Untreated hearing loss can impact all aspects of a person’s life including job attainment and performance. People with hearing loss are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed compared to people with no impairment. One major reason is because communication is difficult when living with untreated hearing loss. Communication is necessary for healthy relationships, managing responsibilities, and completing tasks. The impact of hearing loss on communication can be significant and lead to various consequences including job loss.
Impact of Hearing Loss
Nearly 1 in 8 people navigate hearing loss, make it a common health condition. Hearing loss often happens gradually so it can be overlooked or ignored for quite some time. This can worsen the impairment and the major symptoms including:
- Difficulty following conversation
- Trouble hearing distinct words as sound is muffled
- Tinnitus: buzzing or ringing noise in one or both ears
- Needing to move to quieter area to hear
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves or speak loudly/slowly
Constantly experiencing these symptoms makes communication challenging and leads to:
- Strained communication: a reduced ability to hear is a barrier to effective communication. The symptoms of hearing loss can leave a person overextending themselves in an attempt to hear: reading mouths, cupping an ear, asking to repeat information etc. This can distract from the conversation and frustrate everyone involved, creating an unpleasant interaction.
- Declining overall health: strained communication can cause people to avoid social interactions, environments with background noise, and interacting with others. This can lead to social withdrawal, impacting relationships and engagement in physical activity. Isolating oneself contributes to loneliness and depression which impacts emotional and mental health. Additionally, untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of accidental injuries and various medical conditions.
This collective experience inevitably impacts job attainment and performance.
Hearing Loss in the Workplace
In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Otology and Neurotology, researchers studied the socioeconomic impact of hearing loss on adults in the U.S. Researchers analyzed data produced by the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey which collected information from 1999-2002 from adults aged 20-69. The findings included that adults with hearing loss (compared to those without), were:
- 1.58 times more likely to have a lower income
- 1.98 times more likely of being unemployed or underemployed
These significant statistics reveal that there is an economic cost of having hearing loss. A key contributor to unemployment is the impact that hearing loss has on job performance:
- Having conversations with coworkers and supervisors is difficult
- You may miss information and instructions during meetings
- Working in environments with background noise can be really challenging
- It can be difficult to focus in meetings or during phone calls
This creates more challenges to completing tasks, managing job responsibilities, and sustaining work relationships. To alleviate the multifaceted impact of hearing loss and to prevent job loss, it is critical to address your hearing loss as soon as possible.
Treating Hearing Loss
Treating your hearing loss can reduce your risk of unemployment, increase your ability to hear, and improve your overall health. Treating hearing loss is relatively simple and involves scheduling an appointment with a hearing healthcare specialist to assess your auditory system. This involves a non-invasive process that measures your hearing ability in both ears. Hearing tests determine any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you may have. This information is used to establish the most effective treatment option for your hearing needs. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices that absorb, amplify, and process sound; significantly increasing one’s ability to hear.
Diagnosing and treating your hearing loss also allows you to benefit from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
There are two ways to enhance your experience at work: know about workplace accommodations and treat hearing loss! The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to provide workplace accommodations. It is important to research the types of accommodations that would be available and most useful for you. Some examples include:
- Changes to work area: you can request to be relocated to a quieter area, install a physical barrier between your work area and any sources of loud noise etc.
- Technology: your employer can purchase various technologies that assist with hearing such as computer assisted transcription programs, hearing aid compatibility with work devices etc.
You are entitled to these accommodations which can improve your job performance and best support you while at work. If you have been struggling with hearing loss and want to learn more about the benefits of hearing treatment, contact us today!