Hearing loss is a common health concern that millions of people experience. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. The prevalence of hearing loss highlights that many people are navigating this health condition while also working. Working with impaired hearing can be particularly difficult. Hearing loss can significantly strain communication, which impacts how we engage with people on a daily basis. Addressing your hearing loss and learning about ways you can maximize your hearing can drastically improve your communication and overall health!
Impact of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by several factors such as environmental exposure to loud noise, existing medical conditions, and genetic history. It often occurs so gradually so it can be overlooked and go untreated for quite some time. This results in restricted ability to hear which impacts all aspects of life. Communication is especially difficult, as someone navigating hearing loss typically experiences:
- Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing noise) in one or both ears
- Difficulty hearing distinct words which makes it tough to follow entire conversations
- Moving to quieter areas to have a conversation
- Frequently needing others to speak loudly and/or slowly
- Reading lips to identify words
- Commonly asking people to repeat themselves
These symptoms of hearing loss require extra energy to compensate which can be exhausting and stressful. Conversations can feel unpleasant and taxing for everyone involved. This can create distance and tension and take a toll on communication as well as relationships.
Treating hearing loss is the best and most effective way to alleviate these symptoms and improve your hearing health. Addressing your hearing loss begins by having your hearing assessed by a hearing instrument specialist. Hearing tests are a relatively easy, quick, no cost, . It’s a noninvasive way to identify any impairment, degree, and type of hearing loss as well as establish the most effective treatment. Hearing loss is most commonly treated by hearing aids, which are electronic devices worn in or behind the ear. Hearing aids are designed to absorb and amplify sound in specific relation to the person’s hearing loss, which increase one’s ability to hear. This significantly strengthens communication and overall quality of life.
Tips to Improve Communication
Treating your hearing loss is certainly the first step towards enhancing communication. Additionally, there are several ways you can create the conditions for effective communication including:
Disclose Hearing Loss
Being transparent about your hearing loss with your employer and coworkers is a great way to start the conversation about your hearing needs. It also notifies the people you work with that you may be approaching your work differently, need additional time with certain tasks, and that you are actually listening when it may seem like you are not. This also creates a support system in the workplace allows others to more effectively participate in having quality conversations.
Identify Workplace Accommodations
Disclosing your hearing loss also invites your employer to identify the ways they can support you in the workplace. Your employer is required to provide workplace accommodations, mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA bans discrimination on the basis of disability and also requires employers to provide assistance and support for people with hearing loss.
There are various types of accommodations an employer can provide, which can include investment in technology that is compatible with your hearing aids, adjustments to your work area, relocating your workspace to a quieter area etc.
Discuss Communication Strategies
Educating yourself on your hearing loss and what works best for your hearing is really valuable. Sharing this information with your coworkers and the people you regularly interact with can smoothen communication. There are various strategies for effective communication when one has hearing loss, it is all about figuring out what works best for you! A few examples include: making eye contact, standing at a comfortable distance, reducing background noise if and when you can, facing the speaker etc.
Anticipate Hearing Needs
Thinking about and planning for your hearing needs can better help you navigate the different settings you work in. This means anticipating what would help your hearing during meetings, trainings, during a phone call, etc.