Many people believe that hearing loss only affects seniors, and that they won’t have to worry about their hearing health until they hit retirement. However, 60% of those with hearing loss are either in school or in the workforce. This means that you may find yourself struggling to hear before the age of 65. If you’re looking for a new job or trying to keep your old job, being successful means not only being in control of your hearing loss, but also finding ways to fit in at the workplace, get the accommodations you need to help you be the valued employee you know you are, and knowing your rights as an employee with hearing loss.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, is legislation that protects the rights of workers who have disabilities. Hearing loss isn’t very obvious at first glance and is often called the invisible disability since people don’t notice right away that you have a disability. If you have hearing loss that’s affecting your work, then the ADA applies to you too.
The ADA ensures that you have equal opportunity to employment, and that you are treated fairly in the workplace. According to the ADA, no employer can deny you employment based on stereotypes or assumptions about your ability to perform the job. You know you can do the job well, and your employer needs to acknowledge that too. Stereotypes or fears about hearing loss are not valid reasons to deny employment, and employers must consider each individual’s knowledge, skills, and experience.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the ADA, and any concerns you have can be taken up with them. If you’ve experienced discrimination on the job, or during the interviewing and hiring process, you can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the violation. They will provide mediation to try to resolve the issue, or will launch a formal investigation into the complaint.
Accommodations for Those with Hearing Loss
The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees with hearing loss. This could be adjustments or modifications of the work site or equipment so you’re able to perform your job well. Simple accommodations could include a sign language interpreter, a telephone headset, or assistive listening devices. Any changes that don’t provide a lot of hardship on the part of the employer or the company, but will allow you to perform your job more effectively, are considered reasonable accommodations. In some cases, accommodations could include modifying the non-essential duties of your position, so that the goals are manageable for you.
Accommodations to Assist You in the Workplace
If you’re struggling to hear at work, it’s your employer’s responsibility to collaborate with you to find solutions so you can do your job. However, it’s your responsibility to make suggestions about what sorts of accommodations you might need.
Figure out which situations cause the you most difficulty and why. Think about each situation you find yourself in at work, whether it’s on the phone, in a meeting, or discussing a project with coworkers. Now think of ways to make each situation easier to manage. You can ask for work area adjustments like moving your desk to a quieter area or sitting closer to the speaker at meetings. Technology could be helpful to you, such as assistive listening devises, or a telephone that is hearing aid compatible. Even something as simple as being provided with written agendas, memos, or assignments ahead of time will help you stay on track and understand all the instructions you need to know.
If you’re still struggling at your job, you could even consider asking to be reassigned to a vacant opening at the same company that would be able to accommodate your hearing loss. For more tips on applying for a job and nailing that interview, as well as ways to help you track responsibilities and challenges, visit
http://www.hearingloss.org/sites/default/files/docs/HLAA_Employment_Toolkit.pdf. This document, the Employment Toolkit, was put together by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and has a lot of valuable resources for hard of hearing Americans in the workforce.
Treating Your Hearing Loss
If your hearing loss is affecting your ability to do your job, it’s time to seek treatment. Visit us at My Hearing Centers to talk about your needs, and find the hearing device that will keep you excelling at your job, allowing you to hear in any situation.