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Tips for working with an employee who has hearing loss

working with an employee who has hearing loss
I recently had a doctor reach out to me inquiring about communicating with an employee with a cochlear implant.

It took me a second to provide an actual answer. Working with an employee who has hearing loss can come with challenges on both sides. Knowing how to work effectively with that person can make all the difference for you and them! From my own experiences in the professional world as well as connecting with other employees with hearing loss and their employers, I’ve created tips for working with an employee who has hearing loss.

1) Understand your employee

When it comes to working with an employee who has hearing loss, learning and understanding their challenges and assets will go a long way. Curiosity with a genuine approach will be your best friend. Ask them questions about their devices and their hearing loss. Ask how they work best.

Phonak hEARo Stu Nunnery says, “Get it right from the get-go. Understand your employee’s challenges and skills – make them known to your other employees.”

“Get it right from the get go. Understand your employee’s challenges and skills – make them known to your other employees.”

2) Communicate Effectively

Being open and honest is key. Discussing ways to communicate with each other and other employees will help all involved. Use visuals when available. Gestures always enhance understanding.

3) Support and encourage your employee

Your employee may be deaf, but they’re not dumb. Encourage and support them. They need to know you’re in their corner. A happy employee often yields productive work and a satisfied boss.

Nunnery encourages employers to “celebrate that employee’s ‘special’ life and get beyond the stigma that others may have.”

By teaming up with your employee, problems will be minimal.

Read more: Top benefits of hiring deaf and hard of hearing people

4) Provide accommodations if needed

Be vocal with your employee about your willingness to provide accommodations. They should let you know what they need from you in this regard without feeling guilty. If they ask you to wear a microphone during staff meetings, for example, please be courteous and remember to do that each time.

5) Don’t be shy

Again, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to express your concerns. They have a lot to learn and a lot to offer. To get the best out of your employee, be upfront with them about what you expect and anything you may be worried about.

In talking to the doctor mentioned above after a conversation he had with his deaf employee, he said, “TALK to your potential employee. TELL them your concern. LET them guide you. Then, as an employer, observe interactions and listen to customers. If they have concerns about communication with your hearing-impaired employees, then act accordingly.”

6) Be patient

Above all, be patient with your employee. Most often they are quite hard on ourselves for not being able to catch everything that’s said. They’re hard workers and are grateful for the opportunity to work when they’ve been written off by so many others.

These seemingly small but effective tips will be tremendously helpful and rewarding with your employee who has hearing loss.

I leave you with this wonderful observation and suggestion by a friend of mine and a fellow employee who is deaf, Sydney Andrews.

“My two cents..the only thing we can’t do is hear,” says Andrews. “We are capable, hardworking, and have the ability to communicate, but need an inclusive and safe space to learn and grow and show our abilities. Honest and clear communication (often sarcasm or verbal cues are missed, and nonverbal cues are constantly being assessed) is expected and necessary for communication to be where it should be.”

Author Details
Ashley is a 29-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other. She plays soccer for the USA Women’s National Deaf Team. She’s currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.