Encourage a hearing loss-friendly work environment with these helpful hints.
In the United States, almost 40 million adults report some degree of difficulty hearing. That means there are many people with hearing loss working in a variety of jobs and industries across the country. To ensure employees with hearing loss are supported and able to do their jobs effectively, try these tips to create a hearing loss-friendly work environment whether your team is working from home or back in the office.
- Equip the workplace with communication tools
- Use visual and kinesthetic safety alerts
- Make virtual meetings more accommodating
- Provide written materials and captions
- Consult the HLAA Employment Toolkit
Learn more about these tips below!
Equip the workplace with communication tools
Most jobs require some degree of communication with others, be it coworkers or clients. There are plenty of hearing loss technologies that can make this easier, both in the office and when your employees are working remotely! Employees can collaborate with one another over Slack or email, call clients with the help of a captioned telephone, and use assistive devices during meetings.
Use visual and kinesthetic safety alerts
Whether your workplace is a warehouse or an office, the safety of your employees is important. Make preparedness a priority by instituting a mix of audio, visual, and kinesthetic health and safety protocols in your organization’s emergency preparedness plan.
Non-audio emergency alerts as detailed by OSHA can include:
- Flashing exit signs
- Strobe lights
- Vibrating desk alarms, pagers, or wristbands
- Automatic instant messages or computer pop-ups
If your business includes loud or heavy machinery, there are additional ways to ensure that your workplace is safe and accommodating for employees with hearing loss. You can read more about these on OSHA’s website. To protect the hearing of all of your employees it’s also recommended that you provide and encourage the use of hearing protection such as ear plugs or headphones when they’re working with loud machinery.
Make virtual meetings more accommodating
More companies than ever before are allowing employees to work from home. If your team has shifted to meeting virtually, there are several ways you can create a hearing loss-friendly work environment even while remote.
When organizing virtual meetings, keep them hearing loss-friendly by:
- Establishing guidelines for employees to take turns speaking, mute their microphones when not speaking, and ensure they have good lighting for their colleagues with hearing loss who rely on speech-reading or facial expressions.
- Setting up live closed captioning in your virtual meeting software if possible, or helping employees enable captioning on Zoom. You can also get captions on a CapTel captioned telephone during a Zoom meeting by following these easy steps.
- Recording your team’s calls so employees can watch or listen to them later in case they missed anything.
You can find more tips on making your virtual meetings and remote work environment hearing loss-friendly here.
Provide written materials and captions
Whether in person or virtual, distributing a detailed meeting agenda ahead of time can help employees follow along with each topic. You can also have a designated note-taker to summarize what goes on in a meeting and send notes via email afterward. For training sessions, prepare text versions of the material and make sure any videos have closed captions.
Consult the HLAA Employment Toolkit
Browsing through the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Employment Toolkit is a great way to understand the challenges faced by employees with hearing loss. This resource is written for people with hearing loss, but as an employer you can utilize it to understand the difficulties employees with hearing loss face in the workplace, and anticipate the accommodations they’ll need to do their jobs effectively. The kit includes a communication tips sheet that can be distributed to managers and employees to help them be inclusive and accommodating as well.
For more helpful content on accommodating and living with hearing loss, continue browsing the CapTel blog! Our articles for the workplace include tips on protecting hearing at work, navigating virtual meetings with hearing loss, and joining a Zoom call with captions.