Have you been having trouble hearing your co-workers or finding yourself surprised by sounds you’ve missed? If you have just recently discovered you have a hearing loss, perhaps some of the problems you’ve been having at work are starting to make sense. Hearing loss can be difficult to self-diagnose, but once you have, you can start asking your co-workers and bosses to make accommodations for your hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Employment
Hearing loss is a recognized disability under the under the Equality Act 2010. This means you should have equal access and equality of opportunity without discrimination. You can start by giving your coworkers and your bosses a few tips on how to best communicate with you.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must offer reasonable accommodations to help a person with a disability to do their job as well as preventing discrimination. If you have been recently diagnosed with hearing loss you may not know what accommodations would work best for you, in order to help you perform more easily on the job. Here are just a few:
Speech-to-Text and Captioning Services: Some computer programs offer talk to text transliteration, which allows you to read what is said in real time. Some of the most reliable programs on the market which do this include Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) and C-Print. The beauty of these programs is that you can access them on site or remotely so you can participate in meetings and onsite tasks.
Assistive Listening Devices and Systems: These devices reduce background noise and amplify people who are speaking to you. While they are not as nuanced as hearing aids, Assistive listening devices have the ability to amplify sound for individuals or depending on the system, many hearing impaired people, of different abilities at once. For instance, a telecoil can send sound from a PA directly to multiple hearing aid users at once.
Wearing Hearing Aids at Work
Perhaps the best treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. While assistive listening devices amplify every sound indiscriminately, hearing aids are programmed to only amplify the specific pitches, sounds and tones you struggle with. Hearing loss has been found to impact promotions and raises in the workforce and lead to higher rates of unemployment. However, with the use of hearing aids, earnings are on average equal to those with normal hearing.
Hearing Loss and Workplace Communication Tips
Even with the use of hearing aids, it can be helpful to ask coworkers for extra help when communicating. It’s up to you to let coworkers know what works best for you, so you can hear what they say. Many people find it helpful for people to speak clearly and enunciate. In addition, maintaining eye contact when speaking allows the listener to know when you’ve understood or have missed a part of the conversation.
Visual cues are an important aspect to communication for the hearing impaired. Ask co-workers to face you and make sure their face is well lit. Ask them to avoid covering their face when possible as you may find it easier to hear when you can also read their lips. Visual cues commonly become essential to listening as hearing loss develops over time. Ask them to ensure that they have your attention before they start speaking so you have time to prepare to listen. When your co-workers work with you to hear, your job will be so much easier.
Listening in Noise
Hearing with a hearing impairment is an extra challenge when multiple people are speaking at once. If possible, ask for a work environment which is away from most of the noise. If this is not an option, many hearing aids have features that suppress background noise and can single out only the sound coming from directly in front of you. This allows you to direct sound to one speaker and hear more clearly.
If You Can’t Hear at Work
If you feel that you are struggling with hearing in the workplace, don’t delay having your hearing tested. The presence of hearing loss can be surprising and it’s common to live with it for many years before it gets bad enough to notice. By this point, it is already affecting your work performance and most likely your earnings. Don’t let it get to that point. Schedule a hearing test today, and take control of your career and your future, with amplified hearing.