Workplace Communication Tips for People With Hearing Loss
Workplace communication can be challenging for people with hearing loss, but there are steps we can take to increase our chances for success. While many communication best practices rely on communication partners to make accommodations, there are also things that the person with hearing loss can and should do. I share my list below. Please add your suggestions in the comments.
Understand your hearing loss
Everyone’s hearing challenges are unique, so each of us must learn to identify which listening situations are most problematic and, through trial and error, what adjustments are most helpful. Then we need to take the next step, which is making the adjustments necessary or being brave and asking for the help we need.
Arrive well rested
I often hear better in the morning after a quiet night of rest and relaxation for my brain. Scheduling important conversations for early in the day lets you bring your strongest hearing with you. If this is not possible, try to factor in some rest time ahead of an important meeting to recharge your listening batteries. This can be as simple as taking a walk around the block or a trip to the rest room.
Advocate for yourself
Disclosing your hearing loss at work is a personal decision, but as I learned in my own life — and believe me, it took me a while to learn this — it is almost always better to be up front about it. It is much easier to ask for the help you need if you can explain why it is that you need it.
Educate your colleagues about communication best practices
Communication is a two-street, and you will need assistance from your colleagues to help you function your best in your job. Simple tricks like setting ground rules for meetings such that only one person speaks at a time can help everyone communicate better. Ask people to get your attention before speaking to you and to make sure they are facing you and enunciating clearly. You will likely need to remind them more times than you would like, but it is necessary and to everyone’s benefit to remain positive in your requests.
Try using technology like speech-to-text apps. Some like LiveTranscribe from Google are very accurate, but only work on Android phones. Nothing is recorded or saved. Other apps like Otter work on all platforms and do have the ability to save the discussion and produce a transcript. Be sure to check whether this is allowed at your company before utilizing these technologies.
Live Transcribe demonstration. Closed captions are available on this video. If you are using a mobile phone, please enable captions clicking on the gear icon.
Remote mic systems like Roger pens can also be helpful. A remote mic can be placed in the center of the table or can be worn by the primary speaker. Sound is then transmitted directly into a hearing aid or to linked headphones, helping to bring the sound directly to the person with hearing loss. Again, be sure to check with management before you utilize these tools.
For some product tips, see Hearing Tracker's editor's note below.
Make very specific suggestions
Because hearing loss is an invisible disability, people may not know that we need help unless we ask for it. We can’t be shy, and we must be as specific as possible in our requests. Well-intentioned people may try to help us by shouting or leaning into our ear, but this will block their lips. Show them what you mean if at first they don’t understand.
Use visual clues
Instead of asking immediately for a repeat when you miss something, listen for a little bit to see if you can figure it out from the context. You can also place your hand behind your ear to signal to the speaker that you are having trouble hearing. This gets the speaker to speak louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation.
Stay healthy and informed
Get plenty of rest, eat healthy food, and exercise. The better you feel, the more energy you have for listening. Since context is important for following conversations, try to stay abreast of current news and social happenings. It is easier for me to understand a new name of a client or company or celebrity if I have seen or heard it before.
Make peace with your hearing loss
This is a tough one for some, but it is an important one. If we seem comfortable with our hearing loss, others will be too. We must forgive ourselves if we miss some of the dialogue in a social situation and pace ourselves so we can maintain energy for future conversations. And if something goes wrong, that is okay. Some of the mis-hearings can be hilarious if we let them be.
If you are a hearing aid user and struggle to hear at work, remote mic systems can be especially helpful. All the leading brands offer remote mic solutions. To learn about what’s available, visit Hearing Tracker’s hearing aids page and click on any of the brands mentioned for the latest info on their accessories.
As Shari mentioned in her post, Phonak’s Roger Pen is a good example. It has a unique form factor that has proven extremely popular:
For group meetings, Phonak’s Table Mic is designed specifically for conference rooms. Multiple table mics can even be networked for very large conference tables.
And if you don’t wear Phonak hearing aids (or don’t wear hearing aids at all) you can still benefit from Phonak’s Roger devices using the Phonak Roger MyLink accessory. The Roger MyLink will allow any telecoil-enabled hearing aids to receive audio from Roger mics, and the Roger MyLink also includes an 3.5mm audio output jack so you can receive audio via your headphones of choice.