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Hearing loss in the office – Effective ways of speaking to people with hearing loss and advice for sufferers 

Two years ago I got diagnosed with Tinnitus which has had quite a big impact on my life. Not only has my hearing majorly deteriorated but I hear a constant stream of multiple high pitched noises that no one else but me can hear. Unfortunately this doesn’t come and go, every single second for the past two years night and day my ears have been ringing. As you can imagine this can make working in a busy office environment challenging at times, not just for me but also for my colleagues.

This isn’t a sob story though, approximately 9 million people in the UK suffer from hearing loss many of which like me work in an office so I thought I would share some insight on this and provide some advice on how to make it easier to communicate with colleagues who are hard of hearing as well as provide some helpful advice for anyone dealing with hearing loss that worked for me when I was adapting to working in an office.

Effective ways of speaking to people with hearing loss

  • Say the person’s name at the start of a conversation. Office environments tend to be noisy with a lot going on. For the hard of hearing the majority of colleagues voices blend into the background and we need to be aware that someone is trying to talk to us in order to focus on the conversation
  • If you need to speak with them when they’re on the phone speak naturally. Slowing down or exaggerating mouth movements actually makes you harder to understand.
  • Try your best to face them directly and make eye contact. Avoid talking to the side or back of their heads or from other rooms.
  • Avoid shouting. Talking louder can help when someone can’t hear you clearly however shouting tends to have the opposite effect.
  • Try to avoid interrupting conversation or talking over people. The majority of people with hearing loss find it difficult to listen to more than on one person at a time especially if they have tinnitus. This normally results in them not being able hear either person so they can’t acknowledge what you’re saying anyway
  • Try and avoid standing behind someone with hearing loss whilst talking to someone at the other side of the office. Sounds coming from behind them tend drown out all other sounds for them

Things you may not realise

  • Hearing loss and tinnitus tends to be amplified when they are ill or tired
  • Despite finding it hard to hear a large portion of people with hearing issues tend to be very sensitive to loud sounds or certain noises. For some people it can also be disorientating

Advice for people with hearing loss working in offices

  • Make sure your colleagues and employers are aware. If they don’t know that you are hard of hearing then they can’t help and may even think that you are ignoring them. Some people may find it embarrassing but it will help you to have an easier time and be more productive.
  • If you are finding it difficult to hear someone then the easiest solution is move from where you’re currently situated. Often you will find that background noise can make it hard to hear people clearly, taking a couple of steps to the side or moving closer to them tends to be more effective then asking people to repeat themselves.
  • Make sure that your desk is located in a spot that works for. If you’re located in the middle of the office or by somewhere that is busy/noisy I would strongly recommend that you ask for a desk move. My personal recommendation is being in a corner as you won’t have sounds coming from behind you. If your hearing impairment is on your medical records then you have a legal right to request this.
  • Try to avoid stress or feeling tired. For a large portion of people when they are feeling stressed or tired they find it harder to hear. People who suffer from tinnitus may also find that the internal noises they hear are more severe. If you find it difficult to deal with stress or have issues sleeping then it may be worth talking to your GP.  They may be able to provide you with useful advice or prescribe something that may help

I hope that anyone who reads this blog finds useful. Please take into account that I am not a doctor and this blog is based on things that have helped me adjust to having a hearing impairment or advice I have found on other websites. If you’re interested in learning more I would advise looking at the following websites who specialise in hearing loss

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