Working with hearing loss can present unique challenges. Work environments can be noisy, busy, and often require consistent communication which can be hard to navigate if you have hearing loss. But it is important to know that there are effective ways that hearing loss can be navigated in the workplace. Practicing the following strategies can support your success and performance at work:
- Maximize use of your hearing aids. Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. These devices provide ample hearing support by absorbing and processing speech and sound, making it easier to hear. Today’s hearing aids are more innovative than ever before, offering a range of features that support hearing health in all environments. This includes technologies like digital noise reduction, wireless connectivity, tinnitus management, voice recognition and more. These features deliver great sound quality and increased connectivity which helps make hearing as seamless as possible. Be sure to discuss these features with your hearing healthcare provider who can help you navigate your options.
- Disclose hearing loss. You may be going back and forth about whether you should share your hearing loss with your employer and coworkers. It is understandable to be apprehensive about this but we want to encourage you to disclose this information. There are many benefits of disclosure that will support your hearing health and experience in the workplace. This includes allowing you to access workplace accommodations as well as starting the conversation with your coworkers about your hearing needs. Sharing your hearing loss with others also lets them know that they also need to participate in effective communication. This invites others to create a more accessible work environment.
- Access workplace accommodations. Disclosing your hearing loss with your employer starts the conversations about workplace accommodations. Workplace accommodations are resources that increase accessibility and support your hearing needs so that you are able to effectively manage your work responsibilities. This can range from technologies like hearing aid compatible phones, to closed captioned services, and live transcription services. It can also include making physical changes to your work space – blocking off sources of loud noise, moving areas etc. Another type of accommodation is hearing protection which are items that protect your hearing from loud noise. It is important to have this conversation with your employer who can let you know about the workplace accommodations they provide.
- Share communications strategies. Another useful tip to navigate the workplace with hearing loss more effectively is to share communication strategies with the people you work with. You likely know of adjustments and ways your hearing can be supported during conversations. Examples include:
- Grabbing your attention before starting a conversation. People can do this by calling your name or tapping you on the shoulder.
- Speaking in a natural tone, taking pauses between sentences.
- Facing you and maintaining visibility so you can access nonverbal cues and lips for lip reading.
- Reducing background noise as much as possible – turning down music, TV, or any other source of loud noise.
- Avoiding multitasking while having a conversation with you which can be distracting.
- Emailing any detailed information.
- Rephrasing rather than repeating if you haven’t heard something.
Sharing the strategies that work for you is an important way to allow others to participate in effective communication which is a shared responsibility.
- Plan ahead. It is useful to think about your hearing needs in advance so that you are able to plan for them. You can ask yourself questions like: what does my work day look like? What tasks am I performing today? What types of environments and environments will I be navigating? This then allows you to identify what your hearing needs are in these contexts so that you can better plan for them.
- Advocate for your hearing needs. We encourage you to always advocate for your hearing needs. This looks like asking for clarification when needed, sharing communication strategies, taking advantage of workplace accommodations, not pretending to hear etc. Being proactive about your hearing needs can help you navigate much more smoothly.
Practicing these strategies can make the work environment more comfortable and accessible for you. Contact us today to learn more about the resources and technologies that are available to support you!