Dealing with a hearing loss while working can put you at a serious disadvantage in the workplace. This could explain why according to recent figures, those with severe hearing loss were twice as likely to be unemployed than their hearing peers. But with foresight, preparation and good old honesty, you can begin to thrive at work again. Here are the things you should do to improve your chances of shining while on the job.
Let others know about your hearing loss
This is the most important thing you can do today to help you overcome obstacles at work. Most people are unable or unwilling to help you because they aren’t aware that you have a problem. But when you make your hearing loss explicit, you co-workers will likely be eager to make adjustments to help you communicate better. After all, you are on the same team so it makes sense that everyone can understand each other in order for the team to be successful.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to send out a company-wide email. It’s better quietly disclosed to individual co-workers when the time seems right. This enables you to quickly answer any questions or concerns your co-worker might have.
Let others know how to help you
Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear recently studied the way people told others about their hearing loss and found that the most helpful method was to use what they call a ‘multipurpose disclosure’ method. Those with hearing loss must not only disclose their hearing loss, they should also recommend the best way to facilitate communication.
You are the best judge of what works for you. Take action and tell others what you need, when you need it. Co-workers might be sensitive to your needs, but if they are unsure of how to help you, then their knowledge of your condition won’t be useful for anyone.
As an example of how co-workers can help you, you might tell your speaking partner to face you and the window so their face is better lit and you can see their lips. This improve your capacity to lip read.
Let others know when you don’t understand them
A common practice among those with hearing loss is what is called ‘social bluffing’. This is pretending that you have head someone and responding with a stock phrase which is bland enough to use in most situations, such as ‘uh huh’ or ‘yeah’.
In a social setting this quickly becomes awkward but at least the damage is limited. In a work setting however, verbal misunderstandings can be serious, especially where there are big-money clients or contracts involved.
Instead of pretending to understand your co-worker, find a break in the conversation and politely ask them to summarize the important parts. Don’t be afraid to move the conversation to a quieter place if you are in a noisy place.
Leverage text-communication technologies
Luckily, we live in a work world filled with non-vocal communication tools, from email to organizational task boards to instant messaging apps.
If there is an important conversation that someone is having with you, ask them to send you an email or message about it so you can more easily digest the main points. There’s nothing wrong with asking for this, and the speaker will likely be even more accommodating if they are aware of your hearing loss.
Ask your employer for help
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifies that your employer is bound by law to introduce ‘reasonable changes’ to help you succeed at work. The word ‘reasonable’ means that these changes aren’t codified, so talk to your employer if you feel there is a piece of technology or administrative change which will help you work better. You never know, they may agree to it.
Maybe there is a quieter area of the office that you could work in. Maybe you could get the agenda of each meeting before it begins in order for you contribute more easily. It never hurts to ask.
Use a hearing aid
Hearing aids are a great way to give you the extra boost you need to succeed at work. They are often discreet and very well designed, and can resemble wearable technology in terms of features. They help you understand speech better in noise, and reduce the mental exhaustion you might experience after a long day at work with hearing loss.
Contact us today at Ear-Tronics if you have trouble hearing, whether at work or play. By helping you hear better, we’re excited to help you achieve success in all areas of your life.