Although everyone experiences hearing loss differently, the journey toward better hearing becomes easier with support from relatives, friends and even colleagues. Working with a colleague who lives with hearing loss can be a challenge. Hearing loss is complex and there is an overwhelming amount of information out there, and without the right information, this can affect your relationship with your co-worker.
Fortunately, there are many small and simple adjustments to help a colleague with hearing loss feel more included, supported, and equal in the workplace. Be open and prepared to make some daily changes to your working habits in the team. If you are a manager, for example, during presentations or meetings, ensure in advance they will be able to hear speakers clearly.
1. Create an inclusive work environment
This can mean anything from letting your colleague know when everyone is going to lunch to repeating jokes and including them in office small talk. Remember that many people with hearing loss find group conversations, especially those with rapidly changing topics, difficult to follow. If they are not participating in chit-chat, it may be a sign they aren’t hearing everything being said.
2. Avoid labeling them as anti-social
You may be tempted to think your colleague is rude or anti-social. However, many individuals with hearing loss avoid noisy areas, like the cafeteria or happy hours, as it may be difficult to follow conversations. On business trips they may choose to stay behind in a quiet hotel or lounge. Consider the fact that your colleague may feel left out and try to make accommodations when possible and feasible.
3. Feel free to ask questions – within reason
Ask your colleague what they need and how you (and the team) can support them. However, not everyone wants undue attention put on their hearing loss. By meeting them where they are on their hearing loss journey, you can create a relaxed atmosphere which allows them the support they need. Encourage them to take action on their hearing loss, if they haven’t yet and are feeling frustrated. Point them toward company resources if possible.
Try these tips for better communication at work
Because many people with hearing loss can understand you better when they can see you, these communication tips can make conversations easier:
- Speak slowly, clearly and be prepared to repeat yourself
- Start and finish conversations while facing your colleague
- Don’t speak with your hand in front of your mouth
- Don’t turn your back on your colleague when speaking or presenting
- Avoid mumbling or whispering
Wondering about other ways you can help your colleague with hearing loss? Just ask them!
Ready to test your own hearing? Try our quick and easy online hearing test.