Work-Related Tips

Interview Guidelines for Vocational Needs

Successful communication at work is essential for successful work performance. It can also have an effect on the self-esteem of the individual. Since hearing impairment can interfere with successful communication, special guidance is suggested to assist the individual with hearing impairment to evaluate and develop strategies to insure effective communication in the workplace. Compton (1995) provides an overview for information to be obtained from an individual when asking about communication on the job. She suggests that the following must be examined:

  • Office conversation (including one-to-one conversation and meetings in offices).
  • Lectures or seminars within or outside the office.
  • Casual conversation with colleagues and/or clients (in office, car, restaurants, etc.).
  • Telephone communication (in office and while traveling).
  • Speech recognition from dictaphone, telephone, answering machine.
  • Reception of important warning signals in the office and while traveling (such as fire alarm, telephone ringer, pager, doorbell/doorknock, computer prompts).

An alternative approach to discussing work-related communication situations with an individual would be organized around the following topics:

Environmental (in Office, Conference Room, Sales Locations, Break Room, Etc.)

  • Noise, signal to noise ratio (S/N)
  • Distance
  • Reverberation
  • Lighting

Talker Variables (e.g., the Speech of Coworkers)

  • Familiarity
  • Rate of speech
  • Voice pitch
  • Lighting
  • Accent
  • Lip movements
  • Non-verbal factors {Facing speaker, Facial expressions, Gestures

Listener Variables

  • Hearing loss
  • Use of ALDS and hearing aids
  • Fatigue
  • Use of strategies

Environmental Modifications

  • Sources of background noise
  • Lighting
  • Possible modifications to improve communication

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

  • See legal rights of employees with impaired hearing (see 5.G.7 and 5.G.8)

Technology (Benefits, Limitations, Expectations)

  • Hearing aids
  • ALDS {for meetings, for phone}
  • Alerting devices

For Individuals Who Work in Fixed Location(s):

Ask individual with impaired hearing to draw rough floor plan of each work environment in which he/she communicates. This would include office, conference room, sales floor, service counter, work-station in plant, etc. Label sources of background noise and light. Label location of co-workers and customers with whom communication is critical for job performance. Label location of other sound sources considered desirable but not critical to hear. Label locations of phones and alerting devices. Estimate distances. Use this drawing as the basis for discussion of unfavorable signal-to-noise ratios, improper lighting, etc. Discuss alternative arrangements and possible use of assistive devices that would facilitate better communication. Discuss how these suggestions could be proposed to his/her boss and coworkers.

For Individuals Whose Work Involves No Fixed Setting:

Ask individual to describe the settings in which he/she works during the day. Factors to consider include:

  • Number and distance to co-workers.
  • Amount and type of competing background noise.
  • Nature of work-related conversation — technical or numerical data, following routine instructions.
  • Safety factors — Traffic, Distance to alerting signals

Discuss alternative arrangements or use of assistive devices that could facilitate better communication. Discuss how these suggestions could be proposed to his/her boss and co-workers.

Preparation for Communicating with Supervisor:

Step 1: The job analysis

  • Ask employee to examine the job requirements and list all fundamental activities, making sure to include activities that include alerting sounds. Since some activities are usually omitted from the employee’s first attempt, ask the employee to keep a detailed diary for several days listing all responsibilities.

Step 2: Identify hearing-related tasks

  • Ask the employee to examine both lists and select only the job functions that require hearing. Employee can assign weightings to the importance of these tasks or the difficulty that he/she experiences in them. Review this listing for areas that may be omitted.

Step 3: Identify the degree and frequency of the problem

  • Ask the employee to remove hearing-related functions that are not problematic from this list. For remaining activities, ask the employee to indicate whether each is always or sometimes problematic and consider why this is the case.


Step 4: Objective consideration

  • Ask the employee to carefully review the identified problem areas within the context of typical barriers to communication experienced by workers with hearing impairment, and review the reasons that problems exist. Consideration of how barriers (visibility for speechreading, angle from sound source for workers with unilateral losses or monaural hearing aid fitting, distance from sound source, and presence of background noise) influence job performance.

Step 5: Preparation for meeting with supervisor

Ask employee to:

  • Plan how to explain the hearing loss and his/her use of hearing instruments to the supervisor.
  • Plan how to explain how the job analysis was completed and how barriers affect job performance.
  • Plan specific suggestions for removing barriers. These may include use of ALDs, changes in policy, or physical modifications in the workplace. Think about how to justify these to the supervisor in terms of job performance.
  • Write a carefully organized summary of the results of his/her job analysis.

