Everything from phone calls and client meetings to office chitchat can be a challenge for workers with hearing loss, which affects an estimated 34.6 million Americans 50 and older — including 8.5 percent of adults 55 to 64 living with hearing loss that’s disabling. Whether you’ve noticed small, age-related declines in your hearing or are living with a long-term hearing impairment, these expert-backed strategies can help set you up for workplace success.
1. Claim the best seat in the house at meetings
“One of the problems with hearing loss is not when you don’t hear — it’s when you think you’ve heard correctly but you haven’t,” says Lise Hamlin, director of public policy for the Rockville, Maryland-based Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Even with hearing aids, catching every word at a work meeting can be challenging if you have hearing loss, she says.
Choose a seat next to the person who’s running the meeting to get the best view of attendees’ faces, so you can see their expressions and pick up extra clues by lip-reading. “In a big meeting, people talk to the person who’s chairing it,” Hamlin explains. You could also look for a seat at the center of the table near people you have a hard time hearing, suggests hearing advocate Shari Eberts, who shares tips and blogs at Living With Hearing Loss. Avoid seats that face a window, and adjust the blinds so that glare doesn’t obstruct your view of others.
2. Request written backup
Ask for a written agenda before meetings and for copies of meeting notes afterward, Hamlin says. Or write your own summaries of meetings and one-on-ones with your boss or coworkers and ask them for sign-off, Eberts suggests. “Don’t be afraid to confirm what you think you’ve heard,” Hamlin says.