Navigating the professional landscape can pose unique challenges for individuals with hearing loss. Based on standard hearing examinations, one in eight people aged 12 or older in the U.S. experience hearing loss in both ears. As a common condition, it’s important to advocate for those with hearing loss; colleagues and leaders can foster a more inclusive workplace environment.
The initial step towards creating an inclusive work atmosphere for those with hearing loss is to understand the individual beyond their hearing impairment. Take them to lunch at The Jay Café to get to know them as a person. Then, learn about their work goals, their level of hearing loss and any necessary accommodations they might need. Discover their preferred communication methods and make sure to respect these preferences.
Most individuals with hearing loss incorporate their condition into their identity, shaping how they perceive themselves and their work. Understanding that differently-abled individuals are not less capable is key. With the right accommodations, everyone can enjoy a welcoming, inclusive environment.
Advocacy Measures in The Workplace
There are several ways to advocate for individuals with hearing loss in your workplace. Respecting requested communication styles is essential. This could mean providing captioning for meetings, interpreters, assistive listening devices or flexible work arrangements. These are all reasonable accommodations that contribute to providing a more navigable work environment for those with hearing loss.
Also, ensure that employees with hearing loss have all the necessary tools to perform their jobs effectively. This could include a quiet, distraction-free work environment. When speaking to a person with hearing loss, face them directly to facilitate any speechreading skills they may have.
As a leader, you can implement inclusive health benefits packages that cover hearing aids and hearing exams. This inclusivity extends beyond just individuals with hearing loss. You can also raise awareness about hearing loss through online or on-site training. From a communication standpoint, provide written transcripts of company meetings and incorporate flashing lights into emergency alert systems to ensure those with hearing loss are alerted during emergencies. Before starting a conversation with a coworker who has hearing loss, get their attention non-verbally. Consider sending an email instead of making a phone call.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with hearing loss are protected and entitled to reasonable accommodations. But beyond merely providing these accommodations, people with hearing loss deserve to feel included and enjoy their time at work.
It’s also helpful to promote safety by encouraging everyone in the workplace, not just those with hearing loss, to protect their hearing around loud noises.
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