Research carried out at Portland State, Oregon State, and York Universities was published as a collaborative study. This research has made inroads into the workplace hearing loss experience, possible remedies, and builds on earlier research material.
Hearing Loss in the Workplace
As people (workers) age, hearing loss becomes more likely. The workplace experience by design is collaborative and based on the principles of teamwork. It is often based on a hierarchical working system. Like all systems, the workplace system is only as good as its weakest component. Sadly, this will often be a person who falls outside the system’s expectations. When all employees in a workplace are hearing, they may develop an expectation of their normal behavior. Therefore a employee with hearing loss falls outside of their proposed communication strategies.
This can make anyone who has hearing loss feel isolated and lonely. Without acknowledging communication challenges and including supportive management, someone with hearing loss will often face negative career enhancement and advancement. This can lead to increased feelings of isolation, along with mental and emotional health issues.
According to what the study has found, employees with a more significant degree of hearing loss actually tend to have a better work experience overall. This is primarily because they tend to distance themselves from work-based relationships. These workers have also emphasized making and maintaining professional connections less often than their hearing counterparts.
Insight From the Authors
Liu-Qin Yang, professor of industrial-organizational psychology at Penn State, and one of the study’s co-authors, stated, “Even if self-isolation is an effective coping mechanism, those employees ultimately have worse career outcomes in the areas of attitudes, commitment, satisfaction and salary levels.”
Professor Yang’s co-authors, who are both hard of hearing, each offered their own input. Brent Lyons of York University has fluctuating hearing loss which ranges from severe to profound to moderate at times. He explained that his communication needs vary. It is better when an open environment is created for him by those in management roles. This helps to accommodate his differing needs depending on his daily experience. At times he needs captions, while at other times, he just needs to be seated closer to others. He has found that those in supervisory roles that regularly interact with him and ask about his needs help him enjoy his work experience and be a productive workforce member. This enables him to fully participate in the workplace. He suggested that supervisors should create a culture of respect and understanding among their employees.
David Baldridge of Oregon State, the third co-author of the study and someone who has the lived experience of full hearing, deafness, and now improved hearing via cochlear implants, had this to say: “Focusing on the results and not how the work is done is also important. Organizing a one-on-one meeting or lunch in a quiet location would be more effective for an employee with hearing loss than trying to introduce them to people at a cocktail party. Supervisors can also connect them with employee resource groups or organizations such as the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA).”
“Focusing on the results and not how the work is done is also important.”
The study explained that it wasn’t suggesting that managers stop assisting employees with more severe hearing loss. Rather, it aims to offer a more structured support system tailored to the worker as an individual. This would be a correct implementation of inclusive behavior. A colleague with hearing loss, to a lesser degree, tries to fit in with their workmates and struggles to communicate and understand their peers. This scenario often leads to misunderstandings and assumptions from hearing colleagues. The downside of attempting to fit in is that they often feel anxious and awkward.
When a worker with hearing loss and no management support or understanding attends a meeting, their colleagues will have an unfair advantage. This will often give rise to behaviors which exclude the deaf individual. This can lead to peer groups making assumptions about their abilities and competence regarding the person’s position at the company.
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an actor, writer and journalist who writes in the deaf WellBeing and Lifestyle areas. He lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 and has moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and constant tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver Nathos Auto M hearing aids. Member DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community)
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