The Limping Chicken, a blog that focuses on deafness and hearing loss, posted an article titled “Why I No Longer Mention Being Deaf in Job Interviews.” The writer, who has progressive hearing loss such as myself, related her experiences with discrimination when she disclosed her hearing loss during certain job interviews. Her decision, as the blog post title states, was to no longer tell prospective employers about her hearing loss.
Have you been in this writer’s shoes before?
This is a very timely post, considering that hearing loss is on the rise among the working population, mostly due to noise exposure. I can understand various perspectives about whether or not to disclose hearing loss in an interview. Some potential employers are quite knowledgeable about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are open to hiring individuals with hearing loss.
With a recent job position, I disclosed my hearing loss during the application process and interview. I explained that I read lips and have some functioning hearing ability. The disclosure did not affect my ability to land this job. Then, I informed my supervisor about my communication needs and hearing-assistive accommodations, such as Computer-Aided Realtime Translation (CART) and frequency-modulated (FM) systems. The work experience was quite positive, as co-workers were accommodating of my needs.
Sadly, I have experienced the reverse.
I had applied for a college practicum to work with an early childhood agency. As part of my graduate studies program, I was required to complete 20 hours a week of practicum work with an agency that serves young children. In my introductory letter for the practicum, I disclosed my hearing loss. After I had been accepted for the practicum position, I sent a followup email explaining accommodations that I would need to be successful with the position: an FM system (which I would provide), a guarantee that all training videos would either be captioned or I would be provided with a transcript, and, if necessary, CART. The agency responded in a less-than-positive way. Specifically, an agency supervisor contacted my college and expressed concerns about working with me. The college ended up finding another practicum for me, and I plan to begin that position soon.
I have come to the conclusion that it is better to be open than to hide.
There are many of us in the workplace who live with hearing loss. And, when push comes to shove, we have the ADA law on our side.
Be open about your hearing loss in the application process and interview.
Respectfully educate those around you about hearing loss and the various reasonable accommodations available.
Do not be discouraged by any of the less-than-positive reactions.
Remember: You are not alone.
Please share your experiences in the comments below.
This is a huge issue for people with hearing loss!
Invisible disability — except when it isn’t, which is sometimes what happens when you try to hide it.
I wrote about it a few months ago: https://katherinebouton.com/2016/06/05/would-you-ask-for-help-with-hearing-problems-at-work/
The comments are very interesting.
Katherine – I posted a comment in response to your blog post “Would You Ask for Help with Hearing Problems at Work?” It is a well-written post, and I appreciate you making me aware of it.
I don’t think it got posted. Want to try again? I”m glad to see your column — I think I remember that you were going to stop blogging.
Actually, I don’t disclose my hearing loss to people because I find that there are a lot of presumptions made prior to meeting—therefore, I’m not given a chance to show my prospective employers that I’m capable of working with hearing people. I do, however, tell them right before the interview starts. That usually works out really well for me.
Amy – Thank you for reading the post and commenting. It is good to read a different perspective. Because my resume includes that I teach speechreading classes at a local deaf cultural center to individuals with hearing loss such as myself, I make my hearing loss visible to prospective employers from the very beginning.
This is indeed a very good post! Richard Herring
Thank you for the kind words, Richard!
I believe you should be open. It would be hard to hide my hearing loss, but I wouldn’t try anyway. I don’t think that’s a good way to start a relationship with a new employer.
Your experience is sad, but I’m sure all too common.
I had a hard time getting CART for my disability hearing. How weird is that?
Wendy – Thank you for stopping by my blog! I can understand your frustrations about being denied CART access. This has happened to me multiple times. The reason that I was told is because CART is a very expensive service. Still, accessibility is a right, and it is wonderful that you are joining efforts to advocate for your communication needs.
The ADA is not on the employee’s side in PA. I asked for accommodations, and they said of course. 5 days later they put me on medical leave. I worked there 35 years and did everything I could to make it easier for the people I worked with. I was bullied and they made me a nervous wreck. My work evaluations were always excellent. I got bilateral cochlear implants. But they didn’t want to give me another job. PA is an
“At will” state, so they legally can do this. If I lived in NJ I would still have a job. On almost all applications, it now states must be able to hear normal sounds, see, and use your hands. I can hear pretty good except in crowds, or restaurants. I can use the phone on speaker, and I have the latest upgrade on the implants, so now I can use a cell phone. I need a part time job, but it is very hard at least in PA to find a job where they don’t discriminate. I’m an RN, I could work in an office, or a hospital in Pre-admission testing, working one on one. But I haven’t been able to get a job. I appreciated your article on whether to tell your employer. I do not have it on my resume, but I would tell them at an interview. My hair is short and they would easily see my implants. I am scared about another job, because I was bullied, by people I worked with for 20-30 years. But there are great people in this world, so I am still hoping to find a job. Thank you for your blog.
Hi Sue – I am so sorry you experienced this discrimination. I would encourage you to reach out to John Waldo, who is ADA legal counsel for the Association for Late-Deafened Adults (www.alda.org). He would be a great legal resource for you.