Step 6: Meeting with supervisor

  • Suggest that the employee set the tone for the meeting by speaking comfortably and unapologetically about the hearing loss, and include aspects of job performance that are not influenced by hearing. The employee should discuss benefits and limitations of hearing aids and other technology, how work-related hearing difficulties are related to environmental and physical barriers, and explain the procedure and results of the job analysis. Ask for supervisor’s input when problem-solving by devising strategies, environmental modifications, and use of technology that would improve work-related communication.

For Home Study

A copy of an article by Healy (1996) may provide guidance to employees or applicants with hearing impairment. Motivated individuals with college reading levels may also find articles by Williams (1992) and Tucker (1994) useful resources.

Communication Tips for Employees with Hearing Impairment

  1. Educate your co-workers about how they can best talk to you.
  2. Tell co-workers about your hearing loss and ask for their assistance if you seem to misunderstand.
  3. Do not bluff! Provide feedback when you understand or fail to understand.
  4. Double-check key points of instructions to make sure you understood correctly.
  5. Look for visual clues to what is being said.
  6. Anticipate difficult situations and plan how to minimize problems.
  7. Pay attention to the speaker.
  8. Thank co-workers when they speak clearly and directly to you.
  9. Try not to interrupt too often.
  10. Arrange for frequent breaks if discussions or meetings are long.
  11. Set realistic goals about what you can expect to understand.
  12. The person who begins a conversation goes to the listener.

Legal Rights of Employees
With Hearing Impairment

Federal laws prohibit employment discrimination against individuals with hearing impairment. The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any aspect of the employment setting by federal agencies, businesses which have contracts with the federal government of $10,000 or more, and recipients of federal financial assistance. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits state and local governments and private employers with 15 or more employees from such discrimination. Title I of the ADA deals with employment settings and prohibits discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability in job application procedures, hiring or discharging, employee compensation, advancement, job training, and other conditions and privileges of employment.

Employers may not:

  • use discriminatory recruitment, advertisement, or application procedures, or inquire about the nature or severity of a disability.
  • deny employment to qualified applicants because of need for reasonable
  • use selection criteria that are not job-related.
  • require medical examinations before offering employment (except for post-hire
    exams required of all employees to determine fitness for duty, etc.).

Employers must:

  • make reasonable accommodations to known limitations of otherwise qualified
    applicants unless they are able to claim this would cause an “undue hardship”.
  • make accommodation in testing (such as providing written copy of oral tests)

A qualified individuals one who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodations.

Essential functions are determined for each job and are the main duties required for successfully doing that job. Written job descriptions listing essential functions are not required but must be accurate if used.

Reasonable accommodation are modifications of the workplace or policies or provision of auxiliary aids or services that would overcome barriers in the employment setting unless these would cause “undue hardship”.

Undue hardship is not a clearly defined term but refers to significant difficult y or expense resulting from the provision of an accommodation. Decisions are made on an individual basis and based on the cost of the accommodation in relation to the resources of the employer and whether the accommodation would significantly change the nature of the business or services they provide.

Employees or applicants with hearing impairment should:

  • Be familiar with their rights under the ADA and other laws.
  • Be able to present themselves as desirable employees.
  • Be informed about technology and policies for reasonable accommodation.
  • Be willing to educate and work with the employer for reasonable accommodations.
  • Be familiar with financial incentives to employers for complying with ADA ($15,000 to all employers to remove barriers).
  • Tax credit to small businesses for making facility accessible
  • Tax credit (40% of first-year wages up to $6,000) for targeted employees

Tips for Speaking With
Hearing-Impaired Co-Workers

  1. Get the person’s attention before you speak.
  2. Speak clearly and at a moderate pace.
  3. Don’t shout.
  4. Notice background noise. It interferes with clear understanding.
  5. Notice lighting. Good lighting on your face makes you easier to understand.
  6. Repeat once, then rephrase the thought.
  7. Key the co-worker into the topic of discussion.
  8. Use facial expressions and gestures.
  9. Maintain eye contact.
  10. Don’t put objects in front of your face or speak with objects in your mouth.
  11. When in doubt, ask the individual for suggestions to improve communications.
  12. The person who begins a conversation must go to the listener.
  13. Provide written agendas for meetings.
  14. Politely double-check co-worker’s understanding of key details of message.