Sharing the burden of hearing loss

Posted by thodson3 @thodson3, Aug 9, 2019

Hello, I have been hard of hearing all of my life. I have held my current job as a report writer for and environmental company for 11 years. I am upset that I still occasionally face negative comments from coworkers about my hearing loss. Recently, I had a manager tell me in front of a room full of co-workers that I “needed to get new hearing aids” because mine “don’t work”. I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond immediately. In thinking about this since it happened, I have started wondering why the onus for accommodation in the workplace only seems to lie with me. Why isn’t it partially my employer’s responsibility to accommodate me? Has anyone else faced similar hardship? Does anyone here work somewhere where the employer shares the responsibility?

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Welcome to our world of hearing loss. You are not the only one who has faced the abject discrimination of bosses and co-workers who complain out loud about people who are hard of hearing or have hearing aids or any type of assistive listening devices. We are the targets for any company and have been for many years. Even though there are employment laws for accommodations such as the ADA, EEOC [ https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/hard-hearing-dealing-with-job-discrimination.htm https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/qa_deafness.cfm ] that protect us from this discrimination, many companies claim that its YOUR responsibility to accommodate them but that is not entirely true. If they have known all along that you are hard of hearing, and have provided you with some accommodations such as telephone help, someone to take notes for you, captioning, a quiet place for your to work, then they can not harass you. The only way they can claim that they can't help you is if what you ask of them is too expensive for them to provide for you such as a hearing loop installed in your cube. Having to replace your hearing aids which in and of itself impossible to do because of cost – is impractical and not appropriate. The first step you should do is contact your HR dept and file a grievance with them for this type of dispute. If you are not able to hear well enough, then you might consider calling in for a referral to your states Dept of Vocational Rehab to see if they can help you with this grievance and harassment. https://www.hearingloss.org/hearing-help/communities/employees/ Do not attempt to do this on your own. Call in the reinforcement because they will take every opportunity to call you inept and eventually get rid of you. That is what many different companies did with me even though I wasn't inept and I had education up to the …you know where. 5 different degrees and then some. Eloise

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@nurseheadakes

Welcome to our world of hearing loss. You are not the only one who has faced the abject discrimination of bosses and co-workers who complain out loud about people who are hard of hearing or have hearing aids or any type of assistive listening devices. We are the targets for any company and have been for many years. Even though there are employment laws for accommodations such as the ADA, EEOC [ https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/hard-hearing-dealing-with-job-discrimination.htm https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/qa_deafness.cfm ] that protect us from this discrimination, many companies claim that its YOUR responsibility to accommodate them but that is not entirely true. If they have known all along that you are hard of hearing, and have provided you with some accommodations such as telephone help, someone to take notes for you, captioning, a quiet place for your to work, then they can not harass you. The only way they can claim that they can't help you is if what you ask of them is too expensive for them to provide for you such as a hearing loop installed in your cube. Having to replace your hearing aids which in and of itself impossible to do because of cost – is impractical and not appropriate. The first step you should do is contact your HR dept and file a grievance with them for this type of dispute. If you are not able to hear well enough, then you might consider calling in for a referral to your states Dept of Vocational Rehab to see if they can help you with this grievance and harassment. https://www.hearingloss.org/hearing-help/communities/employees/ Do not attempt to do this on your own. Call in the reinforcement because they will take every opportunity to call you inept and eventually get rid of you. That is what many different companies did with me even though I wasn't inept and I had education up to the …you know where. 5 different degrees and then some. Eloise

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Thanks for your response Eloise! I have already pursued your recommendations! I am in an even more tricky situation because I am a contractor in a worksite. The manager who made these comments (and had said them numerous times) is a manager that my company is working for, but he is employed by the parent company. My HR director gave me a very useful tip which seems like it might work. She told me to say "not funny" whenever he says something like this, but to say it using a bland facial expression and while using a neutral tone of voice. I think this might help. I guess the whole thing has just got me thinking. He actually has some communication issues himself. He is a mumbler and does not annunciate words clearly. Despite my asking him to face me when speaking to me so I can read his lips, he cannot remember to do so after 11 years of working together. I guess I wonder why he assumes the communication barrier is my problem and not his. Have you ever experienced a workplace situation where a co-worker assumes responsibility for their role in the communication process? Am I just having idealistic thoughts? Thanks again! Nice to meet you! Tara

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I work for a company that claims to care about people. They even have a department they call PDR, for, Progressive, Diverse, and Inclusive. However, I have experienced endless negativity concerning my hearing loss. Once, in a group meeting, I had to ask a company VP to repeat something more than once. She became irate and asked if I was deaf. I looked her in the eye as I removed my hearing aids and placed them on the table in front of me and replied, "I am now". I then told her she needed to speak up because we were in a large room with terrible acoustics. She became angry and cut the meeting short. Since then, I have been under constant pressure by my boss to resign. I have told him and HR that if they want me to leave, either fire me or pay me enough to make it worth my while. They can't fire me because they have no cause and I have proof of their discrimination, and, I do my job so well no matter what they throw at me. It used to bother me, but now I just do my job and enjoy the fact that my presence is such a thorn in their side. By the way, this is a huge global company and if I named it, you would be shocked because of its reputation for being such a good progressive caring company.

