If you or someone you love is working with hearing loss, you know what a gauntlet it can feel like to remain productive and effective on the job. Not only are accommodations sometimes necessary to make sure that you can be effective, but you also need to remain protected from future harm to your hearing.
Though some employers are cognizant of the risk their workplaces pose to the hearing of their employees, far too many remain unresponsive. Although factories and industrial settings can pose the greatest threat, they are also under closer oversight in most cases. Some of the riskiest workplaces for hearing loss are those small businesses that do not strictly abide by the guidelines established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Let’s take a look at what you can do to remain productive and effective on the job with hearing loss, as well as how to advocate for better practices at work to prevent further damage to your hearing.
Although it can take a lot of energy to engage in self-advocacy in the workplace, you can courageously and boldly advocate for necessary accommodations that will make you productive at work. Sometimes this means technology to assist you during conference calls or other forms of communication that are difficult with hearing loss.
Written notes from meetings and regarding instructions can alleviate the possibility that you missed important information. Your employer may even be able to assist with the cost of hearing aids in some cases, so contact your human resources personnel or manager to talk about ways that you can be better at work with the accommodations you need.
Some workplaces are good at providing protection to their employees in the form of earplugs or other devices, yet providing hearing protection is only one piece of the puzzle. Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to sound that is too loud for too long a time, and the length of time necessary to incur hearing damage can be quite short.
When you wear hearing protection, you can reduce the overall volume level of the environment by a certain amount, at least 10 decibels with basic disposable foam earplugs. However, even with that reduction in mind, you might be exposed to loud sounds that can lead to damage. The next necessary form of protection is to limit your time of exposure in the workplace. If, after considering the protection from earplugs, your workplace continues to emit 90 decibels of noise, then your shift can only last about 2 hours.
If your workplace is loud enough that your hearing protection isn’t enough, then your employer needs to make it possible for you to limit your shifts in that context.
Remember Your Needs
Those with hearing loss require support in all workplaces, not only factories and industrial sites. If you work in a restaurant or bar, you might be faced with worse hearing conditions than you realize.
You can take a decibel reading of your workplace as a guideline and starting point for the conversation. Smartphone apps are freely available for you to get a general reading of the loudness of your workplace, and you can use this information to open the door to a discussion of accommodations and protections that your employer can provide. Although you are an employee, your safety should not be compromised in service of the bottom line.
If you realize that your workplace is producing sound that is loud enough to damage your hearing, then you have the right to request protection, including reduced lengths of shifts, if necessary. You can also contact OSHA for assistance, including an anonymous review of your workplace from the perspective of hearing safety.
Ultimately, remembering to advocate for your own needs is half the battle. Although it is easy to be swept up into a workplace culture that takes hearing safety for granted, your ongoing wellbeing is in the balance. You might be the only one taking responsibility for your needs in the workplace, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself when necessary. If greater hearing protection or accommodation for hearing loss are necessary, a simple conversation is often all it takes to open the door to a better workplace environment.
If you are concerned about your hearing abilities or simply want to monitor your hearing, contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test! We can also point you in the direction of hearing protection options.