Q: What if I didn’t tell my employer about my hearing loss and need for accommodations during the interview process? When should I tell them?
A: Although this is something you’ll have to decide for yourself, the sooner the better, especially if you are having difficulties on the job related to your hearing. Your employer will appreciate you speaking up before your job performance is negatively affected.
Q: What is ADA’s definition of a “reasonable accommodation” for hearing loss?
A: Employers are required to provide accommodations that allow you to carry out job tasks to the same standards as hearing co-workers in the same positions, and to benefit from the same work opportunities as other employees. The management of your company should ensure you are able to: understand day-to-day workplace communications; be an active participant in meetings, social engagements, and company events; and make progress in your field. But keep in mind that your employers are allowed to refuse an accommodation request if they can prove that it would be an unreasonable burden in terms of cost or difficulty.
Knowing your rights as a hard of hearing employee is imperative to succeeding in the workplace, but you can also greatly improve your chances by wearing a hearing aid. Employers will appreciate that you are actively bettering your communication skills, and your hearing devices will also help to reduce misunderstandings and stress, while keeping you safe on the job.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and let your employers and coworkers know what kinds of accommodations and communication strategies work best for you. For more information, check out the Hearing Loss Association of America’s handbook of tips for employment with hearing loss, here.
You don’t have to live – or work – with untreated hearing loss! Visit us at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions today for a consultation.