Whether you have been living with hearing loss your whole life, or have recently been diagnosed, there is much to learn about technology, communication and coping strategies, and obtaining quality care.
You are not alone! There is support and information available to help you if you need it. Our Center is a great resource and we encourage you to contact us with questions or concerns about living with hearing loss. We have provided information about significant areas of life that we see impacting our clients.
Hearing loss can impact a variety of aspects in the workplace. It’s important that you educate yourself, know your rights, are aware of resources in the community, and learn to advocate for yourself.
Some issues people with hearing loss may encounter in the workplace:
- Discrimination (overt and covert)
- Being left out of important meetings or missing information
- Unequal opportunities for employment status or wages
- Barriers to communication with coworkers, supervisors or customers
Know Your Rights
It is crucial that you understand your rights as a person with a disability. According to ADA standards, all individuals with disabilities must have access to all aspects of employment, and in many cases the employer is responsible for providing accommodations to ensure accessibility. Call the ADA hotline at 1-800-514-0301 (v) or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD) if you have questions or concerns.
Self advocacy is an important skill to develop in the workplace. It is critical to learn how to request accommodations, disclose your hearing loss to coworkers and supervisors, and educate them on best communication strategies. Here is a brief list of some tools that minimize barriers in the workplace. Tools vary depending on the individual and worksite, so it is necessary that you discover what is appropriate for you and your setting.
- Request staff meeting minutes either before or after meetings
- Be aware of acoustics in work environment
- Is your office next to open windows or crowded hallways?
- Do you work in an open floor with other cubicles?
- During 1:1 or any group discussions make sure you: restate comments/questions, check for comprehension, be aware of the topic
- Become knowledgeable and comfortable with the different assistive listening devices that are available
- Become knowledgeable on the Emergency Plan for people with disabilities
Know your rights as a person with disabilities: Visit the Americans with Disabilities Act site for further details.
Join our Hard of Hearing Support Groups and learn more about how others have successfully advocated for their needs and share your stories.
California Department of Rehabilitation – A state government agency that provides assistance to individuals with disabilities to get back to work, or maintain employment.
Support Groups –Finding a support group where you can learn from other working professionals with hearing loss. The Hearing and Speech Center offers a monthly support group for adults with hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Association– Employment toolkit and other information.
Americans with Disabilities Act – learn about your rights at the ADA website
Tips for Better Hearing
There are many factors besides just your ears that contribute to how you hear and listen. The environment, the person you are talking with, and your emotional or energetic state can all impact how much you comprehend.
Here are some tips for better hearing:
- Reduce background noise. The acoustics in a room can impact your ability to follow a conversation. When possible, choose places that are quiet, have carpeting and are not facing noisy streets or construction sites. You can also position yourself with your back to the wall to minimize echo in the background.
- Make sure that you can see the face of the person you are talking with. People with hearing loss often rely on visual cues of facial expression and lip reading for optimal communication. Be aware of glare from bright windows or lights, and don’t be afraid to ask to move or shut blinds. The details of a person’s face become obscured when bright sunny window is directly behind them.
- Get rest and take breaks. Hearing loss can be stressful and can require extra work on the part of the person with hearing loss to strain and follow along. Get to know yourself and pay attention to when you have most energy. Remember to give yourself breaks from an exhausting situation or environment where you are having difficulty following along.
- Know and understand how Assistive Technology can help you.
- Talk about your hearing loss. The people in your life want to communicate with you, but they may not understand your needs unless you tell them. This can be frustrating, because you might have to explain it to them many times because they might forget since they are not used to it, but don’t give up! Communication is the key for relationships.
- Find a support group with others with hearing loss. Sitting in a supportive context with other people who relate to your experience is empowering and healing. You can learn strategies and coping tools, and also feel better knowing that you’re not alone. Finding a counselor or therapist, especially one familiar with hearing loss, who you can talk with can also help.