Did you know that about 60% of the people who work in the U.S. have trouble hearing? Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the U.S., affecting around 48 million people. One in three people over the age of 65 has hearing loss, and half of those over 75 have hearing loss. At the same time, Americans of all ages can lose their hearing. Some studies have found that the rate of hearing loss in Americans ages 20 to 69 has decreased, but young people are still at a high risk of hearing loss.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has seen a rise in hearing loss at work in the last 25 years. OSHA also says that 22 million workers hear loud noises that hurt them yearly. They estimate that U.S. companies pay more than $1.5 million in fines yearly because they don’t protect their workers from noise. This is partly because noise protection rules in the workplace aren’t always followed, and workers don’t have the proper protection. At the same time, employees are safer because more people are aware of hearing loss in the workplace and because noise has been regulated.
What accommodations are there for this 60 percent of the workforce? Today, we’ll talk about what employers need to do to help hard-of-hearing employees, from the job interview to the day-to-day tasks at work.
During the job interview
Equal opportunity employment laws ensure that people with disabilities, like hearing loss, can’t be turned away from a job. If you lose your hearing, you are not required to tell anyone about it. Also, employers may be limited in what they can ask about how you treat your hearing loss, but they may ask about your ability to do “essential functions.”
Some questions might be:
- “Can you follow directions quickly in a loud, busy place?”
- “Do you have good communication skills?”
- “Are you able to meet the safety standards required by law to do these jobs?”
Remember that you should be honest about your abilities and that the law lets you say, “Yes, with reasonable accommodations.” The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that employers must make accommodations for hearing loss employees.
You can ask for a sign language interpreter or a louder speaker so you can hear your potential employer better. You can also ask for help with the interview itself at the time of the interview. If you were hired without telling your employer that you have hearing loss, your employer could not legally take the job offer back unless your hearing loss affects your safety or the safety of others.
Making adjustments at work
“Workers have the right to a safe workplace,” says OSHA. The law says that employers must ensure their workplaces are safe and healthy for their workers. The OSHA law says employers can’t punish workers for using their legal rights, like speaking up about health and safety issues or reporting injuries.
People who have hearing loss now or get hearing loss throughout their working life may get reasonable accommodations on the job. You can choose whether or not to tell your boss that you have hearing loss, but if you do, you must get the best accommodations possible so you can do your job well.
If you have hearing loss and have to go through performance reviews at work, telling your boss could help clear up confusion and miscommunication, especially if it leads to you getting reasonable accommodations as required by the ADA.
The rights of workers at work
The ADA requires employers to make accommodations for people with hearing loss so that they can perform at the same level as their coworkers in the same position and get the same benefits from their jobs.
As an employee, if your hearing loss has caused you to be harassed at work, you can file discrimination charges against your boss. This could mean using a hearing loop or amplification devices in meetings or on the job to make communication easier. The ADA also says that coworkers and bosses can’t mistreat disabled people on the job because of their disability.
Make sure your hearing is in good shape for the best success at work.
Hearing loss is a common problem, but it doesn’t have to stop you from getting the job you want.
If you think you might lose your hearing, call us immediately. We offer complete hearing tests and hearing aid fittings to help you hear what’s happening around you again.