10 Simple ways to help hard of hearing employees
At work, it is crucial that you take every single employee’s situation into account in order to create the best environment for everyone. Only 16% of employees with hearing loss use hearing aids and while it may amplify the sound thus allowing them to hear more easily, for many there are few benefits.
Below is a list of simple yet effective tips that can help to bring the best out of your hard of hearing employees, whilst improving team dynamics. You don’t even need to be a business owner to follow these tips, because many of them would be equally useful for people with a hearing impairment in domestic, non-work environments.
- In meetings ask hearing impaired colleagues what their preference is when it comes to getting their attention. For example they may want you to tap them on the shoulder in order to initiate conversation.
- Be sure to confirm that they have fully understood you. You wouldn’t want to ask them for a custard cream and then have them come back to you with a cup of tea!
- Speak at a normal speed and volume. If you were speaking really slowly in order for them to understand it could actually end up confusing them more or even make them think that you are patronising them, potentially upsetting them in the process.
- Ensure that you don’t turn off the lights when giving a presentation. Lipreading is harder in the dark.
- If you know that you are going to be presenting to or working with someone who is hard of hearing, small changes can make a big difference – such as preparing handouts and having visual material in your presentation.
- Hearing impaired employees may benefit from a small mirror to attach to their computer screen so that they can see if there is someone behind them.
- Try to minimise distractions like chew gum, or cover your mouth when speaking. One of the main ways those with a hearing loss try to understand you is by lipreading. So ensure that they can see your mouth without any distractions.
- If any employees have a hearing aid they may well benefit from a hearing loop. Theatres and large offices may well have sophisticated hearing loops installed, but even in small offices individual personal hearing loops could be beneficial.
- Safety procedures such as fire drills should accommodate those with hearing problems, as they may not hear an alarm going off. Examples are assigning them an evacuation buddy or having visual alarms such as flashing lights as well as auditory ones.
- Reinforce understanding by following up a conversation with a written note or by sending an email or text.
Following these tips a more caring environment can be fostered for your employees and they could lead to them being more productive at work. Small changes can make a big difference!