No one is ever excited to start noticing age-related hearing loss, but for those who are still in the workforce it may pose some special challenges. However, by keeping a few things in mind and pursuing treatment as soon as possible, hearing loss does not have to spell the end of your career!
Understand the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that employers with more than 15 employees must provide “reasonable accommodations” for employees with hearing loss. The extent of accommodations must be worked out between you and your employer, but your employer has every incentive to help you get what you need to do your job effectively.
Some accommodations may be a no-brainer, like providing you with a quieter office space, or a desk away from the copy machine. You might ask to sit closer to the speaker in a meeting, or to get notes in advance. There are plenty of easy changes that can help you do your job more effectively that come at no or very little cost to your employer.
Open captioners, automatic captioning technology, or loop/FM systems that broadcast audio directly to your hearing aids are also a major help when it comes to hearing what’s important in meetings and other settings.
Declare Your Hearing Loss
While many people may have the impulse to hide hearing loss from coworkers and their employer, it is much better to declare hearing loss as soon as possible. Once everyone knows that you are adjusting to living with hearing loss, they can help accommodate your needs to ensure that you can all do your jobs effectively.
It has been shown that the most effective strategy for declaring hearing loss is to ask for an accommodation while declaring. An example might be replying to something a coworker has said with, “I have some hearing loss… Could you face me when you speak, and talk just a bit louder?” Most people, most of the time, will be happy to work with you to find the communication strategies that work best!
Prepare in Advance
Just about everybody gets more out of a meeting when they come prepared, but this goes double for those with hearing loss. You can request a written agenda, or the script for a presentation that will be given. This will make it much easier to follow along and keep up with the conversation! You can also request the minutes after the meeting is over, which will allow you to pick up on anything you might have missed.
Lean Into Technology
Meetings in larger groups might be tricky, but it may also be that your company already has a sound system installed that could allow you to get an FM feed directly from the PA system. This reduces the distance sound has to travel to reach your ears, and can make audio much more intelligible through your hearing aids.
Get It in Writing
Computer Assisted Real Time Transcription (CART) can be an invaluable tool that translates spoken words into writing, in real time. This can be projected onto a screen, or simply onto your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Video-captioned phones can help by writing out what the person on the other end of the call is saying, while also letting you see their face.
It may also be that some conversations that might happen in person or over the phone can be moved to email or chat. If there is an opportunity to avoid a misunderstanding by writing something down, take it!
Don’t Pretend to Hear
This is a trap that those with hearing loss—and plenty of people with normal hearing, too—can fall into all too often. Pretending to hear makes it seem like a conversation is moving more smoothly, when in fact the conversation isn’t really happening at all! You never know when you’ll miss an important bit of information, so if you can’t hear what someone is saying, always make sure to change the situation so that you can.
Educate Your Coworkers
The people you work with really do want to know how best to communicate with you! If there are things they can do to help you understand, they’ll want to know. Let people know to get your attention before speaking, or to make sure you can see their face while they talk. If internet chatting or email is better, let them know!
Treat Your Hearing Loss
Most importantly, make sure you get the hearing loss treatment you need. Hearing aids make a world of difference when it comes to understanding speech, and they open up the world of ALDs (assistive listening devices) that will make speech even more intelligible in meetings and beyond. If you’re having trouble hearing, a set of hearing aids is the best thing you can do for yourself to ensure that your life is not upended by hearing loss!
If you or a loved one is in need of hearing loss treatment, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your life!