Businessman who is experiencing hearing loss.

Imagine for a minute you’re a salesman named Bob. Today you’re on a very important call with a potential client. Multiple representatives from their office have gathered to discuss whether to hire your company for the job. As the call continues voices rise and fall…and are sometimes hard to hear. But you’re getting most of it.

Turning the speaker up just makes it sound more distorted. So you simply make do, reading between the lines. You’re really good at that.

As you listen, the voices sound particularly muffled for about a minute. Then all of a sudden you hear, “So what can your company do to help us with this, Bob? ”

You freeze. You didn’t catch the last few minutes and aren’t sure what problem they’re trying to solve. Your boss is counting on you to close this deal. What do you do?

Do you ask them to repeat themselves? They’ll think you were distracted. Do you start using a lot of sales jargon? No, they’ll see right through that.

Every single day, Bob’s, Marilyn’s, Susan’s and Eric’s everywhere go through scenarios like this at work. They try to read between the lines and get by.

But how is untreated hearing loss really impacting your work as a whole? Let’s find out.

Unequal Pay

The Better Hearing Institute surveyed 80,000 people utilizing the same method the US Census Bureau uses to get a representative sampling.

They found that people who have untreated hearing loss make around $12,000 less per year than those who can hear.

Hey, that’s not fair!

We could dig deep to try to find out what the cause is, but it’s pretty clear why Bob’s income isn’t what it should be. Sadly he didn’t close the deal. Everything was going great until the client thought he wasn’t listening to them. They didn’t want to work with a company that doesn’t listen.

He missed out on a $1000 commission.

It was just a misunderstanding. But how do you think this impacted Bob’s career? How might things have been different if he were wearing his hearing aids?

On the Job Injuries

A study reported in the Journal of The American Medical Association found that people with untreated hearing loss are nearly 30% more likely to suffer a serious work accident. Studies also show a 300% increased risk of having a serious fall and ending up in the ER.

And it may come as a surprise that people with mild hearing loss had the highest risk among those with hearing loss. Perhaps they don’t realize that hearing loss of any kind impairs a person at work.

How to Have a Successful Career with Hearing Loss

You have so much to offer an employer:

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Empathy
  • Confidence
  • Personality

Hearing loss shouldn’t overshadow these. But it is often a factor. It may be impacting your job more than you realize. Take steps to reduce the impact like:

  • Asking for a written overview/agenda before a meeting. It will be easier to follow the conversation.
  • Face people when you’re speaking with them. Try to keep phone conversations to a minimum.
  • Make sure your work area is well lit. Seeing lips move can help you follow even if you don’t read lips.
  • Know that you aren’t required to reveal that you have hearing loss during an interview. And the interviewer may not ask. However, you may need to consider if your untreated hearing loss will impact your ability to interview well. In that case, you may decide to disclose this before the interview.
  • Ask for a phone that is HAC (Hearing Aid Compatible). The sound goes straight into your ear instead of through background noise. You will need hearing aids to use one.
  • Speak up when a task is beyond your abilities. For example, your boss may want you to cover for someone who works in a noisy part of the building. Offer to do something else to make up for it. This way it never seems like you’re not doing your part.
  • Write a respectful accommodations letter to your boss. This way you have it in writing. You’ll find a template here.
  • Wear your hearing aids to work every day, all the time. When you do, many of the accommodations aren’t necessary.

Hearing Loss at Work

It does impact your work. In fact, mild hearing loss may be worse than moderate, in some cases. But getting it treated will often eliminate any barriers you face with untreated hearing impairment.