A Hard Truth About Hearing Loss and Employment

Eyra Abraham,  this week’s guest writer, has fought against several ‘hidden’ hiring stigmas, including hearing loss. Eyra works in marketing and technology and  is an avid traveler who has explored the outdoors and culture of 10 countries in four continents. Eyra lives in Toronto, Ontario.


By Eyra Abraham


I have been ticking off more than one box on the self-identification questions of a job application form.

I am black, hard of hearing and a female.

Self-identification forms remind me that I am not a first choice candidate and that I am somehow “lacking” for being who I am. Belonging to a minority and being female has its challenges but having a hearing loss is equally, if not more, challenging. As a minority woman, there are challenges with promotions, a career dive after having children, lack of equal pay, or simply no calls for interviews because you don’t have a western-sounding name.

However, when you are talking about your disability, you are challenged by the immediate assumptions about lack of ability. Employers have a negative perception that a person with a hearing loss is a burden to an organization. That hurts, especially when you are willing and eager to work and contribute to the society.

Studies shows that these negative biases towards deaf and hard of hearing individuals have created high unemployment rates within our demographic. StatsCan states that the employment rate is under 50% for those with a hearing loss, compared to 73.6% for people without a disability. I am not a stranger to these statistics. I too have lingered back and forth between the 42% of the hearing loss population that are underemployed and the 38% that are unemployed. It has never been easy.

I grew up wearing hearing aids after being diagnosed with a sensorineural hearing loss at three years old. I lived in a household of hearing parents and sisters. There was no sign language in this hearing world. Growing up with highly academic parents, I had to achieve an education and get a good job. This didn’t come naturally to me. My childhood was about trying to keep up with my peers and finding my rhythm for learning. And most of the time, I was also dealing with self-esteem issues. My hearing loss was often a subject for jokes, which made me quickly realize that my hearing loss was a bad trait to have. I developed a habit of covering my hearing aids with my hair to hide my truth and to stop from being teased.

I have spent most of my life hiding my hearing loss to avoid being seen negatively.

The truth would come out sometimes, particularly in job interviews where I would disclose my hearing loss as a test to see if I would be hired – and valued. For an entry-level job with a high turnaround, the disclosure of my hearing loss was never an issue. When I interviewed for competitive professional roles, the calls never came. Therefore, I started to believe that my hearing loss was holding me back from being accepted and building a good career.

In a world where there are few deaf or hard of hearing role models taking an executive level, senior management roles or CEO positions, you can start to see how a strong negative bias has been formed about those with a hearing loss by the majority of the population. When you are not seen, you are not known. Traditional job-hunting tactics are all about being seen, making it harder for deaf and hard of hearing people to excel at finding promising careers. Networking, for example, is one task you are encouraged to do, in looking for a job. However, for a hard of hearing person like me, it’s something we dread doing. Most of us are looking for someone in the loud room at a networking event who will do all the talking so we can nod our head pretending to understand every word they say.

But one thing I also know for sure is that my hearing loss has given me an ambition. I have not given up on finding a career that I love and I have learned to build my own business. It is a place where many deaf and hard of hearing individuals land after trying very hard to find meaningful work. The rate of deaf and hard of hearing individuals seeking entrepreneurship has increased by 16% from 1998 to 2015, and I suspect it continues to grow. A majority are finding success in building businesses to serve other deaf and the hard of hearing community. I have followed suit by starting my business, Lisnen. I, along with many other deaf and hard of hearing people, believe we have talent and skills to bring to the table. Rather than waiting for opportunities to land our way, we are taking control.

So now, self-disclosure has less to do with “lacking” and more about empowerment and appreciation for the abilities that I have developed through the challenges that life has given me. I am empowered by my challenges and no longer need to seek the approval from of others to get a pass to do what I want in this world.

I choose my life and make choices with truth, respect, and love.




About Gael Hannan

The Better HearingConsumer addresses the personal experience of living with hearing loss. Editor Gael Hannan and her occasional guest bloggers explore every corner of the hearing loss life with humor and poignancy. Comment Policy   Gael Hannan, Editor Gael Hannan is an author, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog at the Better Hearing Consumer, which has a passionate international following,Gael has written two acclaimed books, “The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss”and “Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss”, written with Shari Eberts. She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work that advocates for individuals to become more knowledgeable and successful at dealing with their hearing loss and a more inclusive society for them to live in. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, Canada. Books and other media Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss. Written with Shari Eberts and available anywhere books are sold. The Way I Hear It: A Life With Hearing Loss. Available through online bookstores. Unheard Voices, DVD, vignettes from the hearing loss life. Contact Gael Hannan to order.


  1. I loved your Article. I went to college in the 70’s. They said I couldn’t played football in college since ” you can’t hear” I played anyway. They said “you can’t get a college degree” I got one anyway. They told me later on that “you can’t own a business since you can’t hear” I did it anyway. The also told me I couldn’t get a MBA I did it anyway. In my generation the only jobs avaible for the deaf and hard of hearing were ones no one else wanted. Sometimes you just have to find your own way. The hearing world is not our world BUT we have to figure out how to fit in in order to survive. Now that is a challenge don’t you agree? Too many people complain why they cannot succeed. There is opportunity everywhere you just have to open your eyes and go after it. What have you got to loose?

  2. Great to find that someone else has same issues (educated parents; going to college and struggling to keep up and ended up with no “career”; & still struggling now) as me! Always thought it was just me…

  3. Bravo Eyra. I am proud of you. Indeed you have talent and skills. Remember that the world is a wicked place for those with disability; and it beats my imagination that a person will laugh at such issues. I salute you for overcoming your challenges. Please be your own boss and have your peace of mind; and most importantly be an example of success to others by changing the attitudes of this world in your own small way.

  4. I am a person of hearing; however I did take an a course in ASL and find it to be a wonderful language. I have had deaf friends and enjoyed the ability to converse with them.

    1. Race and gender discrimination are very real, as real as disability biases. I’m sorry you only read the first line.

    2. I’m sorry you feel that way. Gender and race discrimination is just as real as the stigma attached to hearing loss.

    3. First things first “Gander” means male goose.Which I like to think you are referencing yourself as a gander. Second, I am going to discriminate you based on your inability to correct your grammar, so your resume or any written agenda will be the first into the bottom of the trash can. Third, people who speak with such negative force and spewing it out in the universe. So be careful what you throw out there because it can come back to you in repercussions..

  5. Beautifully written. Loved your post, I totally understand you and I’m working hard to be in your same level of confidence.
    Thanks for sharing!

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