Hearing loss in the workplace can bring challenges – for you and your colleagues. Missing out on information and informal conversations can leave you feeling isolated and lose confidence. By informing others about your hearing loss, you ensure you get the support you need to do your job and more.
Maybe you rely on meeting minutes to fully understand what was communicated. Maybe you don’t laugh along at jokes cracked over lunch or catch a compliment at the coffee machine. Fortunately, good hearing aids can solve most of the problems caused by hearing loss at work. However, these tips might be just the inspiration you need to make life easier in certain circumstances.
Inform yourself, then inform your employer
It’s a process to accept your hearing loss, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s tough to realize the list of things you cannot hear or do due to your hearing loss. However, once you accept your hearing loss, it becomes easier to feel in control and ask for help.
Take the initiative to find out as much as possible about hearing loss and treatment of hearing loss. You will be surprised to learn you are not alone. Armed with information about your rights and your needs makes it easier for your employer and colleagues to support you.
- Ask your hearing care provider for advice, communication materials and guidelines
- Join a network with others who have hearing loss – online, in your workplace and beyond
Research government schemes, laws and other sources of support such as awareness training for your colleagues. By involving experts, it takes the pressure off you.
To tell or not to tell
Assess whether your hearing loss will have an impact on your work. Then tell relevant people and as many people as you are comfortable with. Support from your immediate colleagues could make all the difference, so don’t be afraid to make it clear what you need. Your colleagues may not know how to help people with hearing loss. Work with a positive mindset to create the conditions you need to thrive.
Speak out and speak often
No one size fits all. Everyone has individual needs. By sharing the challenges you have during conversations, you also share the responsibility of ensuring your ability to follow social interactions. Afterall, it is in everyone’s interest that you can follow what’s going on.
Be aware of workplace dangers and extra considerations you might need. Can you hear alarms? Are there any activities you should avoid, if you cannot hear shouted warnings? If you travel overnight with work, and you know you may struggle with hearing fire alarms, inform hotel staff they need to alert you in case of a fire.
Adapt the way you work to your needs
This might include a variety of considerations, depending on your individual needs. Be realistic about your limitations and embrace alternatives. Modern technology can open a new world in more ways than one.
- Use email and text messaging instead of the phone
- Arrange face-to-face meetings as much as possible
- Insist on use of video during virtual meetings
- Find a quiet room or phone booth to make calls
- Keep phone calls short and sweet and confirm key points at the end
Make meetings work for you
Meetings can be a challenge, especially the larger ones. With preparation, you can make them work for you.
- Ask for a script you can read before bigger presentations, if possible
- Ask for a clear agenda and encourage everyone to stick to it
- Request meeting minutes with clear action points
- Arrange meetings around a table so you can see everyone’s face
- Inform your colleagues of your needs e.g. ‘Please speak one at a time’
Job applications and getting interview ready
It’s up to you if you share your hearing loss with a prospective employer. It’s a very personal decision. You do not need to mention your hearing loss in your CV or cover letter. However, be open about any communication support you might need for an interview. For example, if they schedule a phone interview, it’s fine to request a face-to-face one instead.
If you do decide to share your hearing loss, practice positive ways to share solutions and the support you might need. For example, ‘phone calls can be harder, so I prefer video chats.’ And bring useful information about communication, tools and equipment needs.
Don’t apologize, be positive and don’t worry. You are not the only person with hearing loss in the workplace. Take your first step today to get the support you need.