Hearing loss is a term that many associate with an aging population. For some it may trigger memories of large, obvious and obtrusive hearing aids or devices that squealed! This is not the reality in 2013. A look at the individuals I see every day as an audiologist reveals a large number of employed professionals who are encountering difficulty in work environments. From telephone work to conference and lunch meetings, hearing loss is impacting our workforce.
The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that nearly 1 in 5 Americans between the ages of 45-64 years of age experience hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age and with an aging workforce that includes many working well into their 70s, it should be noted that the incidence of hearing loss increases to 1 in 3 for Americans between the ages of 65-74 years of age. We now have a culture of employment that includes unique viewpoints from four generations working side by side. Many of us are aware that intergenerational communication styles may vary. It would behoove us to also consider hearing loss as we think about intergenerational communication in the workplace.
Individuals who work in a quiet or solitary environment may “get by” with their hearing loss. However, most individuals will encounter much more complex listening environments at work. Imagine if you had hearing loss and were required to listen in the following environments:
- Working in a cubicle environment where colleagues speak from behind or speak over/through walls.
- Participating in conference calls and telephone calls in which there are no visual cues to supplement the speaker’s voice.
- Participating in conference room meetings where distance can create a barrier in the ability to hear individuals around the table.
- Listening to individuals with ...