Working with Hearing Loss

March 26, 2020
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For those of us who have hearing loss, modern workplaces are problematic. We’ve been moving towards “open plan” offices for some time now. These are wide open desk spaces, with no walls separating between desks or areas.

This is meant to improve communication among employees as everyone can speak and see each other. Whatever the reason for this working climate, if you have hearing loss, it is an ordeal.

Meetings for the hearing impaired are awkward too. The larger the meeting room and the higher the number of people attending, the greater the problem. Issues include people speaking from all directions and lengths, often people speaking simultaneously over loudspeaker phones and multiple speakers. Trying to keep up with conversations can be frustrating if you have trouble hearing.

The impact of hearing loss at work

A hearing loss can also affect a person’s job status, in addition to their physical and emotional health. Most occupations require some degree of direct verbal communication; one must be able to connect efficiently with colleagues, perhaps customers, and one’s superiors.

Any hearing hindrance affects how well a job is done. This can completely change a person’s earning potential for the job he or she does. For example, it can help decide how much people are paid for a job with hearing loss, or, indeed, whether they have a job at all.

In statistics, these worries are borne out. According to a survey, only about 64 percent of working-age people with any hearing loss are working, compared with around 77 percent of the general population. Consequently, the job rate of people with hearing loss is just 83 percent of the hearing population.

To perform at your best in your chosen field while having hearing loss, here is some quick advice.

1. Advocate for yourself

Employees with hearing loss will need to be proactive to be successful at work. The best way to ensure your performance is to advocate for yourself.

Proposing communication strategies should never be left up to others. No one better knows what works than you do. Take the lead and recommend what works best for everyone.

This might require a private place to work and discuss. While workers who have just begun their careers would most likely not be able to work in an enclosed office, collaborate with your boss to find a room with the right atmosphere that you need for your hearing level.

If interactions at your office transparent, meetings are going to be smoother, and everybody can get their work done more efficiently.

2. Learn about your rights

Title 1 of The American Disability Act (ADA) requires employers to make fair concessions to an eligible applicant or employee’s identified disability unless that accommodation causes unreasonable hardship on the employer.

Reasonable changes can be diverse, including upgrading existing equipment, providing new tools, adjusting work schedules, shifting employees, reassigning an employee to a vacant role, and supplying readers or interpreters.

3. Get a hearing aid

According to a recent report, hearing aid wearers earn significantly more than hearing-losing non-wearers, who are much more likely to be unemployed.

“Hearing aid users receive substantially more than non-users, raising the gap between the two classes with the extent of hearing loss,” said the report’s author Bridget Shields.

How could that be the case? It could be because of perceived changes in cognitive function found while wearing hearing aids.

A study performed by a researcher at The University of Texas assessed the intellectual ability of a group of people wearing hearing aids. He found that the devices had improved their working memory, decreased the amount of information tied up in working memory, and helped them speed up the processing of data.

It’s not difficult to see that a better understanding of speech and mind will boost interactions, reinforce relationships, enhance learning, and increase workplace productivity.

Open design workplaces are tricky to navigate, but you can make your life simpler by treating your hearing loss, educating people about it, and setting up your working atmosphere the best you can, so you can do your best without having a problem hearing.

Our audiologists can help you find the hearing aid that suits your lifestyle, no matter what type of tool you need. Call us today to set up a consultation.