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Working with hearing loss

Last update on May, 11, 2020

The purpose of Better Hearing & Speech Month is to raise public awareness about communication disorders and treatment options. The theme of 2020’s celebration is Communication at Work, and we’re quite excited about it. Hearing health is tied to a number of parts of our lives. There’s a definite connection between heart health and hearing health. Individuals may experience a higher risk for cognitive decline due to hearing loss. Hearing loss can affect one’s quality of life in a myriad of ways. Less often discussed than other areas of impact, however, is the fact that hearing loss can have a profound effect on your professional life. That’s why we’re pleased to share some of the tips we’ve found most successful for working with hearing loss.

Tips for working successfully with hearing loss

These tips for communicating to the best of your ability will be key in making sure you are in top form in the workplace. 

The first step to successfully navigating working with hearing loss is to be proactive about your hearing health. If you suspect that you may be dealing with hearing loss, you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible with a hearing specialist. Miracle-Ear provides free hearing tests to diagnose any hearing loss issues you may face. After your assessment, our professional staff can help guide you to the treatment options that are best for you. Seeking out proper medical intervention for hearing loss will help mitigate as many communication issues as is possible, both at home and at work.

It can be challenging at times to accept hearing loss and some of the lifestyle changes that accompany it. However, it is important to remember that hearing loss is a medical condition, not something that should be a source of embarrassment. One of the best way to compensate for any communication issues that arise is to discuss them openly and honestly with your coworkers and your employer. There’s no need to make a company-wide announcement that you just got your first set of hearing aids, but it is important to loop in people who need to know. It is perfectly reasonable to set expectations, request any needed assistance and to be proactive about managing your hearing loss at work. 

Over time navigating hearing loss, you will start to notice situations that are easier or more difficult for you. A lot of that will likely be due to the physical environment in which you are working. For example, if you have hearing loss in one ear, you may notice that sitting in a certain spot during meetings is more advantageous than others for you. In addition to being conscious of your surroundings, there are a number of technologies that can be helpful, such as Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids. Such devices allow you to stream sound from your smartphone directly to your hearing aid and make working on the phone with hearing loss much easier. Find what works for you, and use it to your advantage. 

It is very likely that a number of people in your work environment have never needed to concern themselves with hearing loss. As such, they may simply not know what is helpful and what is not when they talk to you. Most people will appreciate having the tools to do their part at ensuring quality communication. Here are some suggestions for helping others learn how to best communicate with you, both at work and in general.

  • Don’t initiate conversations from the next room. There is a strong likelihood that the person with hearing loss you are trying to greet won’t register your words at all.
  • Make and hold eye contact when talking. A number of people with hearing loss develop coping strategies that rely on visual cues. Whenever possible, make sure to look directly at the person with whom you wish to engage.
  • Speak clearly and distinctly, but without exaggerating mouth movements or excessive volume. Raised speech volume can distort how someone with hearing loss perceives it. Additionally, drawing attention unnecessarily can make someone with hearing loss uncomfortable.
  • If you need to have an important conversation, do so in a quiet location with minimal background noise. This will help the person with hearing loss focus on what’s most important―your message and working together.
  • Whenever possible, deliver important information such as timing expectations, instructions or agendas in a written format. This eliminates any possible verbal miscommunication that could come up. Plus, you’ll have a record of expectations for everyone involved in a project.

These are just a few conversation starters, and some of them may not apply to your situation. Every individual with hearing loss experiences the world in a way that is unique to them. Over time you will find what works best for educating the important people in your life. 

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Tips for working from home with hearing loss

Remote working presents a number of unique challenges for those individuals who experience hearing loss. The lack of physical proximity to one’s coworkers can seriously affect adaptive strategies that you may have adopted, perhaps unknowingly. Here are some of the top recommendations we’ve found for remote workers with hearing loss. 

Even though it’s tempting to just join the audio for meetings, it can greatly aid those with hearing loss to have the ability to pick up visual context clues during a conversation. Several video conferencing platforms even include closed captioning options that can transcribe conversations in near-real time.

While individuals with fully functioning hearing can generally differentiate one voice from another when they overlap, this ability is largely affected by hearing loss. Make sure everyone in the meeting talks separately to increase efficiency.

While meeting follow-ups are generally considered a best practice, it becomes increasingly important when working remotely and for the hard of hearing. Summarize topics covered, key decisions and future action items to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

There’s always the possibility that working remotely means a new set of “coworkers” with whom you spend the day. Be sure to explain your hearing loss to any children in your home office who normally would be at school. Let them know what accommodations you need to work best. 

Working with hearing loss can very much be a challenge, but it’s one that is well worth conquering. Strategies differ from person to person and from one work environment to another. Take what works for you, and don’t worry about the rest. Most of these tips for working with hearing loss come down to a few key tenets. Know yourself and what works for you. Don’t let your challenges dictate your outcomes. Be an advocate for yourself and never be ashamed to discuss your needs openly. Work is what you make it, and you can make it work for you. 

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