Managing hearing impairment in the workplace

If you are struggling at work because you have hearing loss, or you are finding it difficult to find work because of it, you are not alone.

Anyone who experiences hearing impairments such as hearing loss or tinnitus, knows that in the workplace it can be difficult and stressful to be in an environment where most colleagues take everyday means of communication for granted.

For example, you may struggle to hear everything said in meetings, conference calls or social chat with colleagues. You may also find it tough to take notes or follow everything if there are large numbers of people speaking, especially if you work in an open-plan office.

59%

In 2019, a study into global perceptions of hearing loss found that 59% of people surveyed worldwide

A few facts

While there is no worldwide study into numbers of people with hearing impairments in the workplace, in the US alone, 53% of people with hearing impairment were employed in 2017. Between 2008 and 2017, employment rates for people with hearing impairment did not increase. It’s also the case that adults with hearing impairments are more likely to earn less, be less educated, and be unemployed or not reaching their potential when compared with their hearing peers.

In 2019, a study into global perceptions of hearing loss found that 59% of people surveyed worldwide believed that hearing loss could reduce a person's job prospects. 

Empower yourself

How can you best reach your potential in the workplace? It can be difficult to know how to manage hearing loss at work. There are a number of ways in which you can help yourself manage your hearing impairments in your workplace:

  • Hearing aids
  • Be open
  • Be prepared
  • Assistive listening devices
  • CART
  • Safety

Taking an active part in removing obstacles at work is a positive way of you managing your hearing impairments. It will also help your colleagues better understand your needs.

Hearing aids

Although a hearing aid will not cure your hearing loss, it will help you hear sounds more clearly. A hearing aid can amplify sound so that you are better able to communicate. They also have multiple features to interface at work, such as Bluetooth connections to cellphones and laptops and remote microphones for meetings.

Be open

You may want to speak with your boss and colleagues about your hearing loss. Be straightforward about how noise impacts your work and which workplace adaptations can be made to ensure you are at your most productive. In addition, be clear about how best it is for your colleagues to talk to you. For example, you could ask them to face you when speaking to you.

Be prepared

Ask to receive meeting agendas and a list of attendees in advance. Ensure that whoever is organizing the meeting can provide CART (see below) if you need it. Try and sit in a central spot in the meeting with your back to the window. If you are part of a conference call, anyone who is speaking says his or her name first – it’s good meeting etiquette for everyone.

Devices

Ask that your workplace ensure that any telephone devices you use are Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC). You may need a captioned telephone service or Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) to be installed. You could also look at having Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs).

CART

This is Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) gives you real-time text transcription of spoken conversations. You can see the text on a mobile, computer, laptop or projector.

Safety

If your hearing loss is such that you can’t hear fire alarms or other alarms, let your colleagues know so that they can notify you of any sounds that indicate your need to vacate the building. Also, it is mandatory to have strobe lights fitted on alarms, and have a pager set to vibrate, or have multiple frequency alarms that you are more likely to hear.

Next steps

If you are concerned about your hearing and would like to find out how to better manage your heating health, then schedule a consultation with one of our licensed hearing care professionals. Take the next step towards improving your hearing health.

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