Many people consider hearing loss a condition which primarily affects retirees. However, only one third of people with hearing loss are 65 years and older.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to noise levels high enough to cause irreversible hearing loss, many of these while on the job. To back up this claim, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that over 20,000 workplace hearing loss cases occur annually—the majority resulting in irreversible, lifelong hearing loss. 

Employers of 12 people or more are required to monitor levels of sounds in the workplace and offer hearing protection to employees at no out of pocket expense. However, it is up to us on an individual level to make sure we wear hearing protection properly and know when our hearing may be at risk.

The Economic Impact of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss not only makes it hard to hear but can impact how well we can succeed in the workplace. Issues with hearing can impact how we hear and follow directions—leading to increased mistakes which can cost time and money. Overtime, employers may attribute these mistakes to poor performance rather than undiagnosed or unaddressed hearing loss. In fact, a recent study found that 48% of people who had untreated hearing loss were employed in 2014, but about nearly an equal amount were not in the workforce, equaling 47%! 

Studies also find that people with hearing issues are more likely to live with lower incomes or be unemployed when compared to contemporaries with normal hearing. In fact, it may decrease annual income by as much as $30,000 in comparison to hearing peers.

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a protected disability under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, to get the most out of these protections you need to be open about your hearing loss. Sadly, many with hearing loss live with it undiagnosed, due to the subtle and gradual manner that it can progress. Therefore, if you work in a noisy environment or one where you may be exposed to ototoxic chemicals (chemicals which can damage your hearing) then we recommend annual hearing exams. 

If you do have a hearing loss, we recommend that you disclose your hearing loss to your employer and coworkers. Not only does this give you protection from unfair termination based on your disability but gives you the option to ask for reasonable accommodations to better support you completing your job with success. This can look like being moved to a location which is quieter to help you hear, or access to talk to text transcriptions during work meetings. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to accommodations, so take time to discover what methods may make it easier for you to hear in your place of employment.

Managing Hearing Loss in the Workplace

Living and working with hearing loss isn’t easy but with focus you can get to a place where you get the hang of living and working with hearing loss. Those who treat their hearing loss find that they may have a better chance of equal earnings compared to people with normal hearing and enjoy a decreased risk of unemployment. Here are some tips to make working with hearing loss easier for you and your coworkers:

  • ACKNOWLEDGE—acknowledging your hearing can give you the tools to ask for accommodations and help around your disability
  • EDUCATE—learn what resources are available to you as a hearing-impaired person to help you do your job better, even with your disability.
  • PREPARE—make sure your hearing aids are well maintained, charged and ready for a full workday of listening
  • ADVOCATE—don’t hesitate to ask for reasonable accommodations to help you do your job better. Advocacy not only benefits you, but those with a similar condition who inevitably will have less struggles in the future.
  • EXPLAIN- Let your coworker know the best way to communicate with you. This could be as simple as speaking up, maintaining eye contact, or taking breaks at the end of sentences when speaking. Don’t hesitate to remind them again and again.

Thrive in the Workforce

The good news is that by admitting you have a hearing loss and seeking treatment, you have equal opportunities to achieve success for you and your family in the workplace. The first step is as simple as contacting us today to set up a hearing exam. We will help guide you to success, so contact us today!