While hearing loss is increasingly common among both younger and older people, there is still an unfortunate stigma attached to it. Dealing with hearing loss while you’re still in the workforce can be difficult. Many people are reluctant to bring up their hearing loss, for fear it might make them seem unable to do their job. However, it might be crucial to let your coworkers or employers know in order to mitigate any issues that may arise.
Treat your hearing loss
The most important part of navigating hearing loss is to treat it. For most people, that means getting hearing aids to minimize their hearing loss. If you work in an environment where you need to talk to others—which is the vast majority of most Americans in the workforce—it’s crucial that you take the steps necessary to improve your hearing as much as possible.
Whether you work in an office or a warehouse, hearing and communicating is probably an essential part of your job. If you have hearing loss that can be treated with a hearing aid, it’s a no-brainer!
Hearing loss: When and how to mention it
Unless you work in total silence with very little contact with another person, you’re probably going to have to mention your hearing loss at some point. It might be to coworkers or it might be to your manager—either way, it doesn’t have to be a production. While many business communicate mostly through email or instant messaging, there’s most likely going to still be a lot of in-person communication between you and your office-mates.
A simple “Hey, I actually don’t have full hearing in either ear, so if you ask me a question can you speak slowly and loudly?” should suffice with most people. If you have severe hearing loss, politely request that any questions or messages be sent over email, so you can read them instead of straining to hear. The vast majority of people will be accommodating and willing to help you out!
Should I bring up my hearing loss in a job interview?
This is a tricky one. While employers are legally not allowed to discriminate based on hearing loss, that doesn’t put a full stop to it. Alison Green, author of Ask A Manager, advises to “hold off mentioning disabilities until you’re on the job (in order to avoid discrimination) unless you need to discuss whether accommodation is possible.” If you can get through the interview process without bringing up your hearing loss—especially if you feel like it won’t have an impact on your performance—that is the best move.
However, more and more job interviews are conducted on the phone nowadays, which can be a huge obstacle for anyone with hearing loss. At that point, Green suggests including this sample script in your cover letter when applying to a job: “Since I know the next step may be a phone interview, I should mention that I’m hard-of-hearing. I hear well with a hearing aid, but I have difficulty hearing on the phone. This is pretty easy to get around by using free instant relay phone services or simply talking in person, and I’ve never found it to be much of an obstacle.”
If your application is suited for the position, most employers would be happy to accommodate you, particularly because you’ll most likely have to go in for an in-person interview anyway. The most important things to remember are 1) treat your hearing loss and 2) make sure your employers know it won’t affect your work!
By: Elena McPhillips