Accommodations Communication Access Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Self Advocacy Workplace

How do we build confidence at work with hearing loss?

Building confidence at work with hearing loss can seem like a far fetched dream, especially after a sudden change in hearing. It pulls the rug right out from under our feet. Typically, we handle in a few ways:

  • We take the denial route.  This looks like smiling and nodding, laughing off mis-hears and pretending nothing is wrong. 
  • Maybe we let people know we have hearing loss but we don’t know how to handle it. When we don’t know how to manage our hearing loss, how can we tell others? So we’re all guessing and frustrated.  (Many of us don’t know what we need at first.)

Neither way builds confidence.

How do we gain confidence with hearing loss at work? 

If we have a mild to moderate loss, we might think we’re skating by so we don’t address it directly. Is it still affecting us? You bet! Because of hearing loss, we are not aware of everything that’s happening around us. Coworkers may try to talk to us in the halls and we walk by. We didn’t hear them! Maybe we heard them talking but it was in the background so we thought they were talking to someone else. It didn’t fully register.  There’s also the times we misunderstand a thing or two at the staff meetings and have to backtrack. How about when we get the name wrong or didn’t hear a number right when taking a message from a phone call? It can feel like a minefield. With today’s technology, a little self advocacy and by learning a few new strategies, we can repair that confidence.  

Own Your Hearing Loss

Minor instances, like those above, begin to stack up. We begin to look bad and possibly incompetent. (Ugh, we cringe saying that! We are competent!) If we haven’t owned our hearing loss, or been upfront about it, we come across odd or rude. Coworkers make assumptions and it’s not the best ones. It also leads to missed opportunities. The more often these things happen, the worse we appear and we might feel it. Eventually, it affects our confidence. This is why it’s important to own your hearing loss.

A green square within a green square. A cutting of a branch with leaves on each side. A black outline of a person behind a steering wheel.
Get out of the Passenger seat, Get in the Driver’s Seat

It takes a little time to build confidence so don’t wait. Start right now. Be professional with your hearing loss at work. In 2012, Chelle attended a workshop called “Landing That Job” (or something close to that) by Malik El-Amin at the HLAA convention. The gist of the workshop was that we had to be confident enough to show that we manage our hearing loss. At that point in life, that was far-fetched to Chelle. With a little practice and effort, she totally gets it now!  

Acknowledge Your Strengths
a green square within a green square. There are 5 leaves at the bottom. There's a black shape of a person stretching with one leg up in the air and one arm out in front.

First of all, we aren’t without our strengths. We all have several things we are good at. Take a moment and make a list of the things you can do well at work? Here’s some examples from Chelle:

I couldn’t focus on my strengths at first. All I saw were the things I couldn’t do. As I got used to my new drop in hearing, I started to see where I was better than others:

  • Maybe I’m not the best person to answer phones. (I can with caption phones now, still not my fav mode of communication.) However, I’m on top of email like few other people are. I’m also a fast responder when it comes to texting. With 48 million people with some form of hearing loss, we need to make sure we’re available through those channels with today’s businesses.
  • I might not be the best one to take notes for the meeting, be the secretary so to speak. I can help manage the information leading up to the meeting because one of my strengths is being organized. I’m very good at planning ahead. I can create an agenda, arrange for speakers and send out reminders. This also helps me anticipate what will happen at the meeting and be able to follow along easier.
Know Your Accommodations

Accepting, and using, accommodations is another key to confidence. Instead of floundering around and hoping we are doing well enough, we have an accommodation that smooths out the process and gives us the confidence to do our job.  

Before you go to the HR department (Human Resources), know what’s available. Do your research. Get into one of the many hearing loss groups on social media and ask questions to find out what others use. Ask them how they approached management? Use their support to make your own request.

When you’re ready to talk accommodations with your management team, be up front about your research. Talk to them about what you found. Have a list on how the accommodation will help you perform high quality work. Talk through what you need, or would like to try. It may take a couple different trials to get it right. Maybe have JAN available as a resource for your management team so they better understand hearing loss and job accommodations.  Be prepared to try one accommodation at a time.  Remember, it costs a lot more money for an employer to terminate and fill your position than it does to retain you with your needed accommodation. We are valuable employees with contributions that outweigh the use of accommodations.

Be Proactive

Plan ahead. Identify potential challenges  in the workplace and mitigate them. What will you need to be successful at the meeting? List 3 possible solutions around the obstacle. Some examples are below.

Will you use a strategy? (Can we talk one at a time while at staff meetings? Surely I’m not the only one who gets lost with multiple people talking.) Maybe there needs to be a few minor environmental changes. (Lights turned up, picking your best seat, getting rid of obstacles on the table, sitting in a circle instead of a long table.) Or do you need an accommodation like CART/live captioning? Not only does CART provide equal access for participation, the notes also make great minutes for the meeting. Is the meeting online? Can they enable the ASR (automatic speech recognition) captions? Can you use an ASR app from your phone? Or can you dial into the conference call with InnoCaption? Some states also have RCC (Relay Conference Captioning, example is Colorado ) services available.

