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Stop Hearing Loss From Hurting Your Career

4 recommendations for people with difficulties hearing at work

By Jessica Thiefels

As more people in their 50s and 60s continue working, more of them are doing so with some hearing loss. If you’re one, you’ll want to take a few appropriate steps to prevent hearing problems from causing you a problem keeping, or finding, a job.

Hearing Loss
Credit: Adobe

“Adults in the workforce who experience even minor hearing loss risk losing out on job opportunities,” said Corrine Perritano, president of Beltone North America, which operates 1,500 hearing-aid centers. “The possibility that you could appear less competent or be passed over for a promotion is a very good reason to have your hearing checked.”

According to Consumer Reports, roughly 48 million Americans have difficulty hearing. But many of them don’t seem to want to admit it or deal with it. When Consumer Reports surveyed 122,000 members about hearing loss last year, nearly a third who acknowledged trouble hearing had never had the problem diagnosed.

Regularly asking coworkers to repeat themselves can make you feel like a burden.

By law, the Americans With Disabilities Act “prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in applying for jobs, hiring, firing and job training.” Nevertheless, there are many ways hearing loss can affect your career.

It could even depress your pay. A 2013 hearing loss study published in Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology found that working people with hearing loss made nearly 25%  less than those working without the diagnosis.

Much of our business communication now happens online, but if you work in an office, you likely have conversations in passing and in-person meetings regularly. When you can’t hear well, this becomes a daily challenge.

The Biggest Work Issues for People With Hearing Loss

A 2014 hearing loss survey of 1,500 U.S. full-time workers conducted by EPIC Hearing Healthcare found the most significant issues when communicating with hearing loss include:

  • Having to ask people to repeat what they said (61%)
  • Misunderstanding what’s being said (42%)
  • Pretending to hear even when they can’t (40%)

Hearing woes can lead to a wide range of emotions that detract from a positive sense of self, reducing self-esteem and confidence. Regularly asking coworkers to repeat themselves can make you feel like a burden and mishearing an important task detail could be embarrassing when your final deliverable is wrong.

All of these little moments can add up, making you less confident fulfilling the duties of your job. And if you’re not confident in yourself as an employee, you’re less likely to ask for a raise or take on challenging projects that could lead to a promotion.


“While people cannot discriminate against you because of hearing loss, they may fail to promote you if they do not see results that they consider necessary for promotion,” according to an article by doctors at Colorado Ear Center, a Greenwood Village, Colo.  practice.

4 Steps for People With Hearing Loss

If you do suffer from hearing loss, don’t let it affect your career. Instead, take the following four steps to correct your hearing and get back in the game:

1. Get tested: See an audiologist or a hearing specialist for a hearing test to see how serious your issue is. Then, get hearing aids if necessary.

2. Communicate with co-workers: If the people you work with don’t know about your hearing loss, they’ll never be able to make communication easier for you. They may even be as frustrated as you are. So, talk frankly to your colleagues about your hearing loss. That could make your time in the office smoother and less stressful.

3. Record work meetings and calls: If you have a hard time hearing, record the work conversations you have. This lets you listen again for information you missed the first time. Just remember to get approval from others involved before recording.

4. Ask for follow-up emails: After a meeting, request an email follow up from its leader, detailing the main points. If you missed something, the email will help you spot and correct before this before it becomes a problem.

 “As we age, hearing loss is a natural, often unavoidable, part of life. Whether or not you have hearing loss, it’s important to schedule a hearing screening annually to establish a benchmark, just as you would do with your vision,” said Perritano.

Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes and Fast Company.  She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn. Read More
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