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The month of May is back again, bringing with it the opportunity to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month! The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sets aside this month every year to draw attention to issues facing people with hearing and speech issues, and they choose a different theme each year to highlight specific issues that you might not have considered before.
This year the theme is “Communication at Work,” and you might already be thinking of a communication issue you faced in your place of work recently. Why did communication break down? Did you feel like you had thoroughly communicated your plans, needs, or information only to find that the recipient of that message was missing crucial details? Some communications have a simple solution while others are more complex and interpersonal. Let’s consider one of the many dimensions of workplace miscommunication, specifically those that have to do with hearing loss.
Hearing Loss in the Workplace
Communication takes place in a variety of ways, and you might be surprised to consider how often you communicate within just one working day. From the moment you arrive at work and offer casual greetings, through a day full of email, text, and chat communication, to the many meetings that should be filled with crucial information, you are likely communicating from beginning to end of your days. Although text is one piece of the puzzle, you likely use verbal communication more often than you realize. Small talk in the workplace is constructive of the relationships that make it easy to get along in teams, yet small talk can also inhibit the natural flow of work. Those with hearing loss suffer not only from missing out on this teambuilding small talk but also the crucial information that is communicated through interpersonal conversation. With verbal conversation forming such a crucial part of workplace communication, hearing loss is an essential consideration when strategizing the right way to convey information.
Tips for Accommodating Hearing Loss in the Workplace
You might be surprised to find that someone in your workplace has undisclosed and untreated hearing loss. Remarkably, this hearing loss might even be unknown to the person who has it. Over the years, those who develop hearing loss can find ways to make do, or “satisfice,” with the hearing they do have. By guessing at the nature of missing conversational elements, reading lips, following context clues, and even pretending to understand when they have not, people with untreated hearing loss make their way through the world in complicated ways. You can take steps to make it easier for a person like this to get through the working day with the information they need.
In the first place, take steps to communicate in a place where you are visible to the person receiving the information. Being able to see your face while you speak can be very helpful. Another helpful tip for some people can be to augment verbal communication with a textual follow-up message. After you discuss the information, you might want to send a brief email, text, memo, or chat to detail the crucial pieces of information. Finally, keeping your verbal communication limited to brief conversations that are to-the-point can be very helpful. For instance, if you have a longer rambling conversation with an important piece of information embedded within the communication, the recipient will be more likely to miss that information, whether or not hearing loss is an issue.
Beyond these accommodation strategies for people with hearing loss, the most important thing that can be done about hearing loss is to seek treatment. If you are the person in the workplace who struggles to make sense of verbal communication, you might have undetected hearing loss. Whether or not you suspect that hearing loss is lying beneath the communication issues you face in the workplace, a baseline hearing test does not hurt.
We can help you determine your individualized hearing profile and provide you with a range of treatment options, if that is the right course for you to follow. Hearing assistance in the workplace can improve your productivity, comfort, and even your paycheck! Don’t delay getting your hearing test right away for the benefit of your own peace of mind as well as your coworkers’ ability to easily converse with you.