It’s a situation that many people with hearing loss truly understand.
The secret is that you have a hearing loss and never disclosed it. Disclosing it could cost you your job, your livelihood and your life. But lately, your hearing loss is getting worst. Even with the new hearing aids, your hearing isn’t improving.
You’ve been working with your employer for a while now. But there is just this secret that they don’t know about you. You’re now wondering how you’ll tell them, but you would rather not share if you can.
I get it. You see the statistics that unemployment and underemployment are things for people who can’t hear well in this world. The power imbalance and control your employers have to hire and fire you is real.
No one wants to be unemployed or laid off just because of their hearing. No one wants to be undermined for promotion or raise. And no one wants to be thought of as incompetent.
But the reality is that you and I know that you need hearing support to do better on the job. And it would be best if you came out clean.
I want to help you have that difficult conversation with a simple framework that you can use to build your confidence and start having a chat to request an accommodation at your workplace.
By the end of this article, you will have a script to start having that conversation to disclose your hearing loss and get the accommodation you need.
You will never feel confident by showing up and making things as you go.
It is better to come prepared when doing something with little or no experience. Confidence comes from being prepared.
Before the meeting, you want to know what you’ll say.
Also, you’ll need to know what accommodations you think would work best for you. If you don’t know and work in an organization that hasn’t dealt with people with hearing loss, chances are they will not see what you need.
This is the time to prepare one to three options for accommodations. Browse our site, Lisnen, for ideas or talk to other people with hearing loss in forums or groups for some solutions.
Initiating the conversation
To start the conversation, you must know how your manager or supervisor interacts with you and your coworkers. Don’t blindside them by entering the conversation at the wrong time. Respect their time.
Do you already have a cadence of one-on-one meetings with your supervisor or manager? Do they expect you to book time for a one-off meeting? Do they have an open-door policy allowing you to enter the office anytime? Or do they expect you to start the conversation with an email?
If you are unsure, ask.
“I want to talk to you about something I’d like your help on. It will take some time. Would you prefer an email conversation, or how should I book time with you? “
Stay neutral and state the fact.
Try to avoid showing fear or emotions while you are speaking. Emotions can distract your supervisor or manager from what you need at hand. The issue isn’t to get you to feel better; the point is that you want to be more productive at work. Stick to the fact.
You can change it in your own words to reflect how you usually speak. But start by stating the following:
“I’m not sure if you are aware, but my hearing loss has been progressively worsening (or it has been noticeably hard to hear). Because communication is essential to my responsibility, I’d like your help requesting accommodation.
I have one or two options that would work. The first one that I believe would work is a phone amplifier. It will amplify the volume to a level that would be comfortable for me to understand the caller. The other option is closed captioning. Now there might be a delay between the other caller and me, but at least I will get the answer that I know best to respond.
What would we need to do to get these accommodations started?”
Why will this work
Disclosing your hearing loss should lead to the fact
Your employer probably already suspected something about your hearing loss. How many times they may have called you, and you didn’t respond?
Disclosing this way is a subtle way of letting them know about your hearing loss. It shouldn’t be a big deal to be hard of hearing or deaf. It’s part of life and the human experience; you should communicate it as such.
In the opening statement, we didn’t elaborate on our medical history, when we started losing our hearing, or mention the type of hearing loss: if it is severe or profound. Instead, we talked about what is happening today.
Focus on your duties and responsibilities.
Accommodation requests by law need to tie into the job responsibilities and duties. More importantly so, if you want your employers to pay for it. To prepare, you may need to review the job description you agreed to follow when you accepted the job. It is essential to state the responsibilities impacted by your hearing loss.
Let them know what this conversation is about. The reason is that you need accommodation now.
State your solution to the problem.
It is vital that you have done your research, and if you have, you now know a few things that you and your employer can try to fix your hearing challenges in the workplace.
It is a good idea to state why you think this would work. This will help your employer feel more confident in your solution and want to help you. Most important, state things that are only relevant to the problem you are experiencing.
Assume that they said yes, and they want to help you
You are already in a good position now. You haven’t positioned your hearing loss as a weakness. You stated the challenge at work and that there is a solution. You have a way to fix this.
Then it would be best to conclude by asking what’s the next step or how your manager will help you get the accommodation you need. But, again, this is a great communication tactic when you want to be assertive.
It is amazing how people’s brains don’t look for why they should be saying no. Instead, they start looking for solutions in their head on how they can make it work.
Some people are not decisive by nature and need time to think it through. That’s okay. Allow them time to process the conversation and respond.
Remember, you are legally in the right at this point. You’re not persuading your employer to do anything wrong other than being a more productive employee they hired to do the job.
It’s out of your hand now.
While I can’t guarantee that your managers and coworkers will not be jerks, it doesn’t matter. What truly matters is how you value yourself, show up authentically and assert what you need to become the best version of yourself. That should be your goal here. Focus on things you can control.
And remember, your hearing loss isn’t a hindrance or a burden. It’s who you are. And that is okay.
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