Learning how to use accommodations and get around the obstacles will help boost confidence. We come across as competent in spite of hearing loss. 

Practice Effective Communication
A white square within a green square. Several branch cuttings on the right. In black, general outlines, two people meeting face to face with dialog boxes above their heads.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) talks about effective communication. Effective communication can mean American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, CART, assistive listening and more. Remember, one size does not fit all. Find what works best for you. 

In searching the internet for “confidence at work”, they also talk about using effective communication. (We found this article on Forbes.) Effective communication is a shared responsibility. We have a part too. Step up your game by being honest about your hearing loss and communication needs. Here’s what we suggest:

Be open with your coworkers about what works for you. Hearing people have a lot of misconceptions. When we are proactive, we clear up misconceptions. Here are a few ideas:

  • Speak up about hearing loss communication needs at a staff meeting. If you have a hard time talking about it all, ask to have a short training provided by someone else. (Hearing Loss LIVE! is available for ADA style trainings on hearing loss.) 
  • If that doesn’t work, circulate an email with information on it. We have a “Dear Family” letter that can be adjusted for coworkers. (Contact us for this letter.)
  • Talk to one person at a time. Set a meeting, one person at a time and talk about the obstacles and what works better for you.
Set Goals

This comes up again when researching confidence. Reaching goals builds confidence. Take any idea above and make it a goal, or make one of your own. Break it down into steps. Give yourself a deadline and do it! Get your HoH community involved with your goal. It’s good to have cheerleaders.

Practice makes perfect. Keep forging ahead. If you fall down (we all do, it’s called learning experiences), get up and dust yourself off. Place one foot in front of the other and continue on. Most people are going to be okay working with us. 

Learn More with Hearing Loss LIVE!
  • We’ve talked about Hearing Loss at Work in the past. Read it HERE and click on the link for the captioned podcast.  
  • Learn more about the benefits of CART/live captioning HERE and how to request it.
  • Here is a 2005 article by Hearing Review about the impact of hearing loss on income.
Accommodations ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Communication Practices Community Members Connections Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss

Toastmasters with Harry Wolfe

Audible Talkers is a hearing loss friendly Toastmasters group started by Harry Wolfe.  It’s based in Arizona but because meetings are online via Zoom, anyone from anywhere can join. (Several members have been from different countries.) Chelle was invited to attend an online meeting during the pandemic by a mutual friend who also has hearing loss. By joining this group, Chelle improved her speaking skills and made a valuable connection with the hearing loss community in Arizona. She appreciates Harry’s efforts to make the club accessible to those of us with hearing loss. He also advocates to help Toastmaster clubs to become more hearing loss aware. Today, we introduce you to Harry Wolfe.

Zoom gallery view with 14 Audible Talkers Toastmasters members present. everyone is smiling. Several members have hearing loss in this Toastmasters group.
Audible Talkers Toastmasters first meeting online.
Accessibility Accommodations ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Cochlear Implants Communication Access Hard of Hearing Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Hearing Technology

Smartphone Built-in Accessibility for Hearing Loss

Smartphones, both iPhone and Android operating systems, have come a long way in accessibility for those with hearing loss. There’s several great, built-in features on each phone with a variety of apps to make life easier. This post is only for quick reference. There are a few explanations and a link at the end of the sections to explore the features further.

*Note: Some features vary due to having an older phone, how often you update or the company you use.

Advocacy Communication Access Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Hearing Technology Misconceptions Personal advocacy Self Advocacy

Hearing Loss & Confidence

Confidence is hard to come by with hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss can suck the confidence right out of us. It creates continuous doubt… 

  • “Did I hear that right?” This keeps us from speaking up along with, “What if someone makes fun of me?” 
  • “What if I go and can’t hear?” Or, “What if it’s too noisy?” And, “It’s too much work to be out there.” It’s easier to stay home.
  • “What if people get impatient talking to me?” This may be because someone in our past was impatient with repeats. Now we layer that thought onto everyone else. “What if everyone thinks hearing loss is a pain in the ass?”

Ableism from society also chips away at our confidence. 

  • Lack of understanding of accommodations for those with hearing loss.
    • Resistance of live captioning, and/or showing open captions.
    • Assistive listening not being well maintained. Getting the cheapest system, instead of offering a quality listening experience.
  • People thinking our hearing aids fix our hearing loss.
    • “Are your ears on?”
    • “Turn up your hearing aids/cochlear implant!” As if volume is all we need.
  • Forgetting it takes two to communicate. Not facing us to communicate. This happens out in public (facing each other talking used to be the polite thing to do, a social norm). It also happens at home and with friends too.
Accommodations Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Captioning CART (live captioning) Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss, What Did We Learn in 2023?

Every month when we close out a topic at Hearing Loss LIVE!, we ask ourselves – what did we learn? Usually, we’ve learned at least a few things, if not more. The discussions that pop up in our classes and workshops are fabulous! It can be someone new to the hearing loss discussion who spins us a new perspective. Maybe it’s someone with years of hearing loss experience who shared an offbeat tip or different strategy. The learning never stops and we all learn from each other. 

This is a good end of the year question for us at Hearing Loss LIVE!  What did we learn in 2023?