Living with hearing loss can have an impact on every part of your life, including your professional livelihood. Untreated hearing loss can be at the core of miscommunication, and can even decrease your earning power. Fortunately, your hearing loss doesn’t have to hold you back. From making use of hearing aids to taking advantage of live captioning, here are some tips for dealing with hearing loss at work.
Use Hearing Aids
The single most valuable piece of advice we have for professionals with hearing loss is to wear hearing aids. Hearing loss isn’t one-size-fits-all, and your hearing aids shouldn’t be either. Your audiologist or hearing specialist can help you match your needs to the best hearing aid options and then make sure your devices are programmed and fitted specifically to meet your hearing challenges.
Modern hearing aids offer a plethora of features that can be useful at work. Hearing aids that can pair with digital devices to stream audio directly into your ear canal can prove useful for those who have a workday full of phone calls and online conferencing. Hearing aids with adaptive settings can manage changing noise environments fluidly, like the different areas of a busy office.
Of course, the main feature of hearing aids is the way they help boost your comprehension of speech and sound, making it easier for you to keep up with your workplace. When hearing loss is left untreated it places an extra burden on your brain, making it not only harder to communicate but more mentally taxing as well. Leaving hearing loss unaddressed can make a day at work physically exhausting – just from the effort you put into trying to hear. Hearing aids alleviate this strain and make conversation less stressful and frustrating. Treating hearing loss also lessens the cognitive strain that hearing loss puts on the rest of your mental tasks.
Open a Digital Channel
Outside of hearing aids, digital accessibility tools can make managing hearing loss at work much easier. Project management apps like Slack or Asana offer streamlined workflow guidance that can make sure you are not missing vital information your hearing didn’t catch. In fact, letting your workplace know that you need project specifics communicated in writing rather than verbally is a good way to open up accessibility.
Over the past year, digital conferencing technology has also made great strides in accessibility, with many platforms offering live captioning for meetings. Meeting formats that highlight the current speaker can also help those with hearing loss follow a conversation by better understanding who is saying what. As an added advantage, video conferencing can be paired with hearing aids that stream digital sound to maximize your speech comprehension.
While new technologies are on the forefront of changing workplaces, much can also be said for the simplicity and fluidity of text and chat apps. Simply taking conversation into the written realm can make it easier and less stressful for those with hearing loss and help bridge communication gaps between coworkers.
Optimize Your Listening
When you are at work you don’t always get to choose all the ways you communicate, and in-person meetings, talking with clients or customers and meeting new coworkers and business partners can all become decidedly challenging when hearing loss is involved. It is important to know how to best position yourself for success, which in large part can depend on how you situate yourself in a room.
First, find a spot where you will be able to clearly see the faces of those who are going to speak. Putting your back to a wall or corner will help dampen excess noise making focused speech clearer. Avoid sitting in the path of a vent, fan, air conditioner or open window, all of which can create distracting noise. In fact, finding the quietest area of a room is a good way to improve the quality of what you hear.
When possible, follow people’s lips while they are talking – expressions and mouth formation can help create a context for what is being said even when it sounds indecipherable. It is also important to model good communication yourself – speak clearly and state when you are introducing a new topic or direction into the conversation.