Struggling to Hear at Work
Published: 2022-05-07 - Updated: 2022-05-08
Author: Visualise Training and Consultancy | Contact: visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Deaf Communication Publications
Synopsis: Visualise Training and Consultancy takes a look at the challenges employees with hearing loss face in the workplace. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of hearing loss is the uncertainty around employment. It may be hard to tell colleagues about your hearing difficulties, which in turn can lead to increased anxiety and stress. If not checked, in time these feelings may escalate and cause you to struggle in both your work and private lives. It is vital to know that help is available, and that you don't have to continue to suffer alone.
Losing hearing is both challenging and difficult, scary, and disconcerting. Having to change the way you do things, adapting to new challenges and learning new skills such as lip-reading can be exhausting. It is extremely tiring and requires a lot of concentration and even for the most proficient lip-reader up to 60-70% of lip-reading can be guesswork, so misunderstanding can be a regular occurrence.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of hearing loss is the uncertainty around employment. It may be hard to tell colleagues about your hearing difficulties, which in turn can lead to increased anxiety and stress. You may struggle with the strain of listening and increased concentration needed to understand speech, along with unmanageable tinnitus, or headaches. You may also be afraid to tell your manager in case they think you can no longer carry out your daily tasks as efficiently as you used to, leading to a fear of unemployment.
Common Factors and Feelings:
Let's think about the common factors associated with hearing loss, and how experiencing these may make you feel:
- Inadequate lighting for lip-reading.
- Concern about hearing levels dropping further.
- People approaching from behind and startling you.
- Headaches due to the extra concentration involved.
- Being unable to hear people from distance.
- Increased tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, whooshing in the ears).
- You may not hear as well if you cannot see people's faces.
- Struggling to hear clearly when background noise is present.
- Missing contributions during team meetings and when in groups.
- Exhaustion due to increased concentration trying to understand speech.
- You have noticed colleagues have mentioned you have not heard more frequently.
- When using telephony, you struggle to hear clearly as you cannot lip-read and see the speaker face.
- Colleagues do not understand and can make jokes at your expense, which can lead to a loss of confidence and low self-esteem.
- Increased possibility of ear infections, eczema or psoriasis, pain around the ear area, meaning a headset cannot be used for telephony.
Help is Available
Experiencing just one of these symptoms may make you feel worried, isolated, excluded, or anxious. If not checked, in time these feelings may escalate and cause you to struggle in both your work and private lives. It is vital to know that help is available, and that you don't have to continue to suffer alone.
The Equality Act 2010 protects you against disability discrimination and your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Visualise Training and Consultancy carry out holistic work-based assessments which assess your needs and make recommendations in a detailed and solutions focused report for you and your employer.
These include assistive technology, special equipment, and any other adjustments that can help make your working life easier, more enjoyable and productive.
Overcoming the Hurdles
Let's take a look at the five most familiar challenges that may occur in the workplace for people who have hearing loss, along with practical solutions.
1. "I cannot hear clearly when using telephony"
We all lip-read to a degree, but when a hearing loss is present, we rely on this skill even more so. When using telephony (mobile or desk phone, or virtual team meetings via the PC), we cannot lip-read. This is a common issue that can be tackled in several possible ways. We can:
- Adjust desk position or working environment.
- Change the headset if hearing aids are not worn.
- Assist with background noise by implementing assistive listening devices.
- Use direct wireless streaming to the hearing aids (subject to compatibility, but usually possible).
- Virtual communication options are increasingly popular, for example Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom etc.
2. "I am finding it difficult to hear during team meetings or group situations..."
Reasonable adjustments can be instated that will ensure meetings become more accessible and enjoyable. We can also suggest where best to sit in meetings and the most beneficial layout. If hearing aids are worn, technology which helps the user to hear more clearly at distance in one to one and group situations can be implemented.
3. "I suffer from headaches and am tired due to the extra concentration needed when trying to understand speech..."
Regular breaks between calls and meetings so that listening fatigue does not occur can be recommended, along with a range of other adjustments that will assist with this.
4. "My colleagues don't know how to support me in the best way"
Remember your colleagues may not have ever worked with someone with tinnitus, hearing loss or ear issues, so be loud and proud, tell them what you require and how best to communicate with you. They may also benefit from hearing loss awareness training to understand how best to support you with the challenges you face.
5. "I have ear infections, tinnitus, and eczema in my ears and cannot wear headsets..."
This is a common occurrence, so we may be able to recommend a different compatible headset or use a desk microphone and loudspeaker from the phone/PC. An external speaker can also be attached to most PC telephony for use with Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom etc.
These challenges can cause elevated levels of discomfort, stress, and anxiety. However, it is important to remember that help is available, and that communication is often the key to starting the journey to positivity and a sense of equilibrium.
Don't suffer in silence because for every problem there is almost always a workable solution. To find out more about, or to book your holistic workplace assessment, please visit https://visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/workplace-assessments/hearing-loss
Struggling to Hear at Work | Visualise Training and Consultancy (visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.
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