Whether you realize it or not, it is statistically likely you work with someone who has hearing loss. In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.” We review ways you can support a coworker with hearing loss below.
You can create a supportive work environment by including your coworker in activities like team lunch or happy hour. You can also be inclusive by repeating or rephrasing a joke someone told if they look confused.
Group settings, like conference meetings, are particularly challenging for people with hearing loss, so try to include visuals wherever possible if you’re leading a meeting.
When you’re conversing with your coworker, know that they may have a hard time understanding what you’re saying, so they may ask you to repeat yourself frequently. If you practice patience, you’ll find that you can have deep, meaningful conversations with them.
Use Communication Strategies
To make the conversation flow better, use the following communication strategies:
- Speak a little slower and a lot clearer than usual, but still naturally.
- Face your coworker directly when talking to them.
- Say their name and get their attention before you begin conversing.
- Avoid talking with food in your mouth or when chewing gum.
- Converse somewhere with good lighting.
- Rephrase rather than repeat when they don’t understand.
You can ask your coworker questions about their preferred communication strategies and about their hearing aids, within reason. For example, you can ask if there are any specific communication strategies that would be helpful for you to employ, or you can ask how their hearing aids work. However, you need to be sure these are not the only topics of conversation with them!
If your coworker who has hearing loss doesn’t participate in conversations in the break room, or if they prefer to hang out in their hotel room during an out-of-town conference, it’s important that you don’t label them as being anti-social or rude. They may be experiencing listening fatigue when they’re in complex listening situations, like happy hour at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Reboboth Beach, even though they want to hang out.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a hearing loss expert, call Wilmington Audiology Services today.