According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately 60% of workers in the US workforce experience some degree of hearing loss, and the number is growing. Even more, hearing loss has been a growing concern for the past 25 years in the workplace. Here, we take a look at hearing loss, occupational hearing hazards, and accommodations to help your employment experience be more fruitful with hearing loss.
Occupational Hearing Hazards
Hearing loss may occur due to unsafe conditions in the workplace, there is no denying that untreated hearing loss makes your job – or searching for a job – challenging. With untreated hearing loss, you may find it difficult to communicate with colleagues, while the strain placed on your cognitive abilities may interfere with your concentration and productivity.
In terms of workplace hearing loss, OSHA estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to damaging noise each year. Furthermore, it is estimated that US businesses pay more than $1.5 million in penalties annually for not protecting workers from noise. Indeed, there are issues around unregulated workplace noise and lack of proper protection for employees. Fortunately, raised awareness around occupational hearing hazards have led to better noise regulation and safety measures in the workplace.
Hearing Loss and the Americans with Disabilities Act
As a prevalent medical condition in the US, people with hearing loss are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even more, the Americans with Disabilities Act has outlined best practices for employers and employees alike to accommodate hearing loss. Here are a few accommodations from the first interview for a job to being in the workplace.
Equal opportunity laws for employment ensure that potential employees cannot be discriminated against for a job due to a disability – including hearing loss. If you experience a hearing loss, you are not required to disclose your condition. Additionally, employers may be limited to what they can ask in regard to your hearing loss treatment, but they may ask about “essential functions” with hearing loss.
Interview questions that are fair include:
- Can you respond quickly to instructions in a noise, fast-paced environment?
- Do you have good communication skills?
- Are you able to meet legally required safety standards to perform these duties?
While you should answer honestly about your abilities, the law also allows you to respond: “Yes, with reasonable accommodation.” These accommodations are outlined for employers in the Americans with Disabilities Act, and employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with hearing loss.
Another thing to keep in mind: if you have been hired without disclosing your hearing loss, your employer is not legally permitted to withdraw their job offer – unless your hearing loss directly affects the safety of yourself or others.
Accommodations in the Workplace
You are not required to disclose your hearing loss, but if you require accommodations that will help improve your performance or employment experience, your employer is required to provide them. According to OSHA, “Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury).”
Additionally, according to the ADA, employers are required to provide accommodations for those with hearing loss so that they may match the same performance levels as colleagues in equal positions and enjoy the same benefits of employment available to all other employees.
This includes using assistive listening technology, moving your desk to a quieter corner of the office so you can hear better, or having written documents in addition to verbal correspondence. In other words, if you need accommodations, don’t be afraid to ask!
Visit Us at Hearing Consultants
Studies have shown that people with untreated hearing loss have lower earning power than colleagues with normal hearing, as well as colleagues who treat their hearing loss with the use of hearing aids.
Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. The steps are painless and simple: take a hearing test with us at Hearing Consultants. If a hearing loss is detected, we will work with you to find the best solution to meet your hearing needs. Contact us at Hearing Consultants today.