Prevalence of Hearing Loss in the Workplace
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 60% of workers in the US workforce experience some degree of hearing loss, and the number is growing. In fact, hearing loss has been a growing concern for the past 25 years in the workplace.
Whether or not your hearing loss results from unsafe conditions in the workplace, there is no denying that untreated hearing loss makes your job – or searching for a job – challenging. With untreated hearing loss, you may find it difficult to communicate with colleagues, while the strain placed on your cognitive abilities may interfere with your concentration and productivity.
Because hearing loss is a prevalent medical condition in the US, workers with hearing loss are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though hearing loss does bring challenges, there are a number of accommodations put in place to assist workers on the job.
Interviewing for a Job with Hearing Loss
The most important thing to keep in mind is that disclosure is up to you. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you are not required to disclose any information about medical procedures, use of hearing aids, or health conditions while applying for a job. At the same time, if you require accommodation during the course of the interview, you may ask for it.
If you do disclose your hearing loss, your potential employer may ask if you will be able to carry out essential functions on the job, such as responding in stressful environments and communicating effectively. In line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you may respond, “Yes, with reasonable accommodation.”
Learn more about accommodations from the EEOC here.
Accommodations in the Workplace for Hearing Loss
If you are currently employed, and you have recently been diagnosed with a hearing loss or you are concerned about bringing up accommodations for your long-standing hearing loss in the workplace, know that there are a number of measures set forth to protect you.
According to the EEOC, “The ADA strictly limits the circumstances under which an employer may ask questions about an employee’s medical condition or require the employee to have a medical examination. Once the employee is on the job, his actual performance is the best measure of ability to do the job.”
That being said, there are a number of accommodations may be request of your employer to best perform your job. In a handbook provided by the Hearing Loss Association of America, you may take steps to procure these accommodations yourself.
In your place of employment, you may request to be seated away from louder places, which may help you hear better. For example, try to sit away from a copy machine or a gathering place such as the coffee machine or water cooler.
For meetings, you may find the use of an assistive listening device (ALD) useful. There are many different models available; do some research to find what would be suit your needs. Certain hearing aid models actually connect wirelessly to a smartphone or tablet; this allows you to stream amplified sounds from a meeting from your smartphone directly to your hearing aids.
Read more in-depth information on hearing loss and employment from the Hearing Loss Association of America here.
Benefits of Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
In Hearing Loss Magazine, Mark Ross discusses the various challenges that people with hearing loss face when searching for a job.
According to Ross, “Most jobs in our society require some degree of interactive verbal communication. One must be able to communicate effectively with co-workers, the public, and most important, one’s supervisors. Any hindrance in that ability may interfere with the efficiency and accuracy of these communication exchanges and thus affect how well a job is performed. This, in turn may well influence the compensation that a person receives for the job he or she is doing. It can, for example, help determine how much people with a hearing loss are paid for a job or, indeed, whether they have a job at all.”
Though there are many measures in place to protect people with hearing loss, it is important to take the steps to ensure optimal hearing health. In addition to experiences in the workplace, hearing loss may affect various aspects of your life, from interpersonal relationships to related medical issues (such as an increased risk for dementia, depression, stress, and anxiety).
If you have been experiencing changes in your hearing, contact us at Preferred Hearing Centers. We provide comprehensive hearing tests and will support you on the journey to better hearing.