Workplace: Hearing

What? Are others often asking “what” or saying “pardon me, could you repeat that?”

Maybe they are not hearing you. Or maybe it is because they are not listening or attending to what you have to say.  

I ask these questions because of my life experiences around hearing. My father has worn a pair of hearing aids for decades, so I am aware of the journey to hear and the challenges of not hearing. I also recall his upset with us as teenagers because he thought we were banging dishes – when we were not.  In reality, his hearing had changed and created sound distortions that negatively affected him and his relationship to us. Once he began wearing the hearing devices, relationship harmony was restored.

More recently, a friend was with me one day when I heard high-pitched alarms that she wasn’t hearing. I encouraged a hearing check because I knew a hearing impairment could potentially mean losing a specialized license that was really important to her work. Ultimately, she got hearing aids and has kept her licensure.

Recognized audiology research is now reporting that a diminishment or loss of hearing has an effect on our cognitive (brainpower) abilities – a negative effect. In other words, if we began life hearing and now cannot physically hear, our brains begin to atrophy or lose thinking capacity. “Hearing” is important to our lives at work and at home.

Several workplaces over my career provided these opportunities to improve understanding of hearing impairments and hearing capacity.

  • In my 20s, a customer service team supporting the hearing-impaired community needed training. So, I learned a tiny bit of sign language via a community college course in order to gain understanding. I worked with the team to understand the technology used for telephone communications and how our customers would experience interactions with us.
  • During the early 2000s, while serving on a variety of government committees, I watched my elders struggle to hear what was being discussed. The inability to hear impaired their ability to understand presentations, to participate in discussions, and to make fully informed decisions. Several members opted to work with the technology team to have their computers set up to provide live-stream feeds to headsets so that they could fully participate.
  • During the 2010s, I’ve facilitated meetings in which an interpreter joined the meeting via a laptop so that hearing-impaired employees could actively participate in the meeting. These technology-supported experiences reminded me of the importance of only ONE person talking at a time so that the interpreter knew what to translate for each employee. Without the interpreters-via-technology, employees would not be able to participate in meetings.

With awareness of the importance of hearing and gaining information from the hearing community, I have had my own hearing checked about every eight years. Benchmarks are important and I wanted information about whether activities and/or heredity might be affecting my own hearing capacity. Recently (2019), I had my hearing tested again. I discovered that I have moved out of a solidly “normal” hearing range in some areas and begun creeping into mild hearing loss. This means that I need to more frequently monitor my own hearing capacity in order to ensure that I am fully hearing what happens around me – my work depends on hearing and speaking.

Have you gotten your hearing tested lately? What did you discover?

Workplace: Managing the moments of our day-to-day business lives takes work. Together, let’s explore what issues and activities affect us every day (or some days) that we go to work. – Jana

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