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How to Support a Coworker with Hearing Loss

Colleagues can make all the difference when managing hearing loss in the workplace. Having supportive coworkers is crucial when implementing communication strategies to assist colleagues with hearing loss.

Learn About Hearing Loss

There’s a difference between hearing and listening, as well as between being deaf and hard of hearing. Each person interacts differently based on their type of hearing loss. It’s important to understand your colleague’s needs and inquire how you can assist if that’s what they require.

Politely ask your coworker what they require to communicate effectively. Ask open-ended questions so your colleague can explain themselves. Be mindful not to pry as some individuals dislike attention drawn to them.

Practice Good Communication Techniques

Implementing good communication techniques is helpful for all staff, regardless of hearing ability.

Here are some tips to help you communicate with a coworker with hearing loss:

  • Get your colleague’s attention by standing in their line of sight or tapping them before you speak.
  • Make sure your face is well-lit.
  • Keep your hands and other objects away from your face to avoid blocking your mouth and expressions.
  • Speak clearly and slowly, but don’t exaggerate your mouth movements.
  • Talk louder but don’t shout.
  • Don’t turn away from your colleague while you’re talking.
  • Wait until your coworker is done speaking before you respond.

Be Patient

It might take time for you and your colleague to get used to each other’s communication styles. Be patient and don’t get frustrated if there are miscommunications.

Ask about their specific listening environments that are difficult for them and ask what you can do to support their needs when interacting at work. Some people may be reserved about their hearing loss, so give your coworker time to discuss it on their terms.

Ask About Preferred Methods of Communication

Some people prefer contact via email or text, while others require in-person discussions. Find out how your coworker likes to receive interoffice messages if they’re hard of hearing. Share your preferences as well, so you can work together to create an effective communication strategy.

Provide Visuals When Possible

That’s especially important during meetings, presentations, conferences and interviews. Provide your colleague with an agenda to give them time to review topics and prepare questions. Doing so also allows them to clarify points of confusion so they can follow along during the presentation. Include visual elements such as slide shows, charts, graphs and images. Use subtitles if you’re playing video or audio.

Your coworker might need an interpreter, depending on their degree of hearing loss. Give an interpreter time to catch up during your presentation and address your colleague during an exchange, not the interpreter.

Encourage Participation

Make the effort to include your coworker in company events, lunches and outings that suit their comfort level. Hearing loss can cause anxiety, especially in social situations. Don’t assume they’re antisocial if they’re not at crowded events since background noise may make it difficult for them to hear conversations.

Be a Hearing Buddy

Your coworker may still struggle to hear certain sounds at work, so ask them if they’d like you to clarify when necessary. That could include making sure they hear announcements, phone calls, fire alarms and other alerts.

Hearing Loss Treatment in Northern Iowa and Southern Minnesota

Hearing Associates offers comprehensive audiology services and hearing tests to help you on your journey toward better hearing. Learn about our services and how our team will work with you to create a personalized care plan. Call 888-760-2032 or schedule your appointment online.