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In the years since I experienced my sudden severe hearing loss, I’ve worked at home managing my own business as a marketing and communications consultant. Last winter, though, an opportunity came my way to head up marketing for a startup company in the online video market.
Along the way, I took a lot of notes and learned some valuable lessons on what does and doesn’t work in an office environment when you have severe hearing loss. Initially, I was concerned I’d have trouble adjusting to life in an office, especially because in the previous six months, after several years of relative stability, my hearing had worsened considerably. Following are some pros and cons of going mainstream with serious hearing loss, along with some tips on how to succeed.
Co-workers and employers want you for what you have to offer, not in spite of what you can’t offer. You have to accept the fact that there are some things you will never do as well or as easily as you did before your hearing loss. Even though my experiment in mainstreaming lasted only a short time, I came away from it convinced that doing full-time work in an office again would be possible for me if my hearing came back to the point where I could reliably use the phone again.
All the phone work and meetings required of a communication consultant made it difficult at times.
I’ve come up with a list of the pros and cons of office work for people with hearing loss. But I had new super-power hearing aids and assistive devices, which made one-on-one interactions and phone calls very good, and which made conference calls and group meetings easier.
Unfortunately, after a month on the job, it turned out my concerns were justified when my hearing dropped once again. My colleagues at the company never once complained about any difficulties my hearing problems may have caused, even when I needed to reschedule calls that I was unable to hear, or when I asked them to repeat themselves until they were blue in the face. One off-hand comment about something in the news the day before can either lose you completely or, if you pick up the cue to something you’ve already studied up on, put you right in the middle of the conversation. The new wireless technologies, especially now that Bluetooth works with your hearing aids and cellphone better than ever before, are a godsend. I used to feel like I had limitless energy, but coping with hearing loss in an eight or ten our day made me acutely aware of my limitations.
I had an extraordinarily supportive group of colleagues, plus I went in with a track record and a good understanding of how I could be of direct help even with my hearing loss. I am sorry to have to say that Social Security’s criteria for evaluating hearing loss are extremely stiff.
But with the assistance of several great business partners and some extremely accommodating long-term clients, I managed pretty well.

Plus the founders, board of directors and other team members understood my issues and were happy make accommodations for me. I started having consistent trouble throughout the day, even with a lot of adjustments to the new hearing aids, and after a while I found it impossible to use the phone much of the time. Instead, they asked a lot of questions about how best to communicate with me and about other ways they could help, and they were otherwise incredibly patient.
But my new colleagues told me that I brought a lot of unique experience to the challenges the company faced and that they were most interested in helping me apply my skills and knowledge. People know something’s wrong right away if you are having trouble hearing, and if you try to cover it up, it only confuses them or annoys them. I expected to be tired at the end of each day, but there were some days when I was completely depleted. When people see you manage a disability with patience, grace, poise, and a sense of humor, they tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. In the meantime, I learned a lot along the way that I’m putting to good use in other situations every day. I have had hearings over the years where I and the judge hearing the case both had to yell at my client so that he or she could understand. I can’t get very far with a hearing loss case if you refuse to wear a hearing aid that would help you. After a few more months trying to make the situation work as well as I wanted it to, I finally threw in the towel and resigned. When my hearing problems made it hard to get certain jobs done (sales presentations over the phone, for instance), we found someone else to do it, allowing me to focus on the things I could do.
Videoconferences can be a godsend when you’re hearing-impaired, allowing you to use your speech-reading skills.
But if you need to educate any colleagues about how to deal with someone who has a disability, knowing that providing such accommodations is the law of the land is vastly reassuring. All you can do is take note of the things you can’t do, find someone to step up to fill the gap, and focus your time and energy on the things you can do.
Instead, it’s important to let everyone know how your hearing loss works, and how you cope. I’d taken a long break from Hearing Mojo over the past six months because my full-time job was so consuming. Also, many people who have suffered a severe hearing loss are older and have other health problems.
They are especially useful in one-on-one situations, but still helpful even in group videoconferences.

Anyone who wants to go back to work with hearing loss or any other disability should read up on their rights. Then, after the meeting, go over your notes, especially those stretches where you know you missed some of the conversation.
You simply won’t be able to spend as much time on extracurriculars as you might want, because resting up is part of the job. Even if power-napping is discouraged at your job, ten minutes of quiet meditation at your desk instead of catching up on water cooler gossip can recharge you for an afternoon of stressful activities. So I think it’s fitting that my first post on my return should be about hearing loss lessons I learned while on the job. Add some arthritis and some diabetes to the hearing loss, for instance, and you may have a good case.
We have offices in Raleigh and Fayetteville; and we represent clients throughout the State.
There were a lot of meetings where I signaled I was lost, and either they stopped and caught me up or, if they didn’t want to interrupt the flow, made a note to catch up on the points I missed after the meeting. When you tell people your hearing aids are a lot like your iPhone earbuds, but with a set of amplifiers programmed to your individual hearing profile, you get their interest. At the workplace, you’ll do better if you summon the energy to deal with your hearing issues in as positive a way as possible.
In many cases, perhaps most, people who are approved for Social Security disability have multiple health problems. The information you find on this website or within an email from a member of our firm should not be considered to be an agreement for an attorney-client relationship. I never once had a co-worker complain when I asked them to retrace their steps so I could fill in the blanks and catch up. My hearing loss was such that neither ear on its own could reliably understand someone on the phone, but both ears working together usually could.
Your colleagues will appreciate the effort, even if they don’t always acknowledge it, and your life will be easier. It really disarms people who might be uncomfortable at first when you show them how a hearing aid works.

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08.08.2014 admin

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