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Yes Tara and others – we would be shocked to know this happens in all of the well known global companies…all of the companies on the internet and in your backyards. Its a guise to show that you are just a number and that they can easily replace you with someone who is younger, without the thorn and can do you job almost as well as you but without the difficulties as you mentioned. I had the qualifications, the knowledge and records they sought but what they had to do for me was too much. They wanted snap decisions, responses and and didn't want to give an inch. Accommodations is just too much to factor in – in their fast paced lives. Even though they know the laws there – they can argue that you are not hearing well enough to do your job…mistakes are made – even if you don't They will makeup a mistake that is not yours but someones else and target you. This are scenarios that happened to me and then some…. They use various people in different departments to do their dirty work to frame you when the big day arrives for you evaluations…. and unbeknownst to you – they jack up complaints that sound like the walls are all tumbling down on you and you can only fend disability. Initially I filed a c/o with the EEOC but they couldn't do anything because I was working for a company that was a government based company and that is a no-no. So when the wall fell – I filed short term and then long term disability. Eventually I received permanent disability because I did have what was found to be first stage dementia after all of the testing unfortunately. This may not be the route you take but I had put in 40 years of nursing and this was all I could do. There were nurses who understood what was happening to me and stood by me but they were being canned as well because they were helping me and they tried to distance themselves but it was either helping me or leaving the company before being canned themselves. That is why I am such a big proponent in the verbal and written word with my legislators and those who are in authority. I walk the talk of one who has been discriminated against all my life in both private and public life. Some of it was through negligence and some of it was resentfulness – even so, i have not given up but figured I would continue the pursuit of education, information, advocacy and knowledge as the Mission of HLAA notes because it works. Eloise

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I applaud all of those who suffer from hearing loss and are bucking against society and employers who feel the burden falls solely to the individual. I worked with someone who was suffering from progressive hearing loss, in a government agency that refused to assist her. She was ridiculed to her face and behind her back, and put into work assignments that were a recipe for failure. It was frustrating to her, and to me [as her advocate, at her request] when we would approach HR with complaints. I was told "it's none of your business". Her quality of work product diminished, her stress finally was enough for a long-term leave of absence. My dad suffered with severe hearing loss and isolated himself because he couldn't understand people's voices. Thank you for continuing the fight.
Ginger

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@thodson I have found that when I ask people to accommodate my hearing loss by speaking up and facing me they will only do so for a brief moment. They fall back into lazy communication. My husband and I even fall into old patterns at home when we find ourselves talking to each other from the other room. Old habits die hard. I think your situation would be very difficult working in construction with what I'm assuming would be loud background noise from equipment. If that's the case don't people wear ear protection? Not sure if everyone wears hard hats but I could see that as being another thing that would require creative thinking to find a work around. Here's a link to give you an idea of how noise will inpact construction workers. https://blog.ansi.org/2018/10/how-loud-is-construction-site-noise/#gref
@tmclain I have just tried an Assisted Listening Device called Roger Select Mic that seems to be helping me hear in restaurants. I had previously tried a Roger Table Mic which didn't help in an area with so much background noise but I found It was VERY helpful at a meeting. It even cut out the sound of the 2 window air conditioners so I could hear the voices! I don't believe we should be discriminated against and belittled. It shows how small people can be. But, I also learned at the HLAA Convention this year that sometimes we need to provide for ourselves by purchasing Assisted Listening Devices to help us. HLAA is pushing for Loop Systems to be installed in public places much like the handicap doors, ramps and restrooms that have become a part of our lives. Another idea is a product called Personal Counter Loop that could be used at a desk. https://www.maxiaids.com/hearing-hotspot-counter-loop?gclid=CjwKCAjwnMTqBRAzEiwAEF3ndopAlLnXBRxeXhS0XApRwCF4jIpx2xxwd_DIbzFk_ek6Fv9Ps2k-UxoC8coQAvD_BwE

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Hello. You will need to contact the US Department of Labor to completely define Accommodations. I am a longtime employer in the state of Nebraska, at least up until I became a profound hearing loss person. Accommodations in the law is only “Reasonable Accommodations”. In my opinion It is a very limited law. I’m not sure what you would want your employer to do, but although they are somewhat responsible to accommodate you, it is only reasonable accommodations. That made me cry what you said that employer did to you in front of all those other employees. Contact the US Department of Labor to see if you have been discriminated against and also what is Reasonable Accommodations with respect to your employer’s responsibility. All my best.

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@thodson3 With all the talk about inclusion, discrimination, "other," and the whole PC mania, there is still plenty of discrimination out there. It just so happens that hearing loss does not belong in the current PC list. No wonder people do not want to be seen with hearing aids. The same person who would gladly hold the door for someone with crutches, would look awry at a person with hearing aids. Does this disability not come under the "Americans with disabilities act"?

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@jshdma

@thodson3 With all the talk about inclusion, discrimination, "other," and the whole PC mania, there is still plenty of discrimination out there. It just so happens that hearing loss does not belong in the current PC list. No wonder people do not want to be seen with hearing aids. The same person who would gladly hold the door for someone with crutches, would look awry at a person with hearing aids. Does this disability not come under the "Americans with disabilities act"?

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It certainly is covered. There is a summary of the ADA and other Acts on the HLAA homepage under Programs and Events: Know Your Rights. Also, each State should have an Office of Vocational Rehabilitation or something similar. It helps people with disabilities be able to gain or keep employment by helping them get the accommodations they need.

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It is covered, but largely ignored and rarely enforced. You can, however, get a handicapped parking tag for everything under the sun for you 4WD off-road truck that requires steps to get into.

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