Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Employees With Hearing Loss

In this article in Human Resource Executive Online*, Marlene Prost tackles the potential issues arising from hearing impaired individuals in the workforce, particularly older employees who may be resistant to or ignorant of their loss. Generally I dislike the common assumption that the only individuals with hearing loss are the elderly, but the fact is that the portion of the population represented by older people is growing dramatically all over the world. There are a lot of old people around, and, as the article states, people are staying at their jobs longer or coming out of retirement. And older people do tend to have some hearing loss.

I think anything that helps employers help their employees in feeling secure and confident in their job is a step in the right direction. If it means recognizing the onset of a hearing loss, I'm all for it, since it can be potentially detrimental to a person's livelihood, sense of security and their emotional state. I know, for example, that when I couldn't use my right hearing aid earlier this year, I was more irritable and snappy. I couldn't hear what was going on around me, and that in turn affected me emotionally. If an employer can attribute this not to declining job performance but to a hearing issue, I think that could save somebody's job. As the article says, "untreated hearing loss translates as incompetence."

One more interesting statistic from the article, courtesy of the Better Hearing Institute in Virginia: "In a 2005 nationwide survey of 40,000 households, BHI found that hearing loss can cost household income up to $12,000, depending on the degree of hearing loss. But hearing aids cut the economic impact by 50 percent." I found that pretty interesting and sobering. What factors contribute to the loss of income as related to hearing loss? Lack of confidence, employer discrimination, perceived incompetence? Something to think about.

* I don't generally make a habit of reading human resource-oriented web sites, but this article showed up on a newsfeed in my Google Reader.

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