If you’re responsible for lots of meetings at the office and are trying to get the most out of your team, you need to ensure that your meetings are accessible to people with hearing loss. Approximately 60% of those with hearing loss are in work or educational settings, so there’s a high chance that at least one or two people sitting around the board room table are struggling to hear, whether they’ve disclosed their hearing loss or not.
An Invisible Disability
Hearing loss is often called an invisible disability. It affects nearly 40 million Americans, but someone with hearing loss looks no different than someone with normal hearing, so many people don’t realize how many people in their friend group, at the office, or in their meeting have hearing loss. Many people don’t want to admit that they have hearing loss, and might pretend they can hear, nod when you speak to them, and hope you don’t notice when they struggle to answer a question they didn’t actually hear.
One-on-One is Easier
If you’ve identified the people in your office that have hearing loss, you may have had very successful one-on-one conversations with them. In a private conversation in the quiet space, they’ve had no trouble following what you’ve said, and replying appropriately.
When it comes to communicating in meetings, however, those with hearing loss struggle to follow the conversations flying back and forth across the table, can’t always identify the speaker, and spend so much time straining just to hear the words that they miss out on the meaning of what’s been said. Many competing background sounds can make it harder to hear the speaker, and all the extra space can make the speech sounds softer. It’s important that you understand that even though they can hear you during one-on-one conversations, that doesn’t mean they’ll have an easy time hearing during meetings.
Making Your Meeting Accessible
Work on your presentation skills, and give speaking training to anyone in your office who’s often running meetings. It’s important that you are a confident speaker, can speak clearly, and are watching the room for signs that everyone has understood what you’ve said.
Stay Close: If you know that someone in your meeting has hearing loss, make sure they’re sitting near you. They’ll have an easier time focusing on what you’re saying, and won’t be so distracted by background noises. They’ll also be able to watch your facial cues and body language to help them understand what you’ve said. Watch their nonverbal cues as well to see if they’re nodding that they’ve understood, or seem restless in their chair, an indication that they haven’t understood something you’ve said.
Use Technology: Board rooms support a lot of technology, so why not use some technology that will help your staff with hearing loss? Providing closed captioning technology for any meetings, teleconferences, or other large events will provide inclusion and equal access to anyone in the office struggling to hear. You can make real time captioning available on the personal devices of your staff, be it cellphones or laptops, and you’ll be confident knowing all your team members are on the same page.
Treating Hearing Loss
Are you struggling to hear in the workplace? Does someone on your team waste valuable time and energy straining to hear? If you or a colleague have hearing loss, we encourage you to treat your hearing loss. When you’re not able to hear clearly you can’t participate in office banter, feel connected with the team, or provide the valuable input you know you’re capable of. If you’re living with untreated hearing loss, you’re jeopardizing your career, might be overlooked for the promotion you have your eye on, or may even be fired.
At Fidelity Hearing Center we have a wide range or hearing devices to suit any lifestyle, and our discreet hearing aids will fit easily into your routine. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to hear at work, in the board room, and at home, and not only will you be hearing clearly, you’ll improve your quality of life as well.