The financial impact of hearing loss on your career, and your bottom line, are very serious matters. To help with the topic, we called on the expertise of Nanci Linke-Ellis. This daughter of a Hollywood producer has worked in a variety of bustling, entertainment-related industries over the last 20 years. Her severe hearing loss has always been a part of that experience, but it has not stopped her from reaching her dreams.
Her best advice for dealing with hearing loss issues at work?
“Provide the solution. Don’t try to hide the fact that you have hearing issues. Disclose your hearing loss in a way that helps the company help you,” says Linke-Ellis. “Do the work for them. A lot of times people are afraid to admit what they don’t know, and it’s easier for them to not have to deal with it, so help them.”
In other words, provide your boss or HR person with a specific list of solutions that will help you do your job more effectively. You’ll not only be able to hear — and function — better around the office, you’ll also illustrate your resourcefulness, independence, and problem-solving ability. What business doesn’t want that type of employee?
Conquering Conference Rooms and Phone Calls
In many workplaces, big things happen in conference rooms and on conference calls. Trying to wade through these chaotic events can be challenging, even without hearing loss. Fortunately, there are a variety of solutions to help you participate.
For phone calls, there are volume-enhancement or amplified phones, which increase the volume of the voice on the other end. Other devices include captioning, or use a relay system that shows conversations in text format in near real-time. Bluetooth technology can facilitate access to multiple devices in the workplace. Often incorporated into today’s hearing aids, this technology allows individuals to make calls hands-free.
FM and infrared systems can provide enhanced sound to help overcome challenges in situations made difficult by noise, distance or reverberation. When using FM, you send a signal to personal receivers via a transmitter. The primary speaker (i.e. meeting facilitator) can clip the transmitter to their belt or wear it around their neck. This transmitter sends the signal directly to the individual’s ear.
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MAKE THE MOST OF MEETINGS
Here’s a quick list of tips to make meetings more successful:
Try holding meetings in rooms with carpet and good overall acoustics.
Turn up the lights! Being able to see the speaker is key.
Ask people to speak slowly, and face you while speaking
Take careful notes or, if possible, record the meeting for later review
Repeat any key meeting details to make sure that you understand what was said. Don’t bluff.
Avoid sideline conversations and focus on the meeting’s major purpose. (Something that would be nice for all attendees to remember!)
Another option is a hearing loop system, which operates on a universal frequency. Access to this loop is via a technology called a telecoil, which is available for both hearing aids and cochlear implants.
There are also IP Relay Services and Web-based text relay services that will provide written transcripts of telephone conversations, which might also be a handy way to compile meeting notes, even for the hearing members of a meeting.
There are specific laws regarding the kinds of accommodations companies should provide for employees with hearing loss. These requirements can differ by location, however. Contact the appropriate agency for guidance on what workplace adjustments are required by the state or federal government. From there, you can then work with your employer implement a workable plan.
Thanks to today’s technology, there are a number of powerful device and equipment options, all designed to help those with hearing loss work and thrive.
“I used to have to bluff and barter to get by in business,” explains Linke-Ellis, who was bilaterally implanted with cochlear devices in 1994. “But now, with today’s technology, I can do just about everything. I’m even phone-friendly.”
With the latest captioning devices, smartphones, FM technology, loop systems, Bluetooth-enabled technology, and a never-ending compilation of computer- and Web-based hearing solutions, your options for an accommodating workplace have caught up with the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing – which means that you can now go as far as your career aspirations will take you.
1 – Listening Up in a Down Economy: Better Hearing Institute Launches Public Service Campaign for Better Hearing and Speech Month. Better Hearing Institute. 2005.