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One of the major ways hearing loss impacts a person is by straining communication. Impaired hearing reduces one’s ability to hear sound. This is a key way we process and make meaning of information. Strained communication affects relationships, job performance, and various other responsibilities we manage on a daily basis. Working with impaired hearing can be particularly difficult. But by addressing your hearing loss as soon as you notice any changes, you can profoundly enhance the quality of your life. Additionally, there are effective communication strategies that you can practice to improve communication. All that is required is taking the time to learn about your hearing loss and a commitment to prioritizing your hearing needs!
Treating Hearing Loss
The most important way to alleviate symptoms of hearing loss and enhance communication is through treatment. The first step of addressing your hearing loss is relatively simple and quick. It involves having your hearing tested by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing exams are pretty easy and determine any impairment, degree, and type. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. Today, there is a wide-range of hearing aids available that are highly customized to meet individual needs. These small electronic devices are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound which helps to increase one’s ability to hear. Hearing aids are more innovative than ever and feature various technologies that allow you to move through all environments as smoothly as possible.
Tips for Effective Communication
In addition to treating your hearing loss and wearing your hearing aids, there are numerous ways you can create a supportive environment and strengthen your communication in the workplace. Here are a few tips:
- Disclose Hearing Loss
You may be thinking about if you should disclose your hearing loss with your employer. It is common to feel anxious about doing so but we highly encourage you to! Sharing your hearing loss is extremely beneficial because it allows your employer to participate in helping you navigate and succeed in the workplace. This begins the conversation about your hearing needs and best ways you can be supported at work.
- Know Your Rights
Disclosing your hearing loss also allows you to discuss what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) entitles you to. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and requires employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations. It could be helpful to research the types of accommodations that are available and what would be most suitable for you (it could also be helpful to ask for recommendations form a hearing healthcare specialist!). Accommodations can include physical changes to your work area (relocating to a quieter area for example) and investment in technologies that are compatible with hearing aids.
- Share Communication Strategies
By having your hearing assessed, you have probably learned about the types of sounds and environments that are more difficult for you to hear in. This information is really useful because it allows you to identify ways that help maximize your hearing. There are various effective communication strategies for people navigating hearing loss including: making eye contact, facing the speaker, maintaining a comfortable distance, minimizing background noise, reducing distractions etc. Sharing this information with the people you work with can substantially improve communication. It is important to remember that communication is an exchange and everyone involved is responsible for engaging in ways that are productive. This alleviates the pressure and stress you may feel when having conversations with others.!
- Plan for Your Hearing Needs
Thinking about your hearing needs in advance allows you to plan for the different work contexts you may find yourself in. This can include a wide range of things like asking for the agenda prior to meetings, requesting a copy of any notes, asking to hold meetings around a round table so that you are able to see people’s faces, sitting in the front of the room during trainings, etc.
Acclimating to your life with hearing loss requires you to prioritize your hearing needs. This means being open about your hearing impairment, especially with the people you interact with on a daily basis. Disclosing your hearing loss as well as sharing and practicing effective strategies can drastically improve communication.