Hearing loss can add difficulty to most things in life, and our jobs are no exception. Depending on the industry you work in and your job role, hearing loss may pose more or less of an issue. It’s important to know how to work around your hearing loss to be your best at work, and part of that is advocating for yourself so you can have what you need to get the job done.
The guidelines below may give you a few ideas about how to be your most effective at work, and maybe even in other areas of your life!
Know Your Rights
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most employers are required to provide “reasonable accommodations” for any employee with a disability, and that includes hearing loss. What is reasonable will have to be worked out between you and your employer, but common scenarios include:
- Having a sign-language interpreter or closed-captioner on hand
- Having a seat in the front row of training courses
- Loop or FM systems in meeting rooms
- Amplified telephones and other ALDs
- Having a desk in a quieter part of the office
- Avoiding rotations into tasks that are listening-heavy – for example, working the reception desk
Be Assertive and Disclose
This can be difficult for some, but it’s a necessary part of advocating for yourself in the workplace. It may be worth devising a “script” for assertive disclosure and practicing a bit so you can be comfortable asking for accommodations.
It’s important to be forthright and positive, but also polite when you tell your boss and/or coworkers what you need to facilitate communication. The most effective method for disclosure accomplishes two things at once. It lets the other person know that you have hearing loss, and also informs them of a way they can help you to understand them better.
Here are some examples of assertive disclosures:
- “I have some hearing loss but I want to hear what you’re saying. Could you face me when you talk and speak a little louder, please?”
- “This seems important but my hearing loss is making it hard to catch everything you’re saying. Would you mind sending me an email with this information?”
- “This is an important conversation, but I’m having trouble hearing with this background noise. Can we go to a meeting room?”
In each example, the other party learns that you have hearing loss and gets an idea of how they can help you hear them better. After a few times of disclosing your hearing loss in this way, you’re likely to find that most of your coworkers will remember these methods and start employing them automatically.
Prepare In Advance
In reality, everyone needs to be prepared in advance of meetings, but it’s especially important for those of us with hearing loss, even if we’re not presenting. You can request a written agenda that will allow you to know what to expect. If you’re used to guessing at certain phonemes, having the agenda in advance will help you make better guesses as you follow along.
To make things even clearer for yourself, you can request the minutes of the meeting at the end. If your company doesn’t typically take minutes, this would be a good accommodation to request.
Lean Into the Visual
Any time you can have something in writing, it’s a good idea. If something can be handled via email instead of a meeting, request that this be done. If you can have an internet “chat” instead of a phone call, go for it.
Your employer may be able to invest in tech that provides real-time transcription, such as CART. A portable device like the UbiDuo may also be helpful. If you meet via Zoom, consider having a closed captioner on the call.
Get Hearing Aids
Only about 16% of working-age Americans who could use hearing aids are currently wearing them. Hearing aids are an important part of being your most effective self in the workplace. It is also statistically evident that those who wear hearing aids earn more than those with untreated hearing loss.
If you or someone you love is currently living with untreated hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today, and find out how hearing aids can benefit you in the workplace and everywhere you go!