Hearing loss is a widespread issue in the US workforce. In fact, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) reports that 60 percent of those in the US who report some degree of hearing loss, are either in the workplace or an educational setting. With the understanding of just how common hearing loss is in the workplace, it’s reasonable to prepare to accommodate hearing loss in all workplace settings. If left ignored or untreated, hearing loss can quickly cause a decline in productivity and performance in most workplace settings but with just a few adjustments, the workplace can be an inviting and functional place for all.
Disclosure in the Workforce
While no one is obliged to disclose a hearing loss to employers, it is in the employees’ best interest to do so. While hearing loss is recognized as a disability, it is often considered an invisible disability as well. Hearing loss is a recognized disability under the American Disabilities Act, however, if the employee chooses not to disclose, these protections cannot be taken advantage of. When individuals are open about hearing loss in the workplace it gives these employees the chance to ask for reasonable accommodations. These accommodations could include technologies to help transcribe speech to text, typed out meeting notes, or even working in a quieter location. Everyone’s hearing loss is slightly different, which means different things will aid people with hearing impairments individually. Being open about hearing loss means greater protection and more chances to succeed at work.
Hearing Loss and Employment
It’s important to address a hearing loss rather than ignore it. For instance, as of 2014, it was reported that 48% of people with hearing loss were employed while the other 47% were not in the workforce. This could be due to the effects of untreated hearing loss on communication and advancement in education which lead to greater difficulties in employment transition and career development. A study from the Better Hearing Institute found that untreated hearing loss can decrease an individual’s annual income by $30,000. They also found that those working with untreated hearing loss made on average 25% less than contemporaries with normal hearing. Even more alarming, the study found that finding a job was significantly more challenging for the hearing impaired with an unemployment rate (15.6%) for those with a severe hearing loss. This number is twice as high as those with normal hearing (7.8%) and close to double that of their peers (8.3%) who use hearing aids.
Treating Hearing in the Workplace
While most cases of hearing loss are permanent it is a treatable condition. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, which are tiny electronic devices that are programmed to amplify the specific sounds which an individual struggles with. This allows people to be more alert and keep up with conversation in a working environment. In a factory setting, healthy hearing with hearing aids means employees can hear alarms and warning sounds, which contributes to a lower safety risk. In meetings, hearing-impaired individuals who actively treat their hearing participate and continue to stay innovative and a valuable asset. Those who wore hearing aids were shown to reduce the risk of income loss by 90 to 100% for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 percent to 77 percent for those with moderate to severe hearing loss.
Assistive listening devices in the Workplace
Hearing aids are an asset to any employee, but assistive listening devices can offer extra support. Even with the use of hearing aids, it still required focus to listen for the hearing impaired. Many office environments are equipped with a T-coil to assist, which can transmit important information directly to a hearing aid.
You may also benefit from a directional microphone, which is a feature that is being offered on many hearing aid models these days. Directional microphones help you to hear the person speaking in front of you while subduing the background noise. This is important for anyone who struggles to hear noise – which is one of the most common complaints among hearing aid users.
Explore the Opportunities
These are just some of the amazing features which can enhance your listening experience in the workplace. To find out more about what hearing aids can now offer to increase your success and earning in the workplace, schedule a hearing exam with us today. We review your options and find the best solution just for you!