The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that 22 million employees are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work every year. The agency also estimates that approximately $242 million is spent by employers on worker’s compensation for hearing-related claims.
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with hearing loss, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (also known as the “ADA”). What are some ways employers can make it easier for hearing-impaired individuals to cope in the workplace?
Hear-it AISBL—a nonprofit organization that provides information on hearing loss—has compiled a list of strategies for hearing-impaired people to adapt in an office setting. In this article, we’ll share the highlights, edited and adapted from the Hear-it website.
- Limit background noise such as radiators, radios, ventilators, or speakerphones. These sounds may obscure a hearing aid user’s ability to understand conversation as well as being distracting and overly loud.
- Modify the ringer sound on a telephone to help a hearing-impaired person distinguish the sound from others that may sound similar. Hear-it also recommends adding a flashing indicator light or vibration option as a back-up if the ringer cannot be heard.
- As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, FREE captioned and amplified phones are offered to qualified people with hearing loss. You can obtain a qualification form and free phone service by seeing an audiologist or licensed hearing aid specialist. Visit the CapTel, Caption Call, and Hamilton CapTel websites to see the wide range of phones available and details about this program.
- Being in a well-lit room allows the hard-of-hearing person to view the people who are speaking. This can be crucial for lip reading or viewing facial expressions during a conversation.
- Keep as few sound sources as possible in the room. Having to choose between competing sources of sound at varying volumes can be both distracting and confusing for people with hearing problems.
- Fitting a doorbell with a vibrator or flashing light alert can be helpful for notification of visitors.
- Certain environments—such as bare, hard surfaces—can produce an echo, increasing hearing difficulty. Installing acoustic waffles, cushions, carpeting, curtains, and partition walls all can improve acoustics.
- Sending emails or other written messages is another good way to supplement communications with a hearing-impaired employee.
- There are MANY amplification technologies available, including hearing aids, personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), meeting/class room amplification systems, telecoils, and more. Check out our article about amplification options.
- There are many great non-profit organizations that offer resources, tips, and support groups for people with hearing loss, including great advice for those people in the workforce. Check out the Hearing Loss Association of America, AG Bell, and the American Tinnitus Association.
If you suspect you have a hearing problem, the best course of action is to make an appointment with a hearing care professional. Concerned about the cost of treatment? With CareCredit, you can finance the costs associated with hearing care so that you can focus on getting well!
This content was modified from information provided by CareCredit in February 2018 to the 4MyHearingBiz community website and was also adapted from Hear-it.org.