Living with hearing loss is a journey with many stages. It starts with awareness of the problem, hesitation and moving forward to do something about it. The journey can bring with it plenty of frustration for everyone involved when communication is difficult, as well as social isolation in all aspects of our lives.
Hearing loss is a unique experience for everyone and will vary depending on the severity of the loss, personality and openness to technology. Many hands make light work, so support from family, friends and even colleagues can make the journey a lot easier.
Working with a colleagues who lives with hearing loss can be challenging for both you and them and many people find it difficult to talk about. That’s why we’re here! We’ve written this blog to help you, the colleague, get an insight into living with hearing loss and how you can support your co-worker living with hearing loss.
What is hearing loss?
So, what is hearing loss? It’s complex and there is an overwhelming amount of information out there.
Some people find they can communicate without hearing aids in certain situations and so may not use their devices all of the time, while others are completely dependent on them. Hearing aids are also used by some people to alleviate their tinnitus while others use devices such as cochlear implants and bone anchored hearing systems.
A hearing aid isn’t a quick fix. There is an adjustment period, which varies person to person, and each new user opens the door to a lifelong relationship with technology and support from a hearing provider. Hearing aids don’t put a stop to communication problems either, there are still many challenging everyday situations where your colleague will need support.
What can you do to support your colleague with hearing loss?
Creating an inclusive work environment is an important step in providing your colleague the support they need. This may mean repeating jokes or including them in small talk so they don’t feel isolated. Reducing background noise during meetings will help your co-worker keep up with conversation. Keep an eye out for silence, this can be a sign that they are not hearing everything that is being said.
Be open and prepared to make changes in daily work routines. This may mean adjusting tasks or the flow of meetings and presentations so that your colleague can follow along with conversation and avoid missing important information. Be sure to speak to them before removing them from tasks.
Avoid labelling them as rude or antisocial. Although it can be seen as antisocial behaviour, choosing to avoid lunch in noisy areas or social gatherings can be sign of hearing loss. Your colleague may be struggling to follow conversation in noisy environments which may lead to them feeling left out.
Put yourself in their shoes and be curious to learn about the superpowers they’ve developed as a result of their hearing loss. Navigate your curiosity slowly as you build rapport with your co-worker, bombarding them with questions can be just as uncomfortable as being ignored!
Most importantly, ask! Your best tool is your voice so speak to your colleague and find out what they need and how you can best support them at work.
Our 7 Communication Tips to Make Conversation Easier
- Speak slowly, clearly and be prepared to repeat yourself
- Start and finish the conversation facing them
- Don’t speak with your mouth full of food
- Don’t speak with your hand in front of your mouth
- Avoid turning your back to your co-worker when you speak
- Don’t mumble or whisper
- Don’t call their name when they have their back turned to you
If you or a colleague are struggling with the symptoms of hearing loss it might be time to book in a hearing test. You can visit our website Hearing Sense for more information on hearing loss and its symptoms or call our lovely team on 8331 8047 to book in a FREE hearing test.