Tips for Communicating with a Coworker with a Hearing Impairment

May is just around the corner, which means it’s almost Better Hearing and Speech Month! Each year, May is marked as Better Hearing and Speech month, with the aim of raising awareness about communication disorders.

The theme for this year is “Communication at Work.” Effective communication in the workplace can improve business productivity as well as employee satisfaction. For employees with a hearing impairment, communication can be more challenging.

To ensure effective communication at work, we’re looking at tips for communicating with a coworker with a hearing impairment.

Workplace Communication Tips for People with Hearing Loss

Effective communication in a business is a key component of success. However, what one person may consider effective communication doesn’t always translate across the wider teams.

As Anthony Robbins said: “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

If you have a hearing impairment, you already know the unique challenges communication can present. For many people with a hearing impairment, the fear of embarrassment can result in their withdrawal. Rather than risk misunderstanding or missing part of a conversation, avoiding communication becomes the preference.

Both in a social and workplace environment, this is not an ideal solution. By utilizing and applying a few simple communication, these worries can be overcome.

Communicating Remotely

According to data published by the US Census, in 2017 8 million Americans worked from home. In recent weeks, this figure has increased exponentially. According to a YouGov survey, up to 30% of the workforce are working remotely at present.

People with a hearing impairment likely have a number of techniques for in-person communication. However, working remotely requires a more concerted effort across the wider team. Tips to help remote communication include:

  1. Use Connectivity Features - If you wear hearing aids, ensure that you are taking full advantage of the connectivity features. Ensure you know how to sync your hearing aids to stream audio. For more information on how to pair your hearing aids with smart devices, please click here.
  2. Video Conferencing - Conference calls tend to be hectic. They can be difficult for people with normal hearing to follow along. For those with a hearing impairment, it can be far more challenging. Wherever possible, use video conferencing for work meetings. Being able to see the person speaking significantly helps understanding!
  3. Speak One at a Time - During meetings, try to abide by only one person speaking at a time. This helps reduce background noise or distractions.These can both make it more difficult for a coworker with a hearing loss to follow the conversation.
  4. Face the Camera - During video conferences, make sure you’re facing your camera directly. Try to ensure you’re in a well lit area.

Communicating in Person

Many of us will, eventually, return to a normal office working environment. These tips can help you communicate with a hearing impaired coworker in-person.

  1. Face the person directly - Visual cues play a big role in communication. Our faces often speak more than we realize! When possible, face the person you are speaking to. Try to find an area that is well lit to ensure maximum visibility of your face.
  2. Get their attention first - Say the person’s name to get their attention before speaking. This allows the listener to shift their focus to you. Again, make sure you’re facing them directly when possible.
  3. Speak slowly and clearly - Take your time when speaking. Try to avoid long, complicated sentences. Slowing down and taking a moment between sentences can make it much easier to follow the conversation.
  4. Speak one at a time - Group meetings can get hectic. Often people will be speaking over one another, or there may be multiple side conversations going on at once. - In team or group meetings, try to designate only one speaker at a time. Not only does this make it easier to follow the speaker, it reduces background noise. Overall, a win-win.
  5. Follow up in writing - Try as we may, it’s not always possible to catch everything that’s been said in the workplace. Follow up meetings and discussions in writing.

This benefits hearing impaired individuals and their coworkers alike. Written follow up ensures that everyone is on the same page and aware of what the action points or discussions from the conversation involved.

These tips can help make communication in the workplace a breeze.

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