As with any health condition, addressing hearing loss in the workplace can feel awkward or unnecessary. However, thanks to the help of our Facebook community, we’ve found communicating the issue openly is hugely beneficial to both the person with the condition and anyone they work with throughout the day. Barb B. said her retail job even noted her hearing troubles on her name tag, which immediately helped alleviate awkwardness and impatience from customers. Typically, people are extremely accommodating once they’re aware of someone’s struggle, so it’s easiest on everyone if those who work with you on a daily basis understand the condition and what they can do to help make communicating more effective. We’d suggest:
Don’t hide your hearing aids
They’re not something to be ashamed of, so don’t feel the need to cover hearing aids with hair, hats, head scarves, etc. while at work. Just the sight of hearing devices will help others understand that they may need to speak up, turn volume down, or repeat something you may miss. If not for hearing aids, hearing loss is an invisible condition, so they often serve as a good reminder to those who may otherwise forget.
Make your team and supervisors aware
Depending on its severity, your hearing condition may require special accommodation from your workplace (subtitles on screens, front seats at lectures, printed handouts, etc.) and you’re better off asking for those things early rather than waiting until you’ve already missed something. Your colleagues will likely help set up those features or at least ensure they’re communicating clearly when speaking to you directly or in a group setting. In a world of distractions and short attention spans, it’s likely that everyone will benefit from these accommodations, so don’t feel like a burden asking for them!
Hearing loss is a complex and multi-faceted condition, so no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. We’d suggest avoiding blanket statements such as “I’m deaf” or “my hearing is bad” when communicating yours to your colleagues, as they may under or overestimate how much it really impacts your day-to-day. If you hear better on one side than another, tell them that. If your tinnitus is heightened by certain triggers, tell them that. If you’re sensitive to background noise, tell them that! Any details you can give will help them understand your experience and their role in it.