People with hearing loss in Salem who must punch the timeclock face difficulties that can hamper their productivity and make the 9-to-5 grind even more demanding than it is for those of us whose biggest concern is whether heating up last night’s leftovers in the break room microwave might make the office smell like fish.

Workplace Hearing Loss Challenges

women at work

Many people have a mistaken perception that only older people experience hearing loss. The truth is, about 60 percent of individuals with a hearing impairment are gainfully employed in the American workforce. People of all ages, young and old, develop hearing loss. Sometimes it occurs on the job; even if it happened elsewhere, these individuals must learn to overcome the challenges their hearing impairment creates in the workplace. These include:

  • Lost productivity
  • Lower wages
  • Communication difficulties with coworkers
  • Missing out on company information or work instructions
  • Inadvertent discrimination

Contributing to the problem is the fact that hearing loss is often an invisible disability. There aren’t any outright discernible physical symptoms and today’s hearing aids are so discreet they often go unnoticed. As a result, many people don’t realize they have a hearing-impaired colleague, or they underestimate the effects of that person’s disability.

How Can You Help?

You can help your hearing-impaired colleague by advocating for that person. You don’t have to hold a position of authority to do so; whether  you’re that person’s manager, belong on the same team or simply pass by them in the hall on occasion, there are things you can to do help out.

Hearing-impaired workers want to feel like valued members of the organization, so make sure they feel included. Be cognizant of the many challenges they face on a daily basis. Simple steps include emailing or printing out meeting agendas and providing transcripts afterwards; having speakers use a microphone; and making captioned telephones and assistive listening devices available to those in need. Acknowledge that noise can be very distracting to those with hearing loss and look for a quiet working spot for that person, either a private office or, at the very least, a corner cubicle away from high-traffic areas.

Another thing you can do is look into holding a company-wide deaf awareness training course or similar program that will help those who work with hearing-impaired colleagues come to a better understanding of the nature of hearing loss and learn about steps they can take to help those individuals succeed on the job.

If you work in Human Resources are have the authority to make decisions regarding company benefits, consider adopting a health care plan that includes reimbursement for hearing-related expenses and offers additional services such as vocational rehabilitation. You can also practice leniency should your employee with hearing loss need to take time off for medical appointments and other unforeseen events.

On a personal level, when having a conversation with your colleague, make it as easy as possible for them to follow along. Maintain eye contact when speaking, do not cover your mouth, avoid eating or drinking and be willing to summarize/repeat/rephrase as needed. Always ask them if they have any questions after your conversation to ensure they understood everything.

Being a better colleague to your hearing-impaired coworker doesn’t take much effort and will go a long way toward making them feel included. For more tips on communicating with the hearing-impaired, contact your Salem audiologist.