Hearing loss is difficult enough for most people to navigate on a daily basis. When they have jobs to go to, the challenges are even harder. If you work with somebody experiencing a hearing impairment in the Bay Area, there are steps you can take to make their daily work easier.
Hearing Loss in the Workplace
There’s a common misperception that hearing loss is confined to older individuals – those long past retirement age. In reality, people of all ages experience impaired hearing. An estimated 60 percent of all individuals with hearing loss are part of the American workforce. These folks deal not only with the usual stress associated with all jobs (tight deadlines, unhappy customers and bosses, “PC Load Letter” printer errors), they must contend with added difficulties like noise distractions and communication problems.
This is where you come in. Whether you’re in management, part of the same department or simply stop for an occasional chat around the water cooler from time to time, you can do a lot to help out your hearing-impaired colleague. Perhaps the most important thing you can do for them is to make them feel included. Hearing loss is an invisible disability; even those who wear hearing aids often choose styles that are worn in the ear canal, making them nearly impossible for others to notice. Many government and community organizations offer deaf awareness training courses to help those who work with hearing-impaired colleagues develop a better understanding of the nature of hearing loss. Having a staff trained in the basics will make your coworker feel important and valued. It’s a great way to show you care about their needs and are committed to helping them be successful on the job.
You can make life easier for your hearing-impaired colleague by providing them with tools that will help them perform their jobs more easily. This might include offering hearing services such as vocational rehabilitation, giving them a quiet space free of distractions in which to work and implementing a health benefits package that offers coverage to help offset the cost of hearing aids.
Another thing you can do? Talk to them. Find out if there are certain accommodations you can offer to improve their productivity. Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) or captioned telephones, assistive listening devices, written transcripts of meetings and company announcements and emergency notification systems that include flashing lights in addition to audible alarms are a few ways you can help.
When you do have a conversation with them, ensure they can follow along easily by finding a well-lighted spot. Maintain eye contact when speaking, avoid covering your mouth with a hand or other object, don’t eat or drink and offer to repeat or rephrase yourself if there were key points they missed. Employing these simple strategies will go a long way toward making you a better colleague and improving your hearing-impaired coworker’s daily working life. Your San Rafael audiologist can provide you with more tips for accommodating those with hearing loss.