Dr. Cynthia L. Ellison, Au.D
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Working with hearing loss can be challenging. Impaired hearing reduces one’s ability to hear which can make communication difficult. Strained communication impacts the conversations and interactions you have on a daily basis. Engaging with your coworkers and managing your responsibilities at work can become tough. However, by addressing your hearing loss and seeking treatment, you can improve the quality of your life! Learning about your hearing needs and practicing effective strategies can drastically improve communication, allowing you to navigate your workplace with greater ease. 


Disclosing Hearing Loss

It is really common to question if you should disclose your hearing loss with your employer. You may be unsure about how (and if) working with impaired hearing impacts managing your job responsibilities. Thinking about these realities can often be overwhelming and can cause you to feel anxious. But sharing your hearing loss is extremely beneficial and is the beginning of creating a supportive work environment. Benefits of sharing your hearing loss includes: 

  • Begins the conversation of what you need to best navigate the work environment. By including your employer, they are able to provide support and resources that can help you smoothly adjust. 
  • Some of the support that is available to you is required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability and provides workplace accommodations for hearing loss. 
  • Sharing your hearing loss with coworkers also allows them to support your hearing needs during conversations. 

Disclosing your hearing loss allows you to advocate for your hearing needs. This is the best way to enhance communication, prioritize, and take care of your hearing health. 


Tips for Effective Communication 

In addition to disclosing your hearing loss, there are several useful ways you can practice effective communication including the following: 


Treat Hearing Loss 

The most important way to improve your health and communication is to treat your hearing loss. This involves having your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests are a noninvasive and painless way to determine any impairment, the degree, and type. Hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids which are small electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This drastically increases one’s ability to hear in various environments. 

This process of treating your hearing loss also allows you to learn more about your hearing impairment: the types of sounds that are more difficult for you to hear, the environments that are challenging to hear in, and useful ways to maximize your hearing. This is extremely useful information and can help you best navigate. 


Share Communication Strategies 

Learning about specific strategies that enhance your hearing ability is really helpful. Sharing this information with the people you work with can ease communication. There are numerous effective communication strategies including: minimizing background noise, making eye contact, reducing distractions (emailing, texting, eating etc.), maintaining a comfortable distance, asking others to rephrase rather than repeat words you have a tough time hearing etc. 


Discuss Workplace Accommodations  

Sharing your hearing loss with your employer also opens the conversation about workplace accommodations, which as stated previously, is required by the ADA. There is a range of accommodations so it would be useful to do some research in advance. A few types of workplace accommodations include: 

  • Changes to Work Area: adjustments to your work area can mean relocating you to a quieter area, placing a physical barrier between you and any sources of noise etc. 
  • Technology: there are various technologies that can support your hearing such as hearing aid compatibility with any work devices, portable hearing devices, computer assisted transcription etc. 


Plan for Your Hearing Needs 

Anticipating your hearing needs allows you to plan ahead to meet those needs in the different settings you move through. Examples of this include requesting an agenda prior to meetings, sitting in the front of the room during trainings, requesting to meet around round tables so that you can see the speaker’s face, etc. 

Disclosing your hearing needs helps create an environment where you can openly discuss any challenges and include others in supporting your needs. Practicing and sharing strategies can improve communication and help you succeed in the workplace!