I have several years of work experience under my belt, and in those years I’ve learned some valuable lessons on what NOT to do at work when it comes to my hearing loss, coupled with my own personal experiences.
Do NOT keep your hearing loss a secret
I worked a retail store job when I was 17. When I was hired, I did not tell my manager or my colleagues about my hearing loss, because I was very shy about it at the time, and also did not think it would matter.
After working a couple of shifts, my manager pulled me aside and asked me if I had a problem with the other colleagues in the store, because I would sometimes ignore them whenever they called my name.
That’s when I realized that my hearing loss did matter, and that I should have communicated it at the beginning to my manager and my colleagues. I would’ve prevented this miscommunication from happening.
Be transparent about your hearing loss with your employer and colleagues! An undisclosed hearing loss can create more problems for not just you, but everyone around you. Information can be missed, and wrong assumptions can be made.
Do NOT downplay the severity of your hearing loss
At another job, I attended a large conference with my manager, and we both sat near the back of the room far away from the speaker. My manager asked me to make notes on the presentation and write an article about it afterwards.
He asked me if I was able to hear the speaker okay. I wanted to make a good impression on my manager, and I was worried that if I mentioned that I was having trouble hearing the presenter, he would not take me seriously for future projects…so I said that I could hear the speaker just fine.
I managed to write the article, but I knew that the article could have been better if I took the initiative and sat closer to the speaker, and heard the entirety of the presentation, rather than bits and pieces of it.
Don’t ever downplay your hearing loss. Doing so can negatively affect your performance at work if you are not transparent about what you can and cannot hear.
Do NOT wait for accommodations
When the time came for me to do my first conference call at work, I was not prepared. Before doing the call, I knew I might have trouble hearing and deciphering all the different speakers on the phone call, but chose to wait until after the phone call to do anything about it.
When you take on a new job, try to be proactive about what types of accommodations you might need. Have a discussion with your employer to discuss some of the common difficulties you face with your hearing loss, and anticipate what type of situations where you will need accommodations for.