People with hearing loss who have been successful in their careers

Posted by jaema @jaema, Dec 27, 2020

Hi -is there someone I can talk to, or read about, who's been successful in their career? I've struggled with hearing loss, and its effects, for 30+ years and because of these experiences, I've come to believe that I would not be able to navigate an employment setting in a way that would be satisfactory to any employer. I also have come to believe that advancement in any career is next to impossible for me to achieve. I've been significantly under-employed my entire life. I'm now receiving vocational rehabilitation services and I'm wondering if I've sold myself short all of these years. I think that if I were to conduct a little research into how other people have managed well in their careers, without being able to hear clearly the people around them, then I might believe that this could be possible for me, too.

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@faithwalker007

My husband is deaf in his left ear and it’s so frustrating for him when people who KNOW it talk to him on his left side. He always makes an exaggerated move to turn to his right and offer his right ear (which he is hard of hearing in) to whomever is talking. That is, IF he cares to hear the convo in the first place—he can be a “man.” Lol
All I can say is to continue to tell people, vocalize your condition, and socialize with those people who respect it. The public will not know but they will IF you inform them.
It is not easy and will never get easier.
I step in and repeat phrases of missed conversation IF my husband wishes it.
If any one who has the same issue has someone who can do this for them, it can help but it also can be just as frustrating as my husband has relayed to me. What it will do though is bring others attention to the issue or remind them but not to be a controlling factor for the person who can’t hear well.

Just what we’ve learned over the years. Take it with a grain of salt. Different things for different people.

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That was my reality for years as I had bilateral hearing loss and was only fit with one aid initially. The second 'hearing aid' I was fit with was a bicross that transferred sound from the unaided side to the side with the hearing aid. That was long enough ago that I had a wire in the back of my head from transmitting device to the receiving device. Next fit was wireless as technology progressed. Now I have a cochlear implant on the totally deaf side and still use a hearing aid on the other side. It works well.

Your husband may want to look into a bicross hearing aid, or possibly a BAHA (Bone anchored hearing aid) that is designed especially for single sided deafness. A cochlear implant may also be an option.

Unless he wants to get help for this you are probably stuck being his hearing ear doll. Not a problem, but the independence one gains from using technology can be life changing. Definitely; to each his/her own.

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@tonyinmi

@jaema, do you wear hearing aids at work? Successful is a relative word. Being happy at your job is most important. If you're not happy with what you do, then it makes it hard to go to work everyday. Hearing loss runs in my family and I was diagnosed in 2nd grade with progressive, sensorineural loss. My hearing loss has guided me throughout my career. I'm a retired electrical engineer. My career started as an electronic technician but I switched to engineering when I wanted a more challenging position. I went back to school and had to start over since none of the credits I earned in technical school transferred. It took me 15 years to get an engineering degree because I needed to work and support family. I left one job because it was too noisy and I felt it risked the residual hearing that I had. Perhaps if the hearing aid technology back then did a better job of filtering noise, I may not have switched careers or went back to school. One thing you don't want to do is hide your hearing loss. If people do not know, you are viewed as being aloof or slow and you may be given remedial tasks. People with normal hearing do not understand. We have to advocate for ourselves by letting others know how hearing loss affects us. Hearing loss is very prevalent. Chances are, you'll get a boss that has a family member that has hearing loss. They may understand what it's like. You will need to find ways of making sure you are doing what is needed for your job. For instance, I was part of a team and had to participate in conference calls. I missed a lot of what was said in the room and basically all of what was said on the speaker phone. I would follow up with the project manager to make sure I knew deadline dates for when my tasks needed to be completed. Every job has its own challenges and they will be different. As I mentioned previously, it's most important to be happy with what you do.
Tony in Michigan

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Do you find that your brain is working overtime just to navigate the very basics of a complex social situation, such as those at a workplace setting? You wrote that you missed a lot of what was said at work and I resonated with your experiences. I took care of myself physically, mentally, and socially on my own time to help mitigate the after-effects of the stress I accumulated throughout the day but this in and of itself was exhausting. Missing so much of the information that was said around me, and having to play make-up/catch-up all day every day, left me being exhausted at the end of the day. I just couldn't see my way through to advancement in any career. I was also wrestling with cognitive distortions and errors about my situation at the time, resulted in feelings of hopelessness and a significant lack of support, and I see that now. Vocational Rehabilitative Services is nice, and I'm grateful to have qualified for these services, but I'm finding myself having to teach them about some common experiences of a person with hearing loss and it has been up to me to find resources for myself. I am grateful for the support while I do this, however.

Anyway, thanks so much for sharing and I appreciate the dialogue.

