One of the most difficult things about hearing loss is trying to explain it to other people. Telling somebody that you are having trouble hearing them may put them off trying to include you in a conversation, while explaining specifically that you are hard of hearing in just one ear, say, may seem to take too long. Telling your family and friends is one thing; telling your boss is another.
Not admitting to hearing loss at work can cause stress, reduce productivity and damage relationships with coworkers. Despite this, many people with hearing loss – 20 percent in the US, according to the National Institute of Health – fail to make use of a hearing aid. Furthermore, a study of hearing health carried out by the Health & Social Care Information Centre in the UK recently found that many people often don’t realise they need hearing aids, even when they suspect they have some hearing loss.
Although it can seem like a daunting task, telling your boss about your hearing loss may improve your experience at work considerably. Employers have a legal obligation to provide assistance and, once they know about your condition, may be able to alter the environment to suit your needs, for example, by supplying a specially-designed phone. Once you have told colleagues about your hearing loss, they will be more mindful of how they speak to you and around you, allowing you to work more efficiently and undisturbed by background noise.
People fear that their hearing loss will be perceived as weakness in the workplace; something that will inhibit their ability to produce the standard of work needed at the pace required. Rather than hiding it, being open and honest about it to your boss will allow you to be more efficient while showing that you want to do everything you can to work at a high standard. And as long as you fulfill the tasks required of your role, you can’t be fired or demoted for your hearing loss.
The importance of telling your boss of course depends on the environment in which you work. A librarian’s hearing loss may affect them less at work than a receptionist’s or newspaper editor’s would, for example. If hearing loss doesn’t directly impact your working day, it may be that you don’t feel the need to tell your boss about it at all. Whatever your experience of hearing loss, managing it at work is something that many people with the condition have to think about.