How Hearing Loss May Affect Your Job

How Hearing Loss May Affect Your Job

Have you been having trouble hearing at work? Do you find you have to ask people to repeat themselves or even mishear and respond inappropriately sometimes? This can happen to anyone, but it may also signify a hearing loss. It’s important to understand that you are not alone. In the United States, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition. About 12% of the U.S. working population has hearing difficulty. About 24% of the hearing difficulty among U.S. workers is caused by hazardous noise exposure in the workplace. 

While there are protections in place in most work environments, millions of workers are still exposed to dangerously high levels of sound putting their hearing at risk for developing permanent hearing loss. This is serious because more than just the ears, hearing loss can potentially affect relationships at work, job performance and earning power.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

One of the most common forms of hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud sound. Sound is measured in decibels and a decibel level over 85bB can slowly cause damage to your hearing. As the level rises it can damage or even destroy tiny hair-like cells of your inner ear called stereocilia. Stereocilia collect sound from your ears and send it to your brain in the form of electrical impulses which it is then comprehended into speech and sounds are identified. It’s important to understand that it is not just the level of the decibel which puts stereocilia at risk but the length of exposure. For instance, during an average work shift of eight hours 85 decibels can cause some damage, especially if the exposure occurs five times a week for a decade or more. However, at 88dB, the same amount of damage can occur after just four hours.  

Protecting Your Hearing

This is why hearing protection is so important. Hearing protection has the potential to lower the decibel level by 15 to 33 decibels. However, for those who work around unexpected noise such as air traffic control, law enforcement or the military, it’s common to struggle with severe hearing damage as it’s hard to predict when an extreme exposure will occur.

Hearing Loss and Job Performance

While hearing loss is an ear issue it affects your ability to stay alert and communicate with the people around you. Co-workers and employees who are not aware of your condition may assume that you are distracted or uninterested by what they are saying, when it is actually a hearing issue. You may mishear directions or miss them all together, leading the others in your workplace to rely on you less. This quickly turns into a safety issue as delayed reaction times to warning signs can put you and co-workers at risk. 

Hearing Loss and Unemployment

If you are on the job market and have been having trouble finding work, it could be connected to your hearing. If you have a hearing loss, the chances of getting hired are lessened. Even though The American Disability Act protects people hearing loss from discrimination in the workplace, you must know and be open about the disability to receive the protection. Most people with hearing loss are not even aware they have an issue. A 2016 study called, The Socioeconomic Impact of Hearing Loss in US Adults, found that individuals with hearing loss had nearly two times higher odds of unemployment or underemployment.

Hearing Loss and Salary

Not only is it more difficult to find a job when living with untreated hearing loss but the salary is often notably lower. A study out of the Better Hearing Institute found that those with hearing loss had a notably disparity in earnings in comparison with peers with normal hearing. Even a mild hearing loss affected earning by an average $14,000 disparity in comparison to those with no hearing loss. If your hearing loss is severe, the study found the disparity on average comes to approximately $31,000 less per year than those without a hearing loss.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you are putting off dealing with your hearing loss, consider the impact on your earnings. The good news is that while hearing loss is permanent, the use of hearing aids can help you to avoid the impact on your job performance and earnings. In the long run it will cost you more by avoiding dealing with your hearing loss. Treat your hearing loss now and start by scheduling a hearing exam.

Tips for Better Hearing in Noise

Tips for Better Hearing in Noise

If you have hearing loss, it is likely that you could have first realized it while trying to communicate amongst noise. It may have been in a crowded restaurant, party, or even busy grocery store. Sometimes even the hum of loud appliances like the fridge or air conditioner can create so much racket that it is a challenge to hear. Isolating and prioritizing sounds in a crowded environment is a common challenge as hearing declines. Even if you have taken the leap to invest in hearing aids you may still have issues differentiating sounds amongst noise. While hearing aids can help significantly, there are certain strategies you can employ to make it easier to hear in a sea of competing noises. 

Challenges with Background Noise

When you suffer from hearing loss, complex sound environments can make it difficult to create hierarchies of important sounds. If someone is having a conversation while you are attempting to have a completely different conversation nearby, it is a common struggle to separate the two. Even if you find that you are able to hear, it may still be hard to comprehend what is being said.

Use Binaural Hearing Aids

No matter how advanced a hearing aid technology is, or how long the person has used their hearing device, it can still be difficult to hear. However, the use of two hearing aids can make a significant difference in making sure this is less of an issue. This is because we use both ears, known as binaural hearing, to decipher where sounds are coming from, how fast and how close. It is common for one ear to not hear as well as the other. This is often referred to as the “bad ear”. However, it is very rare that hearing loss is unilateral. Amplifying both ears, even if the loss is slight in one, can improve your brain’s ability to distinguish front and background noises and improve localization of sound. This can also help you stay more alert in listening environments and prevent accidents that can potentially occur. 

Style Matters

If you have been enjoying hearing aids for years this is wonderful news. Using hearing aids improves your ability to communicate amongst friends, family, and co-workers. It helps you stay independent, socially active and protects your brain from cognitive decline due to a lack of audio and social stimulation. However, hearing aid technology is rapidly changing and there are more and more features available to make hearing easier than before. This is particularly true of hearing amongst background noise, which has been a complaint of many hearing aid users for years. The latest technology in hearing aids has background suppression which prioritizes conversation in front of you, by pointing a microphone towards the speaker you are facing. This is called directional microphone systems (DPS): single or dual microphones, which capture and process sounds coming from the front of the device differently than those from the back. 

DPS also provides wind and background suppression to minimize ambient noise which could interfere with your hearing experience. This is achieved by preserving signals that can fluctuate, such as speech, in which the patterns of high and low frequency as well as loud and soft sounds can quickly shift. In addition, many hearing aids are now compatible with Bluetooth and Telecoil technology, which can send sound wirelessly to your hearing aids so you can hear media more clearly in a noisy auditorium or another crowded space. 

Training Yourself to Improve Your Listening

While hearing aids can make a world of difference, there are several ways that you can train your brain to hear sharper and clearer. This is especially essential for those who may have gone without hearing aids for years. There is a real need to train yourself how to hear again after potential decades of not hearing these sounds. There are several programs designed to help people hear sound amongst other competing noises. Some of these are complementary while others require a paid subscription or one time purchase. These programs employ games and memory strengthening activities to help people to prioritize sounds. The Listening and Communication Enhancement (LACE) program has been found to enhance ability to hear speech in noise significantly based on a 2011 study. 

Dealing with Your Hearing Loss

If you notice that you are having issues with hearing in noisy places, it’s time to have your hearing tested. Even if you are already using hearing aids, it may be worth your while to explore what options there are for you to hear even better. Schedule a hearing test today and find out what the world of hearing enhancements can do for you, to hear through all the noise.