Working with hearing loss can present unique challenges. But by disclosing your hearing loss, advocating for your hearing needs, and sharing strategies; you can successfully navigate the work environment!
Accessing Workplace Accommodations
It is incredibly important to know your rights in the workplace. Employers are required to provide accessible work environments for people with disabilities, including people with hearing loss. The Americans with Disabilities Act (passed in 1990), is a civil rights law that not only prohibits discrimination based on disability but also requires employers to provide accommodations that increase accessibility and safety. It is important to be aware of the protections and resources you are entitled to effectively navigate your work environment. This involves having a conversation with your supervisor(s) or human resources about the workplace accommodations that are available to you. Examples of these accommodations include:
- Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) Telephones: you are entitled to have an HAC telephone which feeds the audio directly to hearing aid devices, enhancing sound quality.
- Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs): there are numerous types of ALDs which are devices that also support hearing in a variety of contexts. This can include amplified phones and hearing loops in public spaces.
- Captioning Services: there are various options for captioning services that provide transcriptions of audio in real-time. This allows people to have access to text in addition to audio which helps with following along and not missing any information.
These are accommodations that must be provided in the workplace. Additionally, there are other requests you can make like asking for meeting agendas in advance or emailed follow-up notes.
Tips for Working with Hearing Loss
In addition to accessing workplace accommodations, there are tips you can practice to best navigate your work environment. This includes:
- Treat Hearing Loss. In order to be able to work successfully, hearing loss should be treated. Treating hearing loss is critical for both hearing and overall health. The first step in addressing hearing loss is having your hearing tested. This establishes your hearing needs and enables a hearing healthcare provider to treat your hearing loss. Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. These medical devices provide ample hearing support which maximizes hearing capacity. This allows people to better hear and communicate which is foundational for daily life.
- Disclose Hearing Loss. You may feel anxious or overwhelmed about sharing your hearing loss with your employer and coworkers. But disclosing your hearing impairment is incredibly beneficial and supports your hearing needs in a variety of ways. Sharing this with your employer allows you to then discuss and access workplace accommodations to which you are entitled. These accommodations can provide tremendous support, allowing you to perform and complete work tasks more efficiently. Additionally, disclosing your hearing loss with coworkers makes them aware that you may experience challenges during conversations and lets them know what they can do to help!
- Wear Hearing Aids. Be sure to always wear your hearing aids at work. Hearing aids should be worn during waking hours. These devices absorb, amplify, and process sound which allows the wearer to hear better and easier. Wearing your hearing aids during work supports you in managing work tasks, during meetings, while having conversations with coworkers, etc.
- Wear Hearing Protection. In addition to wearing your hearing aids, it could be really useful to wear hearing protection. This is particularly important if you work in a noisier environment. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, 22 million people are exposed to hazardous levels of noise in the workplace annually. Loud noise can worsen impairment as well as hearing loss symptoms. Check in with your employer about the types of hearing protection they provide. This could include earplugs, earmuffs, headphones, etc.
- Share Communication Strategies. Disclosing hearing loss in the workplace opens up the conversation around ways others can support your hearing. Sharing effective communication strategies is a great way to maximize your hearing and capacity to navigate conversations. It is important to remember that effective communication is a shared responsibility and inviting others to participate in creating accessible spaces helps communication thrive. A few tips you can share include: grabbing your attention before starting a conversation, facing you while speaking, rephrasing rather than repeating, etc.
Call us today to schedule a hearing consultation appointment! Our practice provides individualized care that prioritizes your hearing health.