A new poll conducted in January by the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) showed that over 95% of people approve of transparency when it comes to hearing loss in the workplace, but determining when is the right time to divulge that information is an important decision for millions of employed members of the hard of hearing community. Though there are laws protecting those with disabilities in the workplace, there are still significant barriers for those with hearing loss. Many still face discrimination during interviews, are passed over for promotions or do not receive that next job offer. With over 47% of hard of hearing Americans out of the labor force and only 19.1% of disabled Americans employed, it’s clear there is a serious problem between the disabled community and the workforce, but when is the right time to bring this up with your employer?
Conducting an anonymous, one-question poll to their base of subscribers, the Hearing Health Foundation sought out people’s perspective on addressing hearing loss in the workplace, posing a serious question to the hard of hearing community: When is the best time to tell an employer about your hearing loss?
The first 100 respondents were split among the timing. 11% of respondents answered that hearing loss should be divulged on “the job application”, while 33% answered, “during the job interview”. Though a plurality could not decide when the best time was, 95% of respondents believed that an employer must know. These numbers are a promising step towards destigmatization of hearing loss, as hearing loss becomes talked about more and more in the workplace.
After the passing of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), protection for qualified employees with hearing loss from discrimination in the workplace was enshrined in law. This protects workers from harassment, unfair treatment, certain interview or employment questions, or pre-employment medical exams. It also gives employees the right to reasonable accommodations.
Unfortunately, this does not mean discrimination does not still occur. Personal stories such as Amanda Koller’s, a Washington D.C. native with a master’s degree in Public Administration struggling to find work, are common. Profoundly deaf, Koller had told hiring managers of her hearing loss and that she preferred to interview in person so that she could lip-read. Koller would then either not receive a call or was told that a phone screening was mandatory.
Once your required accommodations are identified, becoming your own strongest advocate is essential to making sure you meet your career goals. Going through the proper channels at your place of employment or seeking proper legal counsel to receive the accommodations you require will make your employment more productive, safer, and more positive for you and your employer. With increasing economic consequences for the high number of hearing disabled Americans out of the labor force, protecting yourself from workplace discrimination has never been more important for those with hearing loss.
If you are struggling with hearing loss in the workplace, seek medical advice from a hearing health professional for treatment options, tips, and more information regarding hearing loss, employment, and the American with Disabilities Act.