Are Your Employees Ignoring You – or Can They Not Hear You?

Are Your Employees Ignoring You – or Can They Not Hear You?

Managing delinquent workers can be one of the most frustrating roles for employers. But before you assume that Greg has been shirking his duties or Carla has been neglecting assignments, take a moment to consider this: Can they even hear you?

“A common myth is that only older people suffer from hearing loss,” says audiologist Andrea Sterkel. “The truth is there are six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss.” Despite the fact that it’s a relatively common condition, those suffering from hearing loss may feel sensitive about sharing their problem with their co-workers.

As an employer, you need to pay attention to the signs of hearing loss in the workplace. Sterkel identifies the following behaviors that should clue you in: asking for something to be repeated, exhibiting difficulty following conversations in group meetings, trouble communicating on the telephone or talking very loudly.

There are steps managers can take to help identify and accommodate hearing loss. “All employers should encourage their employees to receive annual physicals that include a hearing screening,” says Sterkel. “If hearing loss is determined, the employer should provide reasonable accommodations such as amplified telephones and environmental changes to decrease ambient noise.” Sterkel suggests collaborating with your human resources department or your local vocational rehabilitation department to ensure that your workplace is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Untreated hearing loss can result in social problems, communication problems and cognitive problems in the workplace, says Sterkel. Audiologists like Sterkel conduct audiometric evaluations that determine the type and degree of hearing loss and prescribe the most appropriate type of amplification or hearing aids. “Communication is key in providing a healthy and productive work environment.”

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month.

Andrea Sterkel, AuD, CCC-A, is a Senior Audiologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Call 216-844-7191 to schedule an appointment with Sterkel or another UH audiologist.

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