Working with hearing loss can be challenging. Impaired hearing reduces one’s ability to absorb and process sound which can significantly strain communication. This makes engaging in conversation difficult and impacts how you interact with coworkers, supervisors, and others throughout your workday. Addressing your hearing loss and learning about effective communication strategies can drastically improve your success at the office!
Disclosing Hearing Loss
Thinking about notifying your employer of your hearing loss can be overwhelming. You may be anxious about discussing having impaired hearing and the impact it can have on how you manage your job responsibilities. But disclosing your hearing loss can be extremely beneficial for a variety of reasons including:
- Guarantees protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) from discrimination based on any disability. The ADA also requires employers to provide workplace accommodations.
- Lets the people you work with know that you may experience some difficulty during conversations, and may need extra time and assistance.
- Creates an open environment where you can share with coworkers and supervisors specific ways to engage in conversation that helps you hear and process information more effectively.
Disclosing your hearing loss is a major way to advocate for yourself and your hearing needs.
Tips for Effective Communication
There are many ways you can strengthen your communication in the workplace. Along with disclosing your hearing loss, there are numerous communication strategies and tips you can practice including:
Hearing Loss Treatment
Treating your hearing loss is the most important way that you can enhance communication and protect your health. The first step is to have your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. This involves a noninvasive process that examines the sounds and frequencies that you are (and are not) able to hear. This determines the degree and type of hearing impairment you are experiencing.
Some hearing loss can be treated by a medical doctor, but the most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These small electronic devices have a wide range of features and are customized to meet your unique hearing needs. Hearing aids increase one’s ability to hear and understand in various environments.
Share Communication Strategies
Treating your hearing loss and working with hearing healthcare experts allows you to learn more about your hearing impairment and the types of sounds you may have difficulty hearing. Educating yourself on your specific hearing loss and how you can maximize your hearing ability is incredibly important. This allows you to share this useful information with others who can engage in conversations with you in ways that are more effective.
Helpful communication strategies that others in your life can implement include: making eye contact, facing you, calling your name to get your attention prior to starting a conversation, rephrasing rather than repeating certain words or phrases you may have a difficult time distinguishing, and speaking from a comfortable distance. Sharing this information also makes effective communication everyone’s responsibility and not just yours, which can alleviate some stress!
Research and Identify Workplace Accommodations
The ADA requires employers to provide workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities. Disclosing your hearing loss enables you to have this conversation with a supervisor or your human resources department. Examples of workplace accommodations to assist those with hearing difficulties include:
- Work Area Adjustments: this could mean relocating to quieter work areas, or placing a physical barrier between your work area and sources of loud noise.
- Electronic Device Connectivity: if you use electronic devices at work such as a phone or laptop, they can be connected to your hearing aids
By disclosing your hearing loss and practicing a few strategies for effective communication, you can navigate your work environment with greater ease and support!