by Jeremy K. Jones, M.A., Sivantos, Inc.
Looking for a new job can be a stressful experience for anyone. But when you also have hearing loss, the task at hand may seem even more challenging. Although it is premature to say that the stigma attached to hearing loss is no longer an issue in the workplace, succeeding in Corporate America despite your hearing loss is more attainable than ever. While laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevent companies from discriminating against those with hearing loss, advances in technology are also making communication in the workplace easier than ever before. By being prepared and acting as your own advocate, your chances of success in the workplace can be as good as anyone’s. Here are a few hearing loss job hunting tips to get you started.
Tip #1: See your hearing care professional
If you wear any device to help you hear, such as hearing aids, visit your hearing care professional even before you start sending off job applications. If a company finds your resume attractive, they may contact you for an interview right away. You wouldn’t take a driving test without your glasses, so don’t go to a job interview with semi-functional hearing aids. Have your hearing care professional make sure your hearing devices, including any accessories that you use for communication (e.g., audio streamers) are in good working condition. Ask for another hearing test if you haven’t had one within the past twelve months. It is always possible that your hearing has changed, and if so, your hearing aids may need to be re-programmed to help you hear as well as possible.
Tip #2: Know your rights
Organizations like the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) offer a wealth of information ranging from job hunting tips to links to employment opportunities for those with hearing disabilities. Get an overview of relevant legislation, such as the ADA. The more you know about your rights, the more effectively you can advocate for yourself. You should be well-informed about any special accommodations required in order to successfully perform the job you’re applying for. For example, if you know you require assistance for phone calls, research the different kinds of assistive listening devices that would work for you and their cost for your prospective employer. Many companies, especially smaller ones, may not be experienced in accommodating employees with hearing loss. So if you are prepared to inform them exactly what you would need and how much it would cost them, it would not only show that you take responsibility for performing your prospective job well, it also takes the guesswork and uncertainty out for the employer.
Tip #3: Prepare for the Phone Interview
Phone conversations have always been hard for those with hearing loss, but increasingly advanced technologies to help hearing aid wearers use the phone are now available. Various hearing aid models have innovative, dedicated programs and settings for use on the phone. Special adapters and streaming accessories make phone calls easier than before. So while you are getting your hearing aids checked, ask your hearing care professional about the latest technologies that could be compatible with your devices.
If phone conversations are still challenging for you, be honest with your prospective employer when they ask for a phone interview. It’s perfectly okay to say that you wear hearing aids and you sometimes have difficulty hearing on the phone. Ask for an interview in-person so that you can better represent yourself. If an in-person interview isn’t possible (because you’re a long-distance candidate, for example), suggest an telephone or video relay service, if necessary.
Tip #4: Wear your hearing aids
Everyone knows that first impressions are important. As a result, some job seekers (especially those with milder hearing loss), choose to hide their condition by not wearing their hearing aids to interviews. They fear interviewers may perceive them as disabled, old, or incompetent. But the truth is hearing aids don’t make you look old—asking people to repeat everything or misunderstanding what someone else is saying does. You can’t present yourself in the best light if you have to second guess what the interviewers are asking, so make sure you wear your hearing aids.
If your hearing loss does not require any specific accommodations to do the job for which you’re applying, there is no need to bring it up. In fact, under the ADA, employers cannot legally ask you if you have a hearing loss, if you have had a hearing test, or if you wear hearing aids. If you choose to talk about it, for example, in order to dispel any misconceptions about hearing loss or any doubts as to if it would prevent you from performing the job, be matter-of-fact about it. Focus your explanation on all that you can do, and how you overcome your limitations.
For example, rather than explaining why you have trouble with phone calls in noisy situations, tell employers you hear much better on the phone if your desk is in a quiet location, or how you’re always responsive with emails, instant messages, and texts. If you do require special accommodations, be straightforward with your request. This is where your research and preparation will help you. Don’t assume that just because you require additional accommodations automatically means you’re a less desirable candidate. In fact, there are some tax incentives for employers who hire individuals with disabilities.
Tip #5: Be yourself
Finally, be yourself. Your hearing loss is a part of you, but don’t let it dominate or overshadow your job searching experience. If you project confidence in your skills, knowledge, and personality your prospective employer will focus on these qualities instead of your hearing loss.
Jeremy K. Jones, M.A.
Mr. Jones has been a member of the Education and Training team at Sivantos, Inc. (then Siemens Hearing Instruments) since 2012. His responsibilities include training company staff and customers on software, hearing instruments and fitting protocols. Prior to joining Sivantos, he worked in private practice in Indianapolis, IN and also served as an instructor and clinician at the Indiana University School of Medicine, seeing both pediatric and adult patients and providing a full range of audiometric services, including diagnostics, hearing aids and tinnitus therapy. He received both his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Indiana University.