Life at the office can be tense: projects are due, mistakes are made, deadlines have to be met. Hearing loss, of course, does nothing to alleviate the stress. Working as a team in the office is important, and if your coworkers don’t know how to work with someone has hearing loss, meeting the company’s goals can become a real challenge.
Much of the trouble in communicating with hearing loss stems from innocent ignorance. Many people simply don’t have any experience with hearing loss, or might not even be aware you have a hearing impairment. Take a few minutes to sit down with your coworkers and explain your condition to them, and pinpoint a few changes that can facilitate communication in the office.
Your hearing aid is not a cure-all
Many people think a hearing aid is an automatic cure for every type of hearing loss. Few people realize that even with minor hearing loss, a hearing aid does not restore your hearing back to normal levels. Let your coworkers know that while hearing aids are a great help, your hearing is still not the same as theirs. Additionally, you could experience issues with the hearing aid and your ears from time to time, which further complicates your hearing problems. An ear infection, for instance, can essentially make you temporarily deaf, even with a hearing aid.
Hearing loss affects more than volume
When most people think of hearing loss, they think of deafness. Many people aren’t aware that hearing loss also affects basic comprehension. Explain the difference between conductive and sensorineural hearing loss to your coworkers and let them know what form of hearing loss you have. The better your coworkers understand your hearing loss, the easier it is for them to communicate with you.
Cubicles are not helpful for hearing loss
People without hearing loss can take their hearing for granted. They often don’t stop to think about the way a particular environment might affect a person with a hearing impairment, simply because it has never occurred to them. Office cubicles, for instance, are great for increasing office communication, but the open-air setup can be difficult for anyone with a hearing impairment to focus on one sound, like the voice of the person they’re speaking with on the other end of the phone. If your coworkers are aware of the impediments the office atmosphere can create, they’ll be more receptive to how that affects your job and how they can help make it easier on you.
Speaking in person is better than over the phone
Since most of your coworkers probably hear just fine over the phone, they might not realize the challenges such a commonplace tool could pose to you. Telephones distort your voice, and if you wear a hearing aid, the distortions can be compounded. Ask your coworkers to come speak to you in person if possible, because phones don’t allow you added benefit of reading lips, body language or facial expressions.
The little things matter
Patience is key to working with hearing loss. As long as you and your coworkers are putting in a little effort to work around your hearing loss, the difference will be huge. Little things like walking into your eyesight before tapping you on the shoulder, enunciating their words and looking at you when they speak can do wonders for in-office communication.
Chances are the majority of your coworkers are good-hearted people who do their best to keep the office a happy and well-oiled machine. Many of the misunderstandings that result from hearing loss happen because those who are hearing impaired don’t speak up for themselves when they’re having trouble hearing the people around them. If you don’t tell your coworkers why you’re struggling, they probably won’t be able to help you. Be your own advocate! You might be surprised how receptive your coworkers will be.