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@julieo4

That was my reality for years as I had bilateral hearing loss and was only fit with one aid initially. The second 'hearing aid' I was fit with was a bicross that transferred sound from the unaided side to the side with the hearing aid. That was long enough ago that I had a wire in the back of my head from transmitting device to the receiving device. Next fit was wireless as technology progressed. Now I have a cochlear implant on the totally deaf side and still use a hearing aid on the other side. It works well.

Your husband may want to look into a bicross hearing aid, or possibly a BAHA (Bone anchored hearing aid) that is designed especially for single sided deafness. A cochlear implant may also be an option.

Unless he wants to get help for this you are probably stuck being his hearing ear doll. Not a problem, but the independence one gains from using technology can be life changing. Definitely; to each his/her own.

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Well, since we're both disabled. I doubt we'll be doing anything new for awhile. His hearing aid broke and no fixin' that baby much less getting a new one. He hated the thing anyway. We need to work on getting him new ones – ones he actually likes and won't break at the first sign of rough weather and life. Wyoming isn't exactly the easiest environment on gear like hearing aids.

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@jaema Hi! Too bad you aren't in NY where a staff member not only has hearing loss, but is a member of HLAA. Could your audiologist be of any help with resources? You aren't near any Center that deals with hearing loss? You do have a big workload, what with coping with people on the job and then having to do all the research. Do you know about Katherine Bouton's latest book (her 2nd one) on hearing loss? She has a wealth of information and presents it in a relaxed, almost entertaining way – very clear-cut.

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@jaema

Do you find that your brain is working overtime just to navigate the very basics of a complex social situation, such as those at a workplace setting? You wrote that you missed a lot of what was said at work and I resonated with your experiences. I took care of myself physically, mentally, and socially on my own time to help mitigate the after-effects of the stress I accumulated throughout the day but this in and of itself was exhausting. Missing so much of the information that was said around me, and having to play make-up/catch-up all day every day, left me being exhausted at the end of the day. I just couldn't see my way through to advancement in any career. I was also wrestling with cognitive distortions and errors about my situation at the time, resulted in feelings of hopelessness and a significant lack of support, and I see that now. Vocational Rehabilitative Services is nice, and I'm grateful to have qualified for these services, but I'm finding myself having to teach them about some common experiences of a person with hearing loss and it has been up to me to find resources for myself. I am grateful for the support while I do this, however.

Anyway, thanks so much for sharing and I appreciate the dialogue.

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Hi, @jaema For sure! I really agree with 'your brain is working overtime…" and it is truly exhausting. My most challenging experience was going to school in France where I heard non-stop French. I am an anglophone.

Meditation helped tremendously. A yogi taught me to meditate the summer before I went to France. Lunch break was for 2 hours. – Siesta time. So, daily, after eating lunch at school, I went home and did 20 minutes of meditation and then had the energy to keep going for the rest of the day. Even now, when I am in stressful hearing situations and too much information is coming my way, a 20 minute meditation break gives me the strength and energy to keep on going.

@julie04 My earliest aid was a 3" x 3 " or there about box strapped on my chest with a long wire going to my right ear. Really fashionable as an 7 year old with a humongous box sticking out of your dress. Thank heavens audio technology has improved light years now! I am glad a CI has been working for you with your Widex aids.

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@jaema

Do you find that your brain is working overtime just to navigate the very basics of a complex social situation, such as those at a workplace setting? You wrote that you missed a lot of what was said at work and I resonated with your experiences. I took care of myself physically, mentally, and socially on my own time to help mitigate the after-effects of the stress I accumulated throughout the day but this in and of itself was exhausting. Missing so much of the information that was said around me, and having to play make-up/catch-up all day every day, left me being exhausted at the end of the day. I just couldn't see my way through to advancement in any career. I was also wrestling with cognitive distortions and errors about my situation at the time, resulted in feelings of hopelessness and a significant lack of support, and I see that now. Vocational Rehabilitative Services is nice, and I'm grateful to have qualified for these services, but I'm finding myself having to teach them about some common experiences of a person with hearing loss and it has been up to me to find resources for myself. I am grateful for the support while I do this, however.

Anyway, thanks so much for sharing and I appreciate the dialogue.

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What you refer to is 'auditory fatigue'. Of course we spend an incredible amount of energy working to hear and decipher what is being said. Background noise is a monster for all of us. It's very easy to just turn out sometimes….which gives people the impression that we aren't paying attention, don't care, or don't 'get it'. I highly recommend learning and practicing basic stress management techniques. Something as simple as rhythmic breathing can help.

