Navigating the workplace with hearing loss presents a unique set of challenges. One in eight people aged 12 or older in the U.S. have hearing loss in both ears based on standard hearing examinations. Colleagues and leaders can assist with creating a more inclusive workplace by advocating for those with hearing loss.
The first step toward providing an inclusive work environment for anyone who has hearing loss is to get to know the person as a person and understand their work goals, level of hearing loss and any necessary accommodations. Find out how they prefer to communicate and respect those accommodations.
It’s important to remember most individuals with hearing loss embrace hearing loss as a part of their identity, positively defining how they view themselves and their work. It’s essential to understand that a person who is differently abled is not less capable; proper accommodations provide a more welcoming, inclusive environment for everyone.
Ways to Advocate
Consider the following ways to advocate for individuals with hearing loss in your workplace:
- Respecting requested communication styles may include providing captioning for meetings or providing interpreters, assistive listening devices or flexible work arrangements. All are reasonable accommodations to provide an inclusive working environment.
- Ensure the worker with hearing loss has any necessary tools needed to complete their job, such as a quiet, distraction-free work environment.
- Face the person when speaking so the person can use speechreading skills they may have.
- As a leader, implement inclusive health benefit packages. Ensure hearing aids and hearing exams are covered. This health benefit is widely inclusive, not just to those with hearing loss.
- Raise awareness about hearing loss through online or on-site training.
- Provide written transcripts of company meetings.
- Incorporate flashing lights to emergency alert systems so those with hearing loss are alerted in an emergency.
- Encourage hearing loss protection around loud noises for everyone, not just the person with hearing loss.
- Get your coworker’s attention non-verbally before launching into conversation.
- Send an email instead of calling the person with hearing loss.
People with hearing loss are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and have a right to reasonable accommodations. People with hearing loss also deserve to feel included and enjoy their time at work, past what is required to just provide accommodations.
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