Managing hearing loss in the workplace

There is no reason why hearing loss should stop you from having a fulfilling and enjoyable work life. Whether you’re starting a new job or looking for ways to make your day run more smoothly, these simple tips will help you get the most out of your time at work.

It's a good idea to be open, honest and approachable when it comes to discussing your hearing loss at work. There can be a lot of misunderstanding around what people with hearing loss can and can't do. Most people will be keen to know how they can help to make communication easier for you but some may feel reluctant to ask for fear of offending or upsetting. The best way to tackle this is to educate those around you. Encourage questions and keep a sense of humour.

Give your colleagues some practical tips that will become second nature to them after a while. It might be sending an email rather than phoning, or something as simple as making sure their mouth isn't obscured when they are talking. If you have a "good side" for hearing, tell them which it is ... and remind them if they forget!

Meetings, particularly large ones, can be challenging work situations for people with hearing loss. The mixture of different people speaking and interrupting, large rooms, note taking and trying to keep track of the content in such a busy environment can make it an exhausting experience.

However, there's a lot you can do to make meetings less draining:                     

  • If you are in a position to choose the room and/or the layout, look at the acoustics and lighting. Round tables make it easier to see each person face-on and so aid lip-reading.
  • Some people find it easier to keep track during meetings if they have as much information about the content beforehand, so ask if there is a detailed agenda available.
  • If you are using any technology to help you hear, make sure it is charged up so you don't need to be fiddling around with batteries while the meeting is taking place. 
  • Ask for presentations to be captioned or to have a script provided to you.
  • Set up a simple system that will make it easier for you to hear or to know when someone is speaking, such as the speaker raising their hand.
  • During brainstorming sessions, have someone write on a whiteboard so you don't miss ideas as they are suggested.
  • Ideally you will have someone to take notes for you throughout the meeting so you can concentrate on looking at the people speaking rather than taking notes, however this may not always be possible.

Most importantly, if something is not working for you, or there are things that people around you could be doing to make communications easier, speak up! Most people want to help, they just may need to be told how.