Hearing Loss in the Workplace

In hearing health, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

While approximately 48 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss 60 percent are either in the workplace or an educational setting. While work and school can be challenging, the workday will present an extra set of hurtles for hearing impaired employees.

The hurdles of the hearing impaired in the workplace

Conversations with colleagues, and the concentration needed for communication during the day demand extra energy, potentially affecting both your mood and work efficiency. This may not only affect the employee’s mood but also their value to their employers and their earning potential. It may seem intuitive to keep your hearing loss a secret to your employer as one may find it embarrassing to disclose their hearing loss to co-workers or employers.

Often people will live in denial that they have a hearing loss at all. Over time, an untreated and undisclosed hearing loss creates more problems for everyone in the work place. Besides making communication difficult, untreated hearing loss can actually cost you money. According to a study by the Better Hearing Institute, those with unaided hearing loss earned on average $20,000 less annually than those who wore hearing aids. Being open and acting to treat a hearing loss can often fix the major problems connected to being hearing impaired.

Legal Protections for Employees with Disabilities

Most importantly with disclosure of your hearing loss at work is that you are protected by the ADA and once you are open about your hearing loss you can begin to be accommodated for your disability. Reasonable accommodations are defined as any modification, adjustment, or change to a work environment that will enable an employee to perform the job or to access the benefits available to similarly situated employees who do not have a disability. With hearing aids, many employees with hearing loss will benefit from an assistive technology to perform their jobs. Examples include, employees responsible for answering telephones may require a handset amplification system, a captioned phone or a videophone for video relay calls. Employees who work in an environment that relies on audible communication systems, such as intercom or paging systems, may need a visually alerting substitute. Installing FM loop systems, which operate like miniature radio stations broadcasting sound directly to compatible hearing aids, can assist employees with hearing aids in receiving high quality notifications.

Support your Coworkers with Hearing Loss

Even if you aren’t the boss of your company yet, you can still help create a positive workplace environment for your hearing impaired coworkers. If your coworker uses lip-reading to better understand conversation make sure you face them when you speak so they can see your face and find your light. The person lip reading needs your face to be well lit so they can comprehend what you are saying. Speak clearly, not loudly, and don’t jumble or slur your words. As much as possible, be mindful of extraneous workplace noise, especially that which might occur right by their desk or office. Making an effort to avoid extraneous conversations and keeping the volume down at work will go a long way in creating a comfortable working environment for everyone.

Level the Playing Field

If you suspect you have a hearing loss the first thing to do is visit a hearing health care professional and have your hearing evaluated. The tests are quick and painless and can evaluate what kind of hearing loss you have and the best way to treat it. According to a Better Hearing Institute study using hearing aids can reduce the risk of income loss by 90-100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65-77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss. People with untreated hearing loss lost as much as $30,000 in income annually, the study showed. If you have hearing loss that can be treated with hearing aids, buy the ones that fit your lifestyle and budget. While hearing aids are an investment, their effects on all areas of your life are priceless.

Deal with your Hearing Loss Today!

If you have normal hearing, treat those in the workplace who have hearing loss with respect and give them the tools they need to be successful. If you have problems with your own hearing, know your rights and contact us at HearCare RI. You can trust us to can help you realize your true potential at work with the hearing aids that work best for you.