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My experience working with hearing loss in the entertainment industry

working with hearing loss

Hearing in the workplace. Pretty essential and necessary, yes, but in today’s society when so much is done over email and the internet, it’s becoming less of a necessity.

I may be saying this just to make myself feel better about how much anxiety I experience when applying for jobs.

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, “While people in the workplace with the mildest hearing losses show little or no drop in income compared to their normal-hearing peers, as the hearing loss increases, so does the reduction in compensation.”

This fact alone is one reason I’ve always been so hesitant to reveal the details of my hearing loss to a potential employer. Being a female is a fight enough. Being a female with a severe hearing loss is a whole different game.

Why does compensation go down?

Why exactly does compensation go down? Let’s think about it for a second. The way I get the message/task may take a little more time than someone with full hearing. As hearing loss worsens it may take longer. But that is if you insist on verbally telling me what to do.

Personally, I think it should always be in writing for the purpose of both parties having the exact same bit of information. Words can get lost in translation (which can happen in writing, too, I know, but not in the same way), but maybe that’s just me.

Anyways, just because we can’t always hear does not mean we’re not capable of achieving goals and accomplishing tasks. In fact, most of the time it’s just the opposite.

Why employers should hire more people with hearing loss

We’ve been fighting our whole lives to prove we’re worthy. Our determination and dedication show even more because of this. Don’t you want someone who is loyal and hardworking?

We’re detail-oriented and can provide insight that others might not have. We work extra hard and can take direction well. Oh, and when you have our attention, you have our full attention. We actually look at your face and give you eye contact.

Many jobs require lots of note taking while on the phone or in meetings. As someone who is a perfectionist and likes having all the details, this task has been a struggle at times. Especially because it’s almost a given from the get-go that I may not get all the details down. Thankfully, I’ve learned to type quite quickly without looking at the screen, so I can lip read and type at the same time. Some days are better than others in this arena.

Read more: 7 Tips for using a Phonak Roger Pen

Using phones in the workplace

I can remember having high anxiety when I first started looking for jobs in the entertainment industry. All of the jobs that I knew about at the time were very phone heavy. I was terrified to reveal the details of my hearing loss, but I was determined to make it in this industry. Eventually, I just sucked it up and sat on desks waiting anxiously for the phone to ring and sweating profusely when it did.

I did have a few times where the person on the other end of the line would get frustrated with me for not getting the details right which would send me into a frenzy, but I did not need their pity by explaining the truth. I just took the negativity and did my best to move forward.

At the time, I preferred on-set jobs because while we used walkie-talkies to communicate, you could usually visually see the person you were chatting with if need be. Walkie-talkies can prove problematic at times, though, because many go in the ear, and if you wear hearing aids, they’re not exactly compatible. Luckily for me, due to my Esteem implant, I was able to wear that type of headset.

Listening to accents on the phone and in person is also really difficult. Don’t get me started! When I went to work for an entertainment marketing agency that was not incredibly phone-centric, I felt an immediate sense of relief.

“When I went to work for an entertainment marketing agency that was not incredibly phone-centric, I felt an immediate sense of relief.”

After a few weeks, I quickly realized that the calls that did come in were from the same few people. I read the caller ID and memorized their voices, so I was better prepared each time the phone did ring. There was the occasional unknown caller, but my anxiety and stress levels had subsided so much at this point.

My boss never faulted me for getting a name wrong. In fact, he didn’t know about my hearing loss until a year into employment. Only because I had to have an Esteem battery replacement surgery. I made up for my phone mishaps in an organization, being detail oriented, and doing everything that was asked of me (and more) in a timely manner.

I’m grateful the way technology has evolved that does allow deaf and hard of hearing to be more involved in the workforce. Regardless of how much improves, we’ll always have hurdles to get over. It’s never an easy road, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? 

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