Communication at Work – May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!

In Communication by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.
Latest posts by Laurie Duffy, M.S. (see all)

Communication is a foundational aspect of how we live. Effective communication is critical for healthy relationships, social engagement, and success in the workplace. One major way communication can be strained is by hearing loss which is the third most common health condition older adults experience.

Over 30 million people have some degree of hearing loss in the United States which is at least 14% of the population. This prevalent health condition reduces a person’s ability to hear and process information, having a significant impact on the daily tasks a person is able to perform. This can be particularly challenging in the workplace where there are multiple responsibilities you may be managing simultaneously.

However, by being informed about hearing loss and effective communication strategies, you can adjust to and navigate your workplace with greater ease!

Tips for Effective Communication 

There are various tips you can use to prevent communication breakdowns and to best support you in the workplace including the following:

1. Treat Hearing Loss 

The first and most important step to enhancing communication is addressing your hearing loss. This involves having your hearing examined which involves a relatively quick and painless process. A hearing exam determines any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss. Hearing loss is most commonly treated by the use of hearing aids. These small devices are designed to help absorb sound from the environment, amplify, and process this sound. Hearing aids can be highly customized to meet one’s specific hearing needs in all settings, increasing one’s ability to hear.

The process of having your hearing assessed and using hearing aids allows you to learn more about your specific impairment. This is incredibly important and useful – knowing what is more challenging for your hearing, what your needs are, and how best to meet those needs can help you navigate your daily responsibilities with greater ease. It also allows you to share this information with the people in your life which creates a robust support system as you learn how to communicate effectively with hearing loss.

2. Share Hearing Loss 

Notifying the people you work with of your hearing loss can help ease communication. Being direct and sharing that you navigate hearing loss allows others to support you during conversations. Identify and discuss the best ways to engage in conversation, there are numerous communication strategies that are useful including: making eye contact, facing you, saying your name to grab your attention before starting a conversation, rephrasing if you have difficulty understanding a sequence of words etc. This alleviates the pressure you may feel when trying to hear and shares the responsibility of communication with everyone involved in the conversation.

3. Learn About Workplace Accommodations 

It is really important to be aware of the accommodations your employer can provide. Sharing your hearing loss with your supervisor or human resources and asking about workplace accommodations can help create the best possible workplace environment for your hearing needs. There are various accommodations that an employer can provide including the following:

  • Adjustments to work area: to reduce noise impact, you can be relocated to an area with less noise, or place a physical barrier between you and sources of noise.
  • Hearing Aid Compatibility: if you use work phones or other electronic devices related to work, they can be linked to your hearing aids through Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Assistive Listening Devices: which are small, hand held amplifiers that help increase volume. There are several different types, it is best to conduct research and see which would work best for you.
5. Plan for Hearing Needs 

Anticipating and planning for your hearing needs in the different settings you move through at work can be helpful. Asking for meeting agendas and notes, writing summaries from meetings and trainings, and sharing that with your supervisor to ensure you have not missed anything, keeping extra batteries for hearing aids at work etc.

6. Protect Hearing Health 

If you are exposed to ongoing loud noises at work, it is important to protect your hearing. There are various ways to do this including wearing earmuffs, earplugs, headphones etc. which restricts the amount of noise you are absorbing. You can also ask to be moved to a quieter area which will be determined by the types of accommodations your employer is able to provide.