Over 48 million people have hearing loss. Impaired hearing is actually the third most pervasive chronic health issue that people experience today. The workplace is a common source of loud noise exposure which contributes to hearing loss and can worsen symptoms. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, 22% of people are exposed to hazardous levels of noise in the workplace. Navigating the work environment with hearing loss can be challenging. Managing work responsibilities, communication with coworkers, and moving through the environment while experiencing hearing loss can be tough. But there are strategies you can practice to support your hearing needs and success at work including the following:
- Disclose hearing loss. You may be going back and forth about whether you should disclose your hearing loss with coworkers and supervisors. While this can be stressful and overwhelming, it is important to share your hearing loss with others for several important reasons. Disclosing your hearing loss allows you to discuss what your hearing needs are and to learn about how those needs can be supported in the workplace. It also allows others to know about the challenges you may experience while communicating with them. Sharing your hearing loss also gives you an opportunity to discuss how others can support you and conversations in the workplace. This gives people the chance to participate in creating accessible conversations.
- Share communications strategies. Another benefit of disclosing your hearing loss is being able to share specific ways people can engage in effective communication with you. You are likely aware of the ways in which your hearing needs can be supported and tips to maximize your hearing during conversations. Sharing these strategies with others contributes to engaging in conversations smoothly. A few examples of communication strategies are:
- Grab your attention by calling your name or tapping you on the shoulder before beginning a conversation. This allows you to be prepared and ready.
- Face you while speaking. Maintaining visibility provides you with access to nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language which help you follow a conversation.
- Reduce background noise as much as possible. This includes maintaining low volume settings on music or sounds in the background.
- Avoiding multitasking while engaging in a conversation so everyone is able to be fully present and available.
- Rephrasing rather than repeating if you’ve struggled to hear/process something that someone has said.
- Avoiding projecting one’s voice and speaking in a natural tone, taking pauses between sentences.
- Maximize use of hearing aids. Hearing aids are essential devices for people with hearing loss. These electronic devices are designed to absorb, amplogy, and process speech as well as sound. It is important to wear hearing aids during waking hours, especially while navigating the workplace. There are several ways you can maximize the use of your hearing aids including by investing in innovative features. This includes digital noise reduction, tinnitus management, wireless connectivity, and downloadable apps where you can conveniently manage your settings. This allows you to seamlessly integrate your device in everyday life and benefit from enhanced sound quality as well as connectivity.
- Access workplace accommodations. It is also important to be aware of your rights in the workplace. The Americans with Disabilities Act (passed in 1990) is one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to know about. It does two important things:
- Prevents employers from discrimination based on disability. Under the ADA, hearing loss counts a disability.
- Requires employers (and public institutions as well as spaces) to provide accommodations that increase accessibility.
Disclosing your hearing loss with your employer allows you to ask about workplace accommodations which they are required to provide. This can include a range of adjustments like making changes to your workspace (moving to a quieter area for installing a barrier to block off loud noise), requesting agendas in advance and meeting notes after, using communication technologies like closed captions or live transcription services etc.
- Advocate for your hearing needs. Another useful tip is to think about your hearing needs in advance so you can plan ahead. For example, requesting the room to be set up in a way that allows you to see everyone clearly during meetings. It is also important to always advocate for your hearing needs. Be sure to ask for clarification or support when needed.
Practicing these strategies can help you navigate the workplace with hearing loss successfully. Contact us to learn more about the resources and technologies available to support your hearing needs.