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@lucyg

Hi, @jaema For sure! I really agree with 'your brain is working overtime…" and it is truly exhausting. My most challenging experience was going to school in France where I heard non-stop French. I am an anglophone.

Meditation helped tremendously. A yogi taught me to meditate the summer before I went to France. Lunch break was for 2 hours. – Siesta time. So, daily, after eating lunch at school, I went home and did 20 minutes of meditation and then had the energy to keep going for the rest of the day. Even now, when I am in stressful hearing situations and too much information is coming my way, a 20 minute meditation break gives me the strength and energy to keep on going.

@julie04 My earliest aid was a 3" x 3 " or there about box strapped on my chest with a long wire going to my right ear. Really fashionable as an 7 year old with a humongous box sticking out of your dress. Thank heavens audio technology has improved light years now! I am glad a CI has been working for you with your Widex aids.

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I wasn't diagnosed with HL until I was a college student; early 20s. That was in 1962. I missed the 'big box' devices and also shunned the ones I ended up getting. I put off getting them for nearly a decade.

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I get it. In those 10 years devices did get a bit better. Being a kid in '62 I did as my parents asked 🙂 Behind the ear aids,tho huge were a fantastic update! Sorry about that decade where you put off getting them. It is a psychological struggle to accept all this.

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@julieo4

I allowed my progressive hearing loss to cut my teaching career short when I was in my mid-30s. I loved teaching health and physical education, but felt I was being unfair to my students. I had no access to assistive technology then. I was fortunate to be able to become a stay at home mom as my spouse made enough income for us to get by. That was in mid 70s and early 80s when there was no focus on technology other than hearing aids. I discovered, and became involved in the organization that was to become HLAA in 1983. Along with others, I watched the development of assistive technology, including cochlear implants. People with hearing loss/partial deafness, were suddenly recognized as a unique population that needed support and assistance. We were 'in betweeners'; not deaf and not hearing; a totally separate disability group with different needs. Products that could bring clear sound directly to hearing aids started to develop, and become available. I realized, that with technology that went beyond my hearing aids, I could do many things I had thought impossible. I returned to school for a master's degree in human services/counseling. Without that technology, that further education would not have been possible. It also provided me with an opportunity to educate a lot of classmates and professors about the unique needs of hard of hearing people.

In the early 2000s I returned to work full time, and enjoyed another decade of employment. As luck would have it, I was hired for a part time teaching position in a private school that was losing enrollment. After a year there full time, I was hired by an agency that worked with poverty level wage earners who were seeking education that would raise their income and get them out of poverty. I thoroughly enjoyed both jobs. Had I had the opportunity to get the advanced education earlier, I might have geared my ambitions towards management within an agency. However, this all happened when I was in my late 50s, so I was satisfied being a case manager within. Timing is everything.

You are living in times when technology is available, and is also mandated by the American's with Disabilities Act. Communication access is as valid and important as mobility access. You have to know what is available, and self advocate for its availability. Partial deafness is still grossly misunderstood. People tend to think that all people with hearing loss use and need manual communication. This is not true. The large majority of people with hearing loss need technology. Sadly, too many don't know it exists, and even worse, too many won't use it because it's visible.

If we are ashamed of our hearing loss, we broadcast to others that we are lesser people.We should know better. Learn what is available to you. Know what works for you. Educate about it. Advocate for it. You'll be glad you did. I wish you the best. I encourage you to join HLAA. This very special consumer based organization is a great place to learn what is available. http://www.hearingloss.org Vocational Rehabilitation should also be of help. (If they have a hard of hearing specialist/counselor within the agency. Some don't.

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I worked with a hearing consultant recently and I think the main take-away for me was that there is technology available, the specifics of which will be relatively unknown until I actually have need for accommodations in a workplace setting. I don't think that embarrassment is the issue for me here, it’s how helpful the technology really is in addressing the problem that’s the issue for me. Does it reduce the communication barrier or does it simply throw up a different one? However, I now know that technology is available, and I have a right to ask for it. I wasn't amenable to this idea for years, unfortunately.

So, I still don't know what works for me yet, but I do know what doesn't work for me: hearing aids. Speech recognition is a challenge with how much these hearing aids manage the sound that’s coming in. I have mostly conductive hearing loss and my cochlear is in pretty good shape. The amount of interference that these hearing aids create is super unhelpful for me.

However, I suspect that I will be asked repeatedly to use them as I continue on my VRS journey. I do resent this; however, if I'm not willing to wear hearing aids then maybe I shouldn’t expect any further help, I don’t know. This would be far from perfect but nothing’s perfect, I guess. Regular headsets have worked like a dream for me with Zoom calls this year so maybe there’s more to pursue there. I’ve learned a lot so far.

