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Each May the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) celebrates Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM). This is a time when ASHA endeavors to raise awareness of communication disorders and what can be done to treat them. The theme for 2020 is “Communication at Work,” and with COVID-19 drastically altering the work lives of most Americans this year, there’s no better time to engage!
Disclosing Hearing Loss at Work
Many of us are deliberate about telling our boss and coworkers about our hearing loss. What if it makes them see us differently? While this concern is real, it’s best to disclose hearing loss. For one, it supplies a valid reason that we might miss some things discussed in meetings and conversations. Without knowing about our hearing loss, people might think we’re simply not paying attention. Furthermore, it means we have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Disclosure will also allow us to start a conversation about how to perform our best at work. Maybe we need a desk away from the noise of the photocopier or other machines, or could benefit from sitting in a particular seat at lectures or meetings. Maybe a written outline of what’s to be discussed beforehand will help us to prepare and give us some context to interpret what’s being said.
We’ll also be able to ask our coworkers to acknowledge and accommodate our hearing loss in simple ways throughout the day, like facing us when they speak, or making sure they have our full attention before they begin to say something important. Maybe it’s better for us if they speak into one ear than the other, or maybe we need them to speak a little slower.
Informing our coworkers of our hearing loss doesn’t have to be a big deal. We don’t need to call a special meeting. The opportunity to address the issue presents itself from moment to moment every day. If you have trouble understanding something your coworker has said, you could reply, “Can you say that again in different words? I’m a little hard of hearing.” After a short while, most people will get a sense of what works for you and do it automatically.
Aside from the obvious and hugely beneficial hearing aids, there are a number of ways to get more out of your communications at work. With many of us working remotely from home during this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place, we might find ourselves on frequent Zoom or Google Meet video conferences. Both services offer closed captioning options, and Zoom offers an automatic transcription function.
Also make sure you’re all set for success when you log on to a call. Have your device stationed on a firm surface so your image doesn’t shift around, and make sure the room is well-lit and the background noise is minimal. While the conferencing technology will automatically remove most consistent low-level sounds like fridges buzzing or the noise from heaters, air conditioners and fans, things like televisions, radios, or other conversations in the home will make it through and can make it impossible for those of us with hearing loss, not to mention distracting for those even with normal hearing. While we all need to be understanding during this time and make the most of our situations, reasonable efforts should be taken by everyone on the call to try to minimize distractions. A set of headphones can help you get the level up to where you can hear as well as possible without creating feedback between your computer speakers and microphone.
Treat Hearing Loss as Soon as Possible
If you or someone you know might be suffering from hearing loss, a hearing test is the next best step. Statistically, those with hearing aids earn as much as $30,000 more per year than those with untreated hearing loss. If you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves often and you haven’t had a hearing test recently, get one now. Call us today and see what services are available via telepractice. A pure-tone audiometry exam will require a visit to the office which is possible in some circumstances, but you might only need to do this once. There is a cascade of negative effects following untreated hearing loss even beyond the loss of a job, so make sure you’re hearing to the best of your ability today and into the future.