16Jan2015

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How to be a great manager when you have hearing loss

Posted on Jan 16, 2015

One of the hardest parts of dealing with hearing loss can be the effect it has on your work. Some people may feel they are no longer able to communicate as well as they used to, and in some roles, this can have a big impact. 

In many cases, this kind of thinking is not only incorrect, but also detrimental to a person's career. Honourable John Howard AC was hearing-impaired from childhood, but grew up to be Australia's second-longest serving Prime Minister. He wore two hearing aids throughout his political career, led a nation, and is now the patron of the Deafness Forum of Australia1.

With the appropriate hearing care, hearing aids and the right approach, anyone can be an effective manager, despite hearing loss. You may find the following tips useful for workplace communication:

1. Teach people about hearing loss

Many people have never encountered hearing loss personally, so while they may know what it entails in a general sense, they may not know how to deal with it. Let them know about the different levels and types of hearing impairments, such as tinnitus, a mild or moderate level of loss, or severe hearing loss. Teach them how people with residual hearing loss may be able to hear less well or better depending on the surrounding environment and that most people who experience hearing loss still communicate orally. 

2. Explain your level of hearing loss

A breakdown of what you can and can't hear will help your colleagues understand how they can best communicate with you, according to the Better Health Channel2. Telling them you struggle with hearing voices in a crowded room will let them know that they should speak with you privately rather than in a busy office. Telling them you use visual cues to help you understand their meaning will ensure they know to stand in a well-lit area to have a conversation. 

3. Prepare for meetings

As a manager, you will likely be leading a lot of group meetings and conversations. Better Health Channel suggests sending around an agenda prior to the meeting so that people can ask questions or make comments in writing ahead of time, in order to save having this conversation in a board room. Ask a chairperson to sit near to you in good light so they can repeat questions or comments from around the room to you in case you don't catch it when a staff member asks. Ensure any videos or DVDs played as part of the meeting have captions switched on and ensure any audio (such as talking to clients or colleagues in another city via the phone) is technologically capable of the volume you require prior to use. 

If you or someone you know experience hearing difficulties at work, a FREE hearing check may be necessary. Click here to book an appointment at your local HEARINGLife or call 1800 340 631.

1 Deafness Forum of Australia. About Deafness Forum. Accessed December 9 2014. Available at: http://www.deafnessforum.org.au/index.php/about-us-63/about-deafness-forum

2 Better Health Channel. Hearing loss – communication in the workplace Accessed December 9 2013. Available at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Hearing_loss_-_communication_in_the_workplace

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