Working with Hearing Loss

Working with Hearing Loss

In Work by Dr. Chris Lawson

Dr. Chris Lawson

Chris Lawson’s credentials include a Doctorate in Clinical Audiology (Au.D.) from the University of Maryland in College Park, and a B.S. in Communication Disorders from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. His graduate clinical training included rotations at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), public schools, and private practice settings.
Dr. Chris Lawson

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There’s no doubt about it – hearing loss can make life difficult, especially if you’re still an active member of the workforce. You might be tempted to skip meetings, avoid phone calls or prefer everything in email form to avoid situations where you might not hear important information being shared. Approximately 60% of working Americans are affected by hearing loss, so you’re definitely not alone.

The good news is that the Americans with Disabilities Act is committed to protecting your hearing rights by making sure employers provide the right accommodations for your workspace, whether it be front row seating during meetings or perhaps even a sign language interpreter; it’s possible you might even need special equipment. Read on for some tips on how to handle your decreased hearing ability.

Prepare Yourself

You might be required to attend meetings or conferences where you can’t always follow the conversation. If possible, ask for an agenda of the meeting ahead of time; if that’s not possible, request a written summation of the meeting afterwards so you can be prepared for questions or concerns that might need to be addressed.

Be Assertive

One of the most important aspects of asking for accommodations is making sure you are forthright with what you might need – something as simple as someone facing you when they speak or speaking slower than usual. This is a valuable tool to help you with communication; you might even be able to practice on a coworker or friend before going before your boss.

Technology is Your Friend

Workers’ rights in the United States include being able to use whatever assistive technology is at your disposable within the workplace. Captioning on videos, audio-to-text verbal transcription devices and face-to-face typing devices can easily assist those with limited hearing abilities.

Be Open & Honest

One of the worst things you can do in a hearing situation is pretend you can hear what’s going on when you can’t. This can lead to loss of information, the spread of misinformation and a loss of credibility within your workplace or even, in extreme circumstances, the loss of employment. Always be honest with your supervisors and co-workers that you will need assistance in hearing what they’re saying. It’s a worker’s right to ask for reasonable accommodation to help you do your job.

Hearing Protection

On the other hand, do you happen to work in an industry where there are constant loud noises that threaten your hearing? Taking the correct (and safe) precautions before you start to work will help protect your hearing and keep you from needing accommodations later on in your career.

  • Always wear ear protection around loud noises. This could include headphones or ear plugs, or even a combination of both depending on your job.
  • Lower your music and other background noises. If you’re able to wear earbuds while you work, make sure the volume is kept at a reasonable level to avoid hearing disruption.
  • Try to take a break from the loud noises every 15 minutes, if possible. Stepping away from the cause of the noise can give your ears much-needed relief.
  • Remember that 85 decibels is considered the highest rate you can safely listen to loud noises without issue; anything louder than that for prolonged periods of time is considered hazardous to your hearing health.
  • If you work around chemicals, you’re still not safe from hearing loss! Ototoxicity is caused when long-term exposure to chemicals damages the inner ear. It can cause irreversible damage when not prevented or immediately treated, which means protecting your hearing is of the utmost importance.

Remember, the Americans with Disabilities Act is in place to help you not only protect your rights as an employee but to make sure you have all the right (and necessary) tools in place to help you work with as little problems as possible. The Act not only protects you, but also allows your employer to utilize whatever they see fit to keep you employed. And that’s a good thing!

Never be shy about asking for what you need at work, and be upfront with every employer whether or not hearing loss is something new to you. They have a vested interest in keeping you employed, after all.

Evergreen Audiology

Getting your hearing tested is one of the most major steps you can take for success in the workplace. If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing and are struggling with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!