Hearing loss is a concern in the workplace. Estimates suggest that 60% of workers in the U.S. have some degree of hearing loss, and there is a tremendous need for education and services to address this growing problem. If you have a hearing loss, the first step you can take is to inform your employer about your hearing loss.
When to Discuss Your Hearing Loss
All employers in the U.S. must provide accommodations for workers with hearing loss per the law. Even so, hearing loss remains a barrier for applicants and workers who have difficulty with communication. A recent survey is considering when is the best time for an employee to discuss their hearing loss with their employer. The responses vary:
- 11% say during the job application process
- 33% think disclosure during the job interview is best
- 14% of the respondents feel like it is appropriate upon receipt of the job offer
- Only 3% believe the first day of the job is appropriate
- In the first few months of the job say 12%
- 5% think you should never reveal the hearing loss
22% of the people responding indicate that hearing loss disclosure is appropriate if it interferes with their job duties.
Disclosing Your Hearing Loss
Managing a hearing loss at work is challenging. Research shows that it is best to inform others of your hearing loss. When the subject of hearing loss arises, those with hearing loss tend to respond in different ways. Some people are forthright about their hearing loss and have no problem discussing it in detail. Some employees prefer not to talk about their hearing loss and continuously ask others to repeat themselves or speak up. Finally, some workers are willing to disclose their hearing loss and propose a communication strategy before beginning a conversation.
There are multiple ways for employees with hearing loss to handle it at work. Most researchers suggest a multi-disclosure approach that involves letting others know of your hearing loss. The co-workers will respond by speaking clearly and slowly, and it lets others know that your hearing loss does not define you.
When you disclose your hearing loss, there are accommodations you can request to make your work environment more accommodating.
- Work area. When discussing hearing loss with your employer, make it clear that you wish to be as productive as possible.
- Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are an option. Determine which system works best for you, check the price, and have your employer purchase one.
- Telephones. You are permitted to have a hearing aid compatible (HAC) telephone at your place of work. You are also entitled to a captioned telephone service.
- Emergency notification systems. Lights on fire alarms, vibrating pagers, and other emergency assistive devices should be put into place when you accept your new job.
If you are having challenges with your hearing, take the necessary steps to have the proper accommodations put into place. Everyone should get a hearing evaluation from a hearing healthcare professional regularly to diagnose a possible hearing loss and receive treatment.