In fall 2013 we asked HLAA members and supporters to tell us about their workplace experiences with hearing loss. We want to use your responses as informal research to help us plan a workplace program. The January/February 2014 Hearing Loss Magazine focused solely on success in the workplace for people with hearing loss and for those who hire them. We hope you enjoy the issue.
We asked you to answer the following questions or simply give us your stories:
- Does your employer and/or co-workers know you have a hearing loss?
- Do you use any special accommodations like an assistive listening device or CART?
- What are your experiences interviewing for a job?
- Have you had to ask your employer for a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act?
- Have you been successful at work?
- Have you ever felt you had to give up a job because of your hearing loss? Have you felt discriminated against because of your hearing loss?
- Are your co-workers sensitive to your communication needs? What positives have come from having a hearing loss?
- Do you know of any employers who are especially accommodating to workers with hearing loss?
There is value in knowing you are not alone; therefore, we are sharing what you wrote. We removed names and any references to specific employers where requested. If you requested we not use your comments, we’ve excluded them. We have edited some of the comments for clarity. Mention of products or services does not imply HLAA endorsement; nor does exclusion suggest disapproval. Thank you for your valuable response.
If you aren’t an HLAA member and would like to receive the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine, join now to be part of the one organization that represents 48 million people in the United States with hearing loss.
Below are samples of the responses we received, otherwise download the complete list of stories.
Does your employer and/or co-workers know you have a hearing loss? Yes. I t is something I try to make everybody aware of. I point it out also to my students when I teach and audiences when I give a talk.
Do you use any special accommodations like an assistive listening device or CART? For medium to large group meetings as well as listening to invited speakers I use a Phonak Zoomlink coupled with a Phonak My Link, which "talks" to my hearing aids on the telecoil setting.
What are your experiences interviewing for a job? It was very stressful and many of the social situations that went with the interviews were less than ideal for somebody with hearing loss. However, since I had to give a talk every time I interviewed, I let people know then about my loss. I did not worry too much that possible employers would discriminate against me, as I work in academia, and find most academics pretty open minded.
Have you had to ask your employer for a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Not formally. They did help me buy the Zoomlink/My link. My department chair also instituted a "round table" type of seating for faculty meetings to make it easier for me to read people's lips.
Have you been successful at work? I think so. I am a professor at a university; got tenure last year, and research seems to be going reasonably well. I do find the teaching stressful sometimes due to the hearing problem, but it has gotten better as I learn how to make things easier on myself. The semesters leading up to tenure were all pretty stressful, and the hearing loss made it even more so, but that’s also the nature of this job.
Have you ever felt you had to give up a job because of your hearing loss? Not a job, per se, but there are activities I try to avoid due to the hearing problem. For example, teaching lab classes is something I feel I can't do well do to the constant background noise.
Have you felt discriminated against because of your hearing loss? No. I feel like I startle people though. And since not everybody notices or understands the depth of the problem, I'm sure there are people out there who think I am somewhat slow.
Are your co-workers sensitive to your communication needs? Yes, but they often forget, or don't realize just how many types of situations are impacted by the hearing loss.
Accommodations for hearing loss is something which I am truly passionate about. Basically, it doesn't happen if I didn't do it myself. I have had to purchase several products such as two Bluetooth microphone and receiver combinations. I have a Pocketalker and shotgun microphone to accommodate frequent, required meetings. I use an amplified POTS phone at home. I have purchased amplifiers for both my cellphone and Internet work phone. I have refused to use a phone at work because no accommodations, though requested at least twice, were provided. Because of my hearing loss and age, 68, the SCSEP program is the only place I can find part-time work. I am a trained IT person, but I work on a reception desk – a huge step down for me. Thank you for allowing my vent.
I am a retired lawyer (of counsel) who late in life took up teaching history and political science at our local two year college. After several successful and enjoyable years I had to quit. I simply couldn't hear the questions. Some of my students were from underprivileged homes where English was spoken in a mumble. My students did not show any improvement over their parents. Some of my students spoke clearly and after asking the mumblers to repeat several times, the clear speakers would restate the question. I am sure the questioners resented this. I tried wearing a really good hearing aid, but since I must also wear eyeglasses, this was unsatisfactory. The earpiece of the glasses bumped the behind the ear part of the aid and made it squeal. I had a choice – not to hear, not to see, not to teach. I chose the latter.
I used CART while at the university and for seminars at work.
For the past 25 years I have been an office manager/executive assistant. In the past 5 years I started to notice and monitor mild hearing loss and began wearing hearing aids in March 2012. My right ear has more loss than the left. During the last couple of years, the staff (and my family) in the office would tease me and say, "You can't hear." During meetings I would have a hard time hearing and/or understanding what was being said. At times, it still is very embarrassing even with the hearing devices. I have noticed however, that some people just don't speak clearly, they mumble and are very soft spoken. I have several people in the office who are this way and I pray whenever they approach me that I will be able to understand them. Even one of the mailroom workers, who is Filipino with a heavy accent and soft spoken, I just can't hear and understand most times. I tell him, ‘Frank, you know I can't hear, speak up!!’ in a joking way. Everyone in the office now knows I wear hearing aids because my hair is short [and] they can see them. But there are still times I can't hear. It's very frustrating and embarrassing, especially when they are right in my face. I did seek counseling last year from a corporate counselor because I was so distraught. The Human Resources Department offered to give me a different phone that would help, but so far, we haven't found one that is compatible with our system here. I turn the volume up as high as it will go when I use the phone and I also take off my left hearing aid off when I have long conversations. It seems to help. When there are a lot of people roaming around and the copiers are going and people talking, it is especially challenging. Overall, everyone is very kind and sensitive to me. Most of us have been together a long time. When I can't hear, I simply say, speak up!!
I was also the worship leader at my church and sang in church my entire life. I had to give that up in April. It was just too stressful not knowing if I was on pitch or not. This has been most devastating.
Right now, I can't think of any positives from hearing loss. I'm going to the audiologist today to see if I can get another adjustment. I am on my third type of hearing device. Sometimes, I avoid social activities and interaction with people because I am so embarrassed. I pray that something positive will come out of it and I might be able to help others with the same problem.
I am working 8 to 4, as before hearing loss. I am petroleum geologist, and my work is mainly to do study about different prospects, as concerns petroleum exploration. My hearing loss doesn’t impact me on the job. I use hearing aid during communication with my colleagues, or chiefs. The only problem is that my hearing loss is caused from Meniere’s disease and audiologists have difficulty to adjust hearing aid according to characteristics of my hearing loss. I would like to ask you if you can help me to recommend hearing aid type, which can be more adaptive for the Meniere’s disease hearing loss type. I hear very loudly with a hearing aid. Thank you.