Communication At Work: May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!

In Communication by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
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May has been known as Better Speech and Hearing Month for over 75 years. The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) spends this month raising awareness of communication disorders, such as hearing loss and supplying audiologists and hearing specialists with the critical information they need to inform their patients. This year, the theme they are promoting is ‘Communication at Work.’

ASHA urges everyone to look closely at how they deal with hearing loss at work, make positive changes to reduce communication issues, and improve performance.

Why good hearing is critical in the workplace

Most work situations require verbal communication to engage in business effectively and communicate with the public; in this way, good hearing is essential for job security.

Without proper hearing, those with hearing loss can be expected to make more mistakes and suffer miscommunications between them and their coworkers.

Untreated hearing loss leads to lost earnings

Based on a survey, a Better Hearing Institute report concluded that letting hearing loss go untreated has significant income implications, specifically:

  • Hearing loss has been shown to have an overall adverse effect on household income, up to $12,000 a year, depending on the degree of hearing loss.
  • The total loss of earnings due to untreated hearing loss is estimated at $122 billion.

One silver lining they found was that hearing aids could reduce the impact of hearing loss on income by 50%. Therefore, the use of hearing aids at work is highly recommended.

Apart from treating hearing loss, how else can you mitigate the threat of lost earnings, promotions, and job prospects due to hearing loss? It begins by more effectively disclosing your hearing loss at work.

Disclosure strategies

A recent Massachusetts Eye and Ear study found that when talking about hearing loss, most people fell into one of three approaches. The approach they selected was able to predict how successful they were in managing their hearing loss. These approaches include non-disclosure, basic disclosure, and a multipurpose disclosure.

  1. Non-disclosure: as the name suggests, non-disclosers didn’t want to talk about their hearing loss. They might appear rude because they are more likely to blame someone else for their hearing loss. Comments like “I can’t understand you” or “speak up and stop mumbling!” means they reflect responsibility for the communication to the other person. This means they find it hard to connect with their colleagues, and their lack of honesty makes teamwork harder to achieve.
  2. Basic Disclosure: People who use a basic disclosure talk to people they are closest to and trust most about their hearing difficulties. They might say something like: “I have trouble hearing due to an ear infection I had many years ago.”While this is undoubtedly an improvement on non-disclosure, the conversation partner is still left to wonder how best to accommodate the needs of the person with hearing loss.
  3. Multipurpose Disclosure: These people share their condition, then offer a way to facilitate communication. Multipurpose disclosers maintain a substantial degree of control in the position by thinking about ways the other person or people can accommodate their hearing loss. An example might sound like, “I have trouble hearing. Could you please look at me while you’re talking as it helps me with lip reading.”

Advocacy at work 

This multipurpose had the most impact on improving communication between those with hearing loss and their hearing coworkers. This is a win/win for everyone in the conversation: you will eliminate communication barriers, and the other person will have a better understanding of how to connect with you. By teaching others how to handle your hearing loss, you will work better in teams and accomplish more.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to be a poster child for the cause. By disclosing one-on-one with a person who needs to know, you can keep your condition discreet while still gaining the benefits of improved communication.

If you’re looking to improve your communication at work, treating your hearing loss is a great place to start. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your career goals through better hearing.