Working with Hearing Loss

Working with Hearing Loss

No matter what your industry or your position in the company, chances are that you need effective communication in order to properly do your job. Because of this fact, healthy hearing and proper understanding are critical skills for almost every single workplace.

While miscommunication is bound to happen to everyone from time to time on the job, it happens more often to those with a hearing loss. This is because it is much easier to mishear an instruction or conversation if one is hearing is impaired.

Luckily, there are several measures that can be taken by employees with hearing loss and their coworkers to ensure that hearing loss does not interfere with one’s quality of work or ability to do their job.

1. Know your needs and communicate them.

Many people with hearing loss have a few tips and tricks their friends and family employ to help them hear better. For some, that means speaking into a specific ear, and for others it means asking communication partners to face them when they speak. Sometimes, a simple shift in physical orientation can produce more effective communication. For example, holding meetings at a round table so you can see everyone when they speak or sitting near the speaker at a training session.

If you have a few of these interventions that you know work for you, do not hesitate to communicate this with your coworkers! Your coworkers genuinely want you to be able to hear and understand what they are saying. Be an advocate for yourself and do not be shy to speak up.

2. Know your rights and exercise them.

Did you know that hearing loss is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Because of this, your employer is legally required to provide you with (and cover the cost of) reasonable accommodations that will help you to successfully complete your job. Interventions that may be covered by your employer are personal listening devices or sound looping systems (Telecoil technology).

With many people now working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this may also include sound cancelling headphones that you can use during video conferencing sessions to help you receive the clearest possible signal of your coworkers’ speech.

If your employer is giving some pushback on providing these accommodations, schedule a meeting with them. Perhaps your employer does not fully understand how the accommodation can help you to successfully complete your job, or they may not be aware that hearing loss is covered under the ADA.

3. Take advantage of working from home.

2020 has seen a drastic increase in the number of people who work from home. For many workplaces, an increase in hours worked from home also means an increase in Zoom and video meetings. If you have a hearing loss, you can use this to your advantage!

When you are at home, you will have control over the volume of your workplace meetings. Feel free to adjust the speaker volume to what is most comfortable for you to better understand your coworkers.

Some people find that high-quality noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to block out background noises at home (like your pets running around or your spouse working in the next room) as well as amplify the sounds you do want to hear, like your coworkers’ input.

Another great benefit of working from home and Zoom meetings is that you can keep your meeting settings on conference view. This means that you will be able to physically see all of your coworkers’ faces just as if you were sitting at a round table. However, you may find it difficult to lipread on a smaller screen. To mitigate this, utilize closed captioning! Two ways to do so:

  • Use a Web-Based Speech Recognition Tool. Consider using Web Captioner and Otter, two web-based services that can be used in conjunction with Zoom.
  • Use an Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) App on Your Smartphone. Activate an ASR app such as Otter, Ava, or Live Transcribe (Android only) and position the mobile device next to the speakers of the device you are using for the Zoom call.

4. Take advantage of available technologies.

In recent years, hearing aid manufacturers have poured a great deal of research and investment into innovating technology that makes listening to and understanding speech easier and more natural. Almost all manufacturers have created their own patented technology for this specific purpose. New hearing aid wearers are often pleasantly surprised by how well their hearing aids help them in communicating with others, especially with groups of people and in noisy environments.

Most hearing aids are equipped with Bluetooth technology, meaning the conversation from your smartphone or even the video chat from your laptop can be streamed directly into your hearing aids. As you can imagine, this makes conferences and meetings much easier to hear and understand.

The Hearing Health Center of Houston

Our doctors of Audiology are here to support you on your journey to better hearing. We provide comprehensive hearing health services from initial hearing tests to hearing aid fittings to custom hearing protection and cochlear implants should your hearing loss be severe enough not to benefit from hearing aids.

If hearing difficulties have affected your work, contact us today to schedule a hearing consultation.