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This month, the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) is raising awareness of communication disorders by celebrating Better Speech and Hearing Month. They are educating the public about the various communication impairments affecting hearing, speech, language, and voice, as well as providing information about the experts who can help.
This year’s theme is ‘Communication at Work,’ and in the spirit of this, let’s look at how hearing loss can impact you while you work.
The consequences of untreated hearing loss at work
Under the best conditions, it can be challenging to get a job, get along with your colleagues, and excel in your career. Doing it with a hearing loss makes things harder. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your bosses, customers, or coworkers, no matter what role you are in.
If you have hearing loss, the brain needs to work harder to distinguish speech from background noise. Group meetings, seminars, and other day-to-day activities can become more stressful and tiring, affecting how well you do your work.
By looking at the numbers, you can see the consequences of hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss can reduce your annual earnings by as much as $30,000. It is estimated that the yearly cost to society in unrealized federal taxes is as high as $26 billion; and an estimated aggregate annual income loss of $176 billion from underemployment.
What everyone can do to help improve communication
It takes effort on the part of three groups to mitigate the effects of hearing loss on the workplace: coworkers, employers, and you. Here’s what every group has to do to maximize their success.
1. What your coworkers can do
There are a lot of things coworkers can do to make communication easier.
Ask them what they need: Hearing loss is personal, and the coworker may be able to do something that will create the best chance of successful communication. To find out what that is, they need to ask.
Speak clearly: Speaking clearly and accurately is the best way to proceed. Many people seek to interact with hearing-impaired individuals by speaking louder, but it doesn’t always help.
Face the person with hearing loss: Using lip-reading to fill in gaps during a conversation is common for people with hearing loss, and seeing the face of those they are talking to facilitates understanding.
Be considerate: Coworkers having conversations in close quarters should be mindful of the noise. Moving more extended or more detailed discussions into a separate space may be beneficial in reducing background noise.
2. What your employers can do
Employers are expected to provide appropriate workplace accommodations if an employer suffers from hearing loss. Reasonable accommodation means that the playing field for productivity and communication in the workplace is leveled.
These accommodations might include:
- Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) / Assistive Listening Systems (ALS)
- Adjustments to the area of work.
- Written memos and conversation summaries and correspondence
- Providing meeting agendas beforehand and session summaries or notes after the meeting.
- Hearing Aid Compliant (HAC) telephones
The above list is by no means comprehensive, and many other accommodations can be made.
3. What you can do
Reveal your hearing loss: Although dealing with hearing loss is severe, you must educate people about your condition. Although people can deal with their hearing loss in various ways, if you have hearing loss, the preferred solution is to let the other person know, better known as the multi-disclosure strategy. By letting people know you’ve got hearing loss, they’ll know exactly what to do to improve communication. This method is empowering, but it also shows that your disability does not define who you are
Use a hearing aid: There are many technological advances in the features of hearing aids that support people in many different kinds of work. Digital processing platforms ensure that sounds are picked up, analyzed, and balanced at incredibly fast speeds.
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing and think you might benefit from a hearing aid, talk to us! We have styles to suit all needs and can fit them with expert precision. Contact us today to set up a hearing test.