Accommodations at Work for Hearing Loss
The number of people with hearing loss in the United States has doubled over the past 15 years, and a significant percentage are either employed or job-seekers. If you’re one of them, your hearing loss presents a challenge, not only to you but to employers. This leaves you with three options with regards to informing potential and current employers of your hearing challenges:
Before you decide which option you want to pursue, make sure you understand your rights to reasonable accommodations and know what assistive devices are available to help you succeed on the job.
Seeking employment and hard of hearing
The following are typical concerns expressed by people looking for jobs who have hearing loss significant enough to raise concerns:
Q Do I have to tell a potential employer I’ll need an accommodation during the application/interview process?
A No, you don’t. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you aren’t required to disclose any medical procedures, use of hearing aids, or related health conditions as a job applicant.
Q If I need an accommodation during my interview, should I ask for it?
A Yes. If you need help to hold a successful interview, then you should request a sign language interpreter or whatever else you might need, within reason. However, at the point of disclosure, a potential employer is then free to ask if you will require further accommodation to perform the job.
Q What questions can an employer ask me during the application/interview process with regards to hearing loss and my ability to do a job?
A An employer might be limited in what they can ask you regarding how you’re treating your hearing loss, but there are questions regarding your ability to perform “essential functions” they’re allowed to ask, such as:
Can you respond quickly to instructions in a noisy, fast-paced environment?
Do you have good communication skills?
Are you able to meet legally required safety standards to perform these duties?
You should answer these questions honestly, keeping in mind that a perfectly valid response is, “Yes, with reasonable accommodation.” It might help to familiarize yourself with available accommodations for the job you’re applying to by visiting the EEOC website, keeping in mind under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a potential employer must enable you to participate in the application process on an equal footing with hearing candidates.
Q If after I’m hired I disclose my hearing loss (with or without a need for accommodations) for the first time, can my employer change their mind about hiring me?