It can be difficult to interact with colleagues who suffer from hearing loss. You may find that you need to constantly repeat yourself, speak at louder volumes and experience miscommunication. This can cause understandable frustration on your part, but it’s important to remember that it’s much harder for your co-worker who is experiencing changes in their hearing.
To benefit both you and your colleague, make an effort to understand what they’re going through. Here are a few things you can do to make things a little easier for them – and for you, too.
Communicating with a co-worker who has hearing loss is not just about what you are telling them. On the contrary, it works both ways; it’s equally as important for you to listen as it is to speak. Make sure that you understand their point of view – they will feel more valued as a person.
It’s equally as important for you to listen as it is to speak.
Don’t talk at your colleague; engage them in a conversation in which they can also be an active participant.
Approach your colleague directly or make eye contact when you wish to speak to them, so that they know you are trying to get your attention. Avoid speaking when they have their back to you or if you are not in their line of vision.
Try not to turn away as you are speaking or put your hands in front of your mouth. Hearing aids with modern technology should be able to deliver clear sounds, but hearing aids or not, it’s harder for people to hear when you are mumbling!
Engage in one-on-one conversations
It will be much easier for your co-worker – and for you – if you approach them in quieter environments. Don’t try to have an important conversation with them while in the lunch room surrounded by a lot of people who are making noise.
Often, background noise such as chatter or music can affect the ability of someone with hearing loss to focus on you. Minimising the amount of noise going on around you will ensure your message gets across without miscommunication.
Treat them the same as everyone else
Your co-worker might not always be able to hear clearly what you are saying the first time, but they aren’t stupid, so don’t make them feel as though they are. Speaking to them as you would a child or talking in a patronising way will only make things worse. Enunciate clearly and properly, but treat them the same as you would any other person in your workplace.
Empathise with their condition
A little understanding goes a long way and your colleague will most likely appreciate you making an effort to comprehend what they’re going through.
If it feels comfortable, you can even try asking them about their condition. You’ll probably learn a great deal about what life is like for those living with hearing aids. After all, hearing loss can affect any one at any age!
Open a dialogue
It’s unlikely that your co-worker will broach the subject of communication if they feel embarrassed about their condition, so you might need to make an effort to initiate the conversation.
A little understanding goes a long way.
Try asking politely if there’s anything you can do to make things easier for them. For example, you could say something like: “I’m trying to improve my communication and am wondering if you have any suggestions for me?”
This opens a space for a conversation whereby you can come up with a solution that works for both of you. Thank them for their help afterwards and try to implement any ideas that they gave you.
If you think your colleague may have untreated hearing loss, it’s important that they get their ears checked out to prevent the problem from worsening. Put them in touch with one of the clinicians at Adelaide Digital Hearing Solutions. They can give us a call on 1800 940 982 or click here to book a no cost* appointment with us.