Adults with Hearing Loss at Higher Risk for Unemployment 

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Do you know that 60 percent of the American workforce is suffering from hearing loss?

Hearing loss is the third most prevalent medical condition in the U.S. and affects approximately 48 million Americans. One in three have hearing loss for those over the age of 65, and this rises to one in two for people over the age of 75. While some studies have shown that hearing loss rates have declined across the Americans age 20 to 69, young people are still at a high risk of developing hearing loss.

How hearing loss affects people who are already at work

There are lots of ways in which hearing loss can affect work performance.

  • Understanding conversations: Dealing with persistent hearing loss makes it challenging to follow conversations at work. You may be struggling to keep up with lunch break conversations with coworkers. You will also find it difficult to follow what has been said with your employer during meetings or a one-on-one conversation.
  • Background noise difficulties: If you have hearing problems, you won’t be able to hear comfortably in background noise environments. Because of your hearing loss, your ears and brain will find it tougher to distinguish between speech sounds and background noise. You might hear all these sounds simultaneously, or find it difficult to understand a call from someone who is in a public place.
  • Reduced performance: You will not be able to do the job to the best of your ability if you are unable to obey orders or attend meetings, and staff with permanent hearing loss are more likely to make mistakes. They are frequently dismissed and are more likely to be passed over for promotions.

How hearing loss impacts employment prospects

Where you have a hearing loss, seeking or managing jobs can also be challenging. Here’s why:

  • Interviews require you to listen. Most job interviews involve a face-to-face meeting or a video chat. Since these situations often require questions to be asked and answered orally, you are already at a disadvantage. 
  • Many employers misinterpret those with hearing loss as being less equipped for the job. Those with hearing loss are in a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to revealing their hearing loss during an interview. You are legally not required to disclose your hearing loss, but this means you are held to the same hearing standards as everyone else, making it more critical that you appear enthusiastic and responsive during the interview. If you do disclose, you often have to be better qualified for the job to compensate. 
  • Hearing loss can hit your confidence. Hearing loss can be an embarrassing experience and can lead to social isolation. This can increase the risk of all sorts of psychological problems, including anxiety, depression, and a reduction in self-confidence. This might make you less likely to believe in your skills and experience. 

How can those with hearing loss improve their work experience?

  • Wear a hearing aid. Given the apparent advantages of hearing aids, many people who have hearing loss are often not wearing hearing aids. However, about 9 out of 10 wearers if hearing aids across Europe and Japan consider them helpful at work. 
  • Self-confidence: Remember that your hearing loss is only one aspect of you. You’re also a skilled employee and deserve to be on the team
  • Full disclosure: Own up to your hearing loss to yourself and those around you, and you’re better prepared for any communication difficulties that you’re facing at work. Tell your coworkers about your hearing loss and the correct way to communicate. Instead of repeating misheard words, ask them to face you while speaking and to rephrase. 
  • Preparation.  Be at your best during meetings by requesting an agenda in advance. Arrive early and choose a seat in the middle, which gives you the best chance of hearing everyone. 
  • ‘Drop it in an email’: Written correspondence is also helpful for hearing loss sufferers. Whenever possible, recommend that important messages be sent in a visual format such as emails.
  • Learn about new technology. Educate yourself about facilities such as assisted listening devices that could support you in your workplace.
  • Advocate. Stand up for yourself by seeking reasonable accommodations from your employer. Frame it in a way that shows them how they would benefit.
  • Don’t forget spare hearing aid batteries. Assuming you’re already wearing a hearing aid, keeping a stock of hearing aid batteries while traveling for work means you won’t be at a loss if you suddenly run dry.

Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common condition and doesn’t have to stand in the way of your career goals. If you suspect you have a hearing loss, please contact us today. We have the expertise and tools you need to succeed in your future work endeavors.