Better Hearing in the Workplace

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed nearly 33 years ago to prevent discrimination, but people with disabilities in general—and hearing loss specifically—remain at a disadvantage in the labor force. Disclosing your disability and asking for accommodations on the job or in an interview are common dilemmas.

The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) will address this issue at its next quarterly employment webinar on Thursday, May 18, 6-7 p.m. EDT. Part of our Better Hearing and Speech Month programming for May, that date is also Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Disability and Employment Figures

Recent statistics underscore the need for greater workplace accessibility and equity for people with all disabilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 21% of people with a disability were employed in 2022, compared to 65% of people without a disability. In addition, the number of people with a disability who filed for unemployment was more than double that of those without a disability.

Hearing Loss and Unemployment

A 2019 report from the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes showed that, in 2017, only 53% of adults with hearing loss or deafness were employed, compared to nearly 76% of hearing adults. (See Figure 1) In addition, 43% of people who were deaf, compared to 21% of hearing people, were not even in the labor force. (See Figure 2) However, they were also more likely to be actively looking for work, suggesting that they were not opting out of the workforce because of a lack of interest, but rather, a lack of options and access.  

As a result, many people with hearing loss are hesitant to reveal their condition to current or potential employers.

Source: National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes, 2019

Source: National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes, 2019

May 18 Employment Webinar

Knowing what the law says about disclosure, accessibility and other relevant issues, such as protected classes and obtaining reasonable accommodations, can help workers make more informed decisions.

At our May 18 webinar, “The Workplace and the Law—Where It Helps Us, and Where It Doesn’t,” expert disability law attorney John Waldo, Esq., who has 40 years of experience as a lawyer, will explain how the ADA applies to people with hearing loss in the workplace.

Learn more and register. The event will be captioned, and a recording made available for those who cannot attend.

View past webinars covering topics such as workplace accommodations, federal employment for people with disabilities and networking with hearing loss.

The Task Force for Accessible Inclusive Employment

This webinar is the latest in a series that have been organized by HLAA’s Task Force for Accessible Inclusive Employment—established by HLAA in 2021 to address labor disparities and provide employment-related information and resources to those with hearing loss. All Task Force members, who span a wide range of diversity and professional backgrounds, either have hearing loss or work in the hearing loss community, volunteering their time to help career-aged Americans with hearing loss successfully enter, remain and excel in the workforce.

“When people with hearing loss have full communication access, they can work to their potential and be competitive in the workplace,” said David Baldridge, Ph.D., MBA, current Task Force chair and professor of management at Oregon State University, who researches workplace experiences of people with hearing loss. “And by providing communications access, companies have the opportunity to create a more inclusive and productive workforce, particularly as the workforce continues to age.”

Looking Ahead

The Task Force plans to continue presenting quarterly webinars while exploring new ways to increase its reach and impact—not just among people with hearing loss, but with companies working to achieve greater diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Its ultimate aim is to advance HLAA’s mission to empower people with hearing loss through information, education, support and advocacy.

For information on upcoming webinars, subscribe to Hearing Life e-News.

Lisa Yuan

by Lisa Yuan.
Lisa works in public health, serves on HLAA’s employment Task Force and volunteers with the HLAA District of Columbia and Montgomery County (MD) Chapters.

If you or someone you know has a hearing loss, visit for resources and to find a local chapter, or a Walk4Hearing near you.

For questions, contact HLAA at

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