Hearing Loss in the Workplace

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on one’s personal life but have you ever considered the challenges a hearing impaired individual faces in the workplace?  With over 35 million Americans diagnosed with some degree of hearing loss, it is fairly certain the vast majority of companies have one or more employees diagnosed with a hearing impairment.

The Georgia Institute of Technology conducted a survey of employed individuals who identified as being either hearing impaired or deaf; the purpose of this survey was to ascertain what aspects of their working environment accommodated their disability and where there was need for improvement.

One of the largest struggles mentioned in the responses was the ability to communicate effectively in meetings.  Oftentimes, when there are large groups of people, it is difficult to receive translation or even be able to lip read; a staff meeting is a prime example of this.  When a meeting is held off-site such as in a hotel conference room or other convention type venue, there are often no accommodations for those who are hearing impaired.  The lack of assistive listening devices in these types of locations places them at a distinct disadvantage.

The next biggest obstacle they mentioned having to overcome was co-worker support. Even when there are those who are willing to give assistance, they often do not understand how to go about doing it; and unfortunately, even though there are those who understand and would gladly lend a hand, there are just as many more who get frustrated and impatient dealing with a hearing impairment.

The majority of respondents stated that their workplace provided at least some form of assistance, with telephone amplification devices and electronic aids being the most common forms of support.  The satisfaction associated with this type of aid was ranked poorly however, which indicates a need for further technological advances in this area.

As the population of the US continues to age and more and more people find themselves in need of hearing assistance, companies are going to want to find new and improved ways to make accommodations for these individuals.  Improving communication strategies in meetings and educating employees on the abilities as well as the challenges facing hearing impaired co-workers, is the first step to a more inclusive and productive workplace.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.