There’s no doubt about it, being on the job with hearing loss can present some serious challenges. But armed with these tips and a positive outlook, there is no reason that you can’t thrive in your chosen career. Read on to find out more about your rights and how to put your best foot forward in the workplace.
Inform yourself about your rights.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations to ensure people with hearing loss can succeed on the job. It is also against the law for them to discriminate against you based on your level of hearing. Whether you need assistive technology, work area adjustments, or a sign language interpreter, it is important that you take the first step and ask. Except in special circumstances, your employer is required to provide the accommodations you need, and it will help both you and the company in the long run.
A little preparation goes a long way.
In any workplace and with any level of hearing ability, it’s important to be prepared, but it is even more vital if you are working with hearing loss. Getting a written agenda of an upcoming meeting beforehand will mean that you have a much easier time following along, and if the meeting minutes are not automatically emailed or handed out to everyone, ask for copy so you can review what has been said and decided on.
Be your own advocate.
If there are certain accommodations that will make your life at work and the task of listening easier, don’t be afraid to ask for them. Small group discussions may be easier for you if they are held at a round table, so that everyone’s face is in view. If your coworkers tend to talk over each other, ask the meeting leader to remind everyone to talk in turn, at the start of the meeting. Also, if there are certain positions and tasks at your workplace that you are better suited for than others, be open with your employer about your desire to fill a quieter, less hectic role.
Technology can be your best ally.
If you have a job where you frequently attend large meetings, you want to be able to participate fully, without worrying about your hearing. With this in mind, you might want to consider asking your company to install a loop system in the meeting rooms. This system makes use of wireless technology and magnetic signals to convey sound from the speaker’s microphone to a wire that loops around the room. This means that your hearing aids or cochlear implants will be able to pick up sound no matter where you are seated, and it will be only the sounds that you want to hear, no background noise. Enquire also about FM systems, which send sound through radio waves, and can be very effective as well.
Don’t act as though you understand, if you don’t.
Listening all day in the workplace, to many different types of communications, can be very taxing if you have hearing loss. The effort of listening or having to ask people to repeat themselves may wear you out, and you may sometimes simply pretend as though you have heard and understood something, even if you haven’t. But keep in mind that making effort to understand your coworkers is vital to your success on the job. Instead of nodding along when you are lost in a conversation, ask the speaker (politely) to stop and paraphrase what they have just said. If you are talking in a noisy place, ask to relocate the conversation to a quieter area.
Help your coworkers to help you.
Chances are, your coworkers would like to learn more about your hearing loss and the best ways to help you understand them. They probably have little knowledge of the communication strategies that would be most effective though, and this is where you can step in. Ask them to speak to you while facing you, in a place that is well-lit. You can also suggest that they tap you on the shoulder to get your attention before speaking to you, and to communicate via text message or email in situations where you feel it is necessary. In short, don’t be afraid to talk to your coworkers about your communication needs–it will help things to run more smoothly for everyone involved.
Don’t underestimate the power of hearing aids.
People hesitate when thinking about hearing aids for several reasons, including not wanting their hearing loss to be conspicuous and doubting their efficiency. But the truth is these devices have the power to greatly increase your chances of success in the workplace, if you have a hearing loss. They are also smaller and more thoughtfully designed than ever, with the ability to connect to your phone, hone in precisely on speech, reduce background noise, and significantly reduce stress and listening effort.
If you experience a hearing loss and have not yet sought treatment, contact us today at Healthy Hearing. There’s no reason to live – or work – with untreated hearing loss! A simple hearing test and hearing aid fitting will make all the difference in the workplace.