Hearing loss is a widespread problem not only in Goodyear but across the U.S. 48 million Americans suffer a hearing impairment to some degree, which means you probably know somebody who has trouble hearing. If one of them happens to be coworker, you can be a great colleague by taking steps to make their life easier.
Hearing Impairment: An Invisible Disability
People with hearing loss in Goodyear have many challenges to overcome. This is especially true in the workplace, where coworkers might not be aware of their hearing impairment. Unlike folks with visible disabilities – say, those confined to a wheelchair – hearing loss isn’t always obvious. Having a support system of cooperative, caring people can make a world of difference.
If you have a coworker experiencing hearing loss, the best thing you can do is make them feel included. There are many ways to accomplish this, both subtly and more straightforward. It begins with adopting a certain mindset. If you’re delivering a presentation in a room full of people, for instance, instead of asking “Can everybody here me in the back?” assume that not everybody can and adjust your voice accordingly. Assuming that hearing loss statistics are the same at work as they are across the general population, in a room full of 50 people, 10 will struggle to hear you. Being cognizant of this fact is the first step in creating a more inclusive workplace, one in which the hearing impaired don’t have to advocate for themselves every second of the day. It’s frustrating and exhausting to constantly do so!
The following practices are additional steps you can take to be a better colleague to those with hearing loss in the workplace.
- Don’t cover your mouth when speaking. Your hearing-impaired colleague relies on visual cues to help “fill in the blanks” when they have trouble understanding speech. These cues include lip-reading, facial expressions and body language to help provide context. Be aware of this and avoid activities such as covering your mouth with a hand or other object when speaking or turning away from your listener.
- Use a microphone if one is available. If you are having a workplace meeting in a large room, distance and poor acoustics can make it that much harder for your hearing-impaired colleague to understand your words. Use a microphone when available; amplification provides a boost that helps them understand what is being said – even from the back of the room.
- Provide a quiet space in which to work. Open-office concepts are all the rage; in theory they improve communication between coworkers, but on the downside, they generate a lot of noise. Those with a hearing impairment already struggle to hear and background noise makes it even more difficult. Provide them with a quiet spot, such as an empty office or private cubicle, to limit distractions and help them concentrate.
- Be a hearing buddy. Despite your best efforts, your colleague won’t be able to hear everything in the office. Offer to be there hearing buddy, following up with them after meetings or announcements over the PA system to make sure they haven’t missed any important information. If there’s a fire alarm, make sure your coworker knows what’s going on. High-pitched frequencies prove especially difficult for those with a hearing impairment to recognize.
For more tips on providing an accommodating workplace for hearing-impaired coworkers, give your Goodyear audiologist a call.