Oh, and I was already planning to join HLAA! It’s been on my task list for a while now so I will take this reminder as a motivation to get this done tonight. Thank you!

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@jaema What kind of headphones worked so well for you … ? Have you told your ear doctor how well they work.? There are a lot of different ways that headphones work but essentially they amplify a modulated electric signal to sound. You say that your cochlear is in good shape,… What have doctors and test shown that is NOT in good shape ?…. Ear Drum? Middle Ear (little bones)?

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@joyces

Reply to Jaema: Tony's right. You need to let people know that you don't hear normally. Most will forget much of the time and talk facing away from you or, worse, behind you, but, when you obviously don't hear, they'll remember and come around to talk face to face. Recently, two of the women who volunteer with me had a nice conversation behind me (we were all working, unpacking totes of bread to stuff into freezers). Since I wasn't participating in the conversation I didn't know was happening, one of them realized that, moved closer, and said, "Shoot, Joyce doesn't even know we're talking" and they both came around to apologize. Everyone has learned to really shout if they come into the pantry and I'm back in the freezer room (my car outside is a huge clue).

During the four years long ago when I had crises several times each week where I was forced to lie still and vomit for hours, I was a crew leader for a fisheries data collection project. I started every time by letting them know what to do if I started into a crisis, and that took a lot of the pressure off me. I only started to have a crisis once while out on the river. I sat down on a big boulder, closed my eyes (visuals make things far worse), and concentrated on listening to all the birds sing…and the crisis failed to develop. I like to believe that being outdoors with a host of birds nearby, plus having let everyone know what might happen and what they should do, made it possible for me to skip that crisis almost completely. I failed to warn one of my clients, started to be sick during a meeting, raced out to my car, where I had barf bags, a blanket…all the comforts of home. That led to everyone spending the next few hours worrying about what they should do. I was very lucky that some helpful person didn't call the paramedics!

Hearing loss is invisible. Sure, some people will think it's a bother to deal with speaking so that you can understand, but most will make a real effort to help you. No one will think you're stupid if they know why you don't track conversations well. Many will go out of their way to face you, speak clearly. I think many of us remember the old phrase "deaf and dumb" and fear that everyone will associate HOH with stupidity, but stating the problem clearly and telling people how they can make it possible for you to hear will put that one to rest pretty quickly. Be proactive!

When I first lost all hearing in one ear due to inner ear disease, I was forced to quit being active as an amateur musician. I not only had loss, but recruitment, so playing in an ensemble or orchestra was downright painful, and I knew that I was often not in tune with the group. Because creative people need an outlet, I turned to learning to knit intricate Aran patterns and spending more time painting. There are some things that may be better set aside if they're all uphill battle and very little satisfaction–but they're few and far between. I've read recently about musicians who got CIs and are still playing; technology has really advanced during the past 40 years, and I envy them.

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I have a question about hearing loss. At what point does a person qualify for CI?

I did volunteer at a local organization giving food away. The volunteers were super nice. However, where we stood around large tables, doing our jobs, I wasn't close enough to hear them. I told everyone I wore hearing aids but couldn't hear well. People forget and just go about talking to each other. They may say a few sentences louder but then forget, I couldn't hear them. This is so very frustrating. I volunteered because I wanted to do something to help but also because even though I have a husband. I quit volunteering because I can't hear the people. My husband doesn't like the fact he has to talk loudly to me. He talks to me from a room which is the room which is five rooms away. I tell him I can't hear him–then he gets upset. He has a very hard time dealing with it. Well, I have had hearing loss which started when my first husband came home at 3:00 am and ripped me out of a sound sleep and hit me over and over, breaking my ear drum. That is another story. He got married seven times and abused every wife! My daughter told me I answered people with statements which weren't even related to the question. I wondered why they looked at me very puzzled. I couldn't even hear my baby cry when I got remarried and had a baby. My little boy used to come to me and say: "Mommy, your baby is crying." I got another place for my baby to sleep or whatever near the kitchen where I could see her and hear her in the day time.

I don't like to go anywhere anymore. I can't hear what people are saying. After I receive the vaccinations against COVID, I am going to get fitted for blue tooth hearing aids. I am very anxious!

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@woogie My Starkey HA have a remote Mic on a lanyard or with a clip that you can give to your partner.. husband .. to wear.. the remote mic is Bluetooth.. and has to be charged.. but it works great.. he can hang that around his neck and talk to you from anywhere in the house usually…. It works with your Smart Cell Phone.. so you have to have that as well..

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