A guide to wearing hearing aids in the workplace
There are many stigmas that surround wearing hearing aids, one of which is that only elderly people need to wear assistive listening devices. While one in three people over the age of 65 experience hearing loss, according to Hearing Loss Association of America, 60 percent of all people with hearing loss are in the work force or educational settings. Unfortunately, this can mean that someone receives less compensation due to his or her lack of understanding and comprehension. There are plenty of ways you can continue to succeed in the workplace with your hearing loss. Follow these guidelines in the office to ensure your hearing loss doesn't get in the way:
Let everyone know
If no one is aware of your hearing loss, they might just think you aren't paying attention when you ask a speaker to repeat him or herself in a meeting. Be your own advocate in the office, and be clear about your situation. Can you only hear when there isn't background noise? Can you hear better in person versus on the phone? These are questions you may need to ask yourself so that you are working to your full potential in the office. Consider speaking with your employers and coworkers and try these solutions to ease trouble with communication:
- Take notes, and ask for them when necessary, with a pen and paper, tablet or laptop. If you are attending a meeting with a power point presentation, ask to receive the slideshow before going into the meeting so you can follow along.
- Use email and electronic chatting when possible so you do not miss any important information.
- Ask employees to contact you directly through email, instead of calling.
- Let others know that lip reading can be helpful as well as hand gestures and facial expressions.
Many jobs today require a certain level of group work, so you may need help communicating during meetings and conferences.
- Ask to meet in small groups at a round table so you are able to see and hear everyone clearly.
- Reserve a quiet room to meet so any noise distractions are limited and exposure to outside noise is minimal. Make sure that the room you are meeting in has good lighting so you can read lips, and ask to keep the door closed through the duration of the meeting.
- Have printed materials to follow along with during meetings, and don't be afraid to ask if you feel as though you missed something.
- Consider using a FM system, which includes a receiver so that voices can be amplified in your hearing aids.
People who are uninformed of hearing loss may try to help out, but sometimes their good intentions fall flat. Don't be afraid to let your employer and coworkers know the best practices to helping you understand clearly.
Some believe that speaking louder will make it easier for people with hearing aids to hear, but the devices themselves amplify sound. Someone speaking loudly will just sound distorted to the listener. Let them know that speaking in their regular tone is best.
In effort to make sure that you hear every word clearly, some may drag out words and speak sl-ow-ley. This isn't very efficient for time, and it can make it even more difficult to comprehend.
Use assistive listening devices
In an office setting, you may not want to put a burden on others to accommodate your situation. In this case, utilizing assistive listening devices is a good solution. You can use different settings and features on your hearing aids as well as additional devices.
- A t-coil in your hearing aid is common in newer devices, and it opens up the door to assistive devices that can make your life much easier. For example, FM systems use telecoils, and they can be used in a variety of settings.
- Directional microphone technology makes it easier for you to hear the intended speaker without background noise. This is especially helpful in meeting or conference settings where outside noise or people talking over one another can be an issue.
- Captioned telephones are great for people who have a lot of conference calls. These devices translate words into text on a screen connected to the phone. By being able to hear and see what the person on the other line is saying, you have a greater chance of clearly comprehending the conversation.
- Bluetooth technology is also helpful for those with hearing aids who spend a lot of time on the phone. With the flip of a switch on your hearing aids, you can connect to a phone digitally and avoid interference that is common with hearing aids and telephones.
If you are having trouble adapting to hearing aids in the workplace, consult your audiologist for advice. Making an effort to ease the issue in the office is the first sign of your dedication to work.