Nearly 30 years after the Americans Disabilities Act was signed into law, I’ve noticed that some employees continue to hide their hearing loss at work or do not request accommodations. Fellow blogger Shari Eberts wrote a compelling post called How to Combat the Stigma of Hearing Loss, which I highly recommend reading. There are a number of reasons for not disclosing hearing loss on the job. Fear of being stigmatized by supervisors and coworkers. Fear of being thought of as “less than” because of revealing a disability. Fear of not advancing in a career should they disclose their hearing loss.
Yep. It all boils down to fear.
I recently asked some friends with hearing loss if they requested on-the-job accommodations. Most said “yes” and received them.
Recently, I became more vocal about my hearing loss needs where I work. This included reaching out to my supervisor to request captioning of future training videos. I also reached out to the human resources department and am now going through a formal process with my employer to ensure I have the requested accommodations.
Only recently did I start wearing a ponytail at work because I didn’t want my hearing aids to be noticeable. I have been employed at this job two years.
The stigma needs to go away.
What steps have you taken to combat the stigma of hearing loss at work or in your everyday life? What were the results? I would like to encourage discussion of this topic, so please share your experiences in the comments below.
Hi! I’m retired but I recently had a new ear mold made … in blue! No one has pointed it out to me but I do notice that people are more patient and speak more clearly. For my cochlear implant processor, I bought some ‘skins’ and now it’s also blue. Unfortunately, when I was working, I tried to hide it and that did not go well. One’s hearing loss always looks worse than one’s hearing aid. I will say that in the last ten years of working, I did receive the accommodations I needed, including a captioned phone. I enjoy your articles!
There’s another stigma that’s apparently bigger than hearing loss — and may contribute to the hearing loss stigma. It’s age. Three years ago researchers David Baldridge and Michele Swift published a study in which they found that fear of seeming old was the primary reason people did not ask for accommodations at work. The older the person with a disability, the more likely they were to fear that others would attribute a request not to the disability, but to their age. If you want to read more about the study, you can find it on my blog, katherinebouton.com. “Would You Ask for Help With Hearing Problems at Work?” June 5, 2016.
PS. I love the earrings. Where can I get them?
Hi Katherine – I will be sure to read your blog post, and thank you for reading and commenting here
The hearing aid charms are from http://hayleighscherishedcharms.com. Hayleigh also has a store at Etsy.com.
I have tinnitus in both ears so I often mishear what someone says. When I get that funny look after I reply, I usually stop and ask, “What did you say that I didn’t hear right?” Most of the time the other person will chuckle and repeat their comment. I should make a collection of them. One person talked to me slowly and louder than normal after that. It was rather condescending, but I don’t think they meant to be rude. Another person gave me a look and walked away.
@quirkywritingcorner – Way to go in advocating! You are right: Not everyone will understand or accept our communication needs, but many will.
Good for you, Pat! I would love to see a photo of your CI and HA mold for my Show Me Your Ears page. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had a sudden overnight hearing loss from a fried cochlear nerve resulting in total one sided deafness. I was teacher and fought for a year to keep my job before it came down to quit or be fired. No accommodations were required to be made unless I could prove they would enable me to do my job as well as I did before my hearing loss. My doctor was a great advocate, the school district was cruel and brutal. I jumped through the hoops, and I lost my career, financial security, 50% of retirement, my self worth and confidence. It’s been six years and I’ll never get over the ripple effects of hearing loss that destroyed my life.
Hi Kathleen – I am sorry you experienced this. We need to change the workplace stigma.