Navigating your work environment with hearing loss can be challenging. A reduced ability to hear can strain communication which makes engaging with the people you work with difficult on a daily basis. This can be especially tough if you are part of a team, interface with customers, and participate in numerous meetings. Addressing your hearing loss and learning about the ways you can maintain your hearing health can significantly help you succeed in the workplace. Fortunately, there are useful ways to treat impaired hearing and effective strategies you can use to enhance hearing and communication!
Impact of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss restricts the speech and sound a person is able to hear and process. The inability to hear clearly can significantly strain communication. This makes interacting with others and engaging in conversation tough. People with hearing loss often experience:
- Difficulty following entire conversations and hearing distinct words
- Tinnitus which is a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak slowly and/or loudly
- Needing to move quieter areas to have conversations
- Reading mouths to identify specific words
The cumulation of these symptoms can lead to fatigue, stress, and poor communication. This creates an unpleasant experience for everyone involved in the conversation. The best way to alleviate these symptoms and improve communication is to treat your hearing loss.
The first step is to have your hearing assessed by a hearing health specialist. Hearing tests are a relatively quick and noninvasive process that determines your degree of impairment and the type of hearing loss you are experiencing. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These small electronic devices are designed to absorb, amplify, and help process sound which increase’s one’s ability to hear. Hearing aids are an effective way to support your hearing health!
Tips for Effective Communication
Along with treating your hearing loss and wearing hearing aids, other ways you can create a supportive environment and maximize communication include:
- Disclose Hearing Loss
It is common to question if you should share your hearing loss with your employer. You may be anxious about discussing personal information but sharing this condition is extremely beneficial for numerous reasons. It starts the conversation about your hearing needs and how your employer can also support you. It also informs your supervisor of what you are navigating and how that could impact how you approach your work.
- Share Communication Strategies
Taking the time to address and treat your hearing loss also allows you to learn more about how it impacts you. Learning what types of sound you have more difficulty hearing and the most effective ways to maximize your hearing in different environments is extremely helpful. You can share this information with the people you work with which creates a larger support system. There are numerous effective communication strategies (it’s all about learning what works best for you!) including: making eye contact, facing the speaker, maintaining a comfortable distance, not doing other things while having a conversation (texting, emailing, eating) etc.
- Learn About Workplace Accommodations
Disclosing your hearing loss also allows you to benefit from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and also requires employers to provide accommodations for hearing loss. It would be useful to conduct some research on the types of workplace accommodations that are available and what would be most helpful for you. Workplace accommodations can include adjustments to your work area and purchasing various technologies.
- Plan for Hearing Needs
Anticipating your hearing needs in the various settings you move through at work can help you effectively meet those needs. This includes asking for the agenda prior to meetings, requesting to hold meetings at a roundtable which allows you to see the speaker’s face, requesting notes etc.
Acclimating to your work environment with hearing loss is not easy. It takes time and commitment to prioritizing your hearing needs. Sharing your hearing loss with the people you work allows them to better support you by participating in effective ways of communicating. Utilizing these tips and information can help you navigate your workplace with greater ease!