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Hearing loss and employment

People with hearing loss may have have difficulty getting and keeping jobs. Those that have employment need communications accommodations to function most effectively. Employer’s efforts to provide accommodation greatly affect the attitudes of people with hearing loss towards their work.

It may be extremely difficult for people with hearing loss to get a job. Whether because of ignorance, uncertainty, fear, or malice, employers are often unwilling to hard of hearing, late deafened, or oral deaf people. This is illegal under various laws in the United States, but is still an extremely common practice. In addition to the obvious consequence that many hard of hearing, late deafened, and oral deaf persons don’t have jobs, many are stuck in jobs that are unfulfilling , offer no advancement possibilities, or lack challenge and interest; they are stuck because they think it extremely unlikely that they will get hired for another job, regardless of their qualifications and experience.

February 2013 – Are physicians with hearing loss getting needed support

February 2013 – DOT Authorizes Truck Drivers with Hearing Loss

February 2013 – Would a Deaf Lifeguard be ‘Qualified’ Under the ADA?

December 2012 – Fighting Workplace Discrimination against the Hearing Impaired

October 2012 – Better Hearing Means Less Stress at Work

September 2012 – Truck Drivers with Hearing Loss Can’t Cross State Lines

July 2012 – Task Force Examines Health Care Career Options for Deaf People

June 2012 – The dollars and sense of addressing hearing loss in the workplace

February 2012 – Deaf Americans: Fighting for the chance to serve in the military

January 2012 – Medical Billing Training Available for People with Hearing Loss

November 2011 – New York’s finest called out on hearing aid ban

October 2011 – Negative employment consequences of hiding your hearing loss

July 2011 – Should the military accept deaf recruits?

July 2011 – HLAA Convention: The Dozen Most Effective Communication Strategies for the Workplace

June 2011 – NYPD Cops with Hearing Aids File Discrimination Complaints with EEOC

May 2011 – The Effects of an Untreated Hearing Loss on Workplace Compensation

March 2011 – People with Untreated Hearing Loss Earn Less

February 2011 – Televised Deaf Discrimination Offers Opportunity for Discussion, Education

July 2010 – HLAA Convention: Job Search and Employment: Its Clear Communication is Critical!

October 2009 – HLAA Convention: Acoustics in the Workplace

June 2009 – HLAA Employment Toolkit

March 2009 – Hearing Aids Promote Job Preservation in Economic Tsunami

February 2009 – Disability Employment Survey Results Released

July 2008 – HLAA Research Symposium: What Research Tells Us of Lifelong Learning and its Impact on Earnings for People with Hearing Loss

May 2008 – Law Enforcement Officer with Hearing Loss Fired

April 2008 – Absenteeism Higher Among Hearing Impaired People

October 2007 – Hearing Loss Impacts Earnings

July 2007 – A Quiet Day at the Office: Acoustics for People who are Hard of Hearing

July 2007 – Hearing Loss in the Workplace: 2007 and Beyond

October 2006 – Here’s a great synopsis of baby boomers’ hearing loss, how it’s affecting their lives, and what they’re (not) doing about it.

March 2006 – We’ve all heard that hearing loss affects all aspects of life, including employment. A recent study in Denmark has confirmed this fact, and provides some quantitative results.

March 2006 – An article in the New Standard argues that attitude, not cost, is the main barrier to the employment of people with disabilities.

May 2005 – At the 2005 Western Symposium on Deafness Dr. John Schroedel and Dr. Douglas Watson of the University of Arkansas presented an excellent workshop entitled “Patterns in the Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation of Hard of Hearing Persons”.

March 2005 – Ever notice that most of the people who work in organizations for the “Deaf and hard of hearing” are either Deaf or hearing? In many of these organizations you can count the number of hard of hearing people on one hand – and have five fingers left over! We’re running a series on the awakening oral hearing loss (OHL) community, and one of our focuses will be on organizations that falsely claim to serve Deaf and hard of hearing people. And we even have an advocacy group you can join! More information is is available in the Identity section.

January 2005 – Will the Department of Rehabilitation pay for you to attend law school?

October 2004 – Several years ago I started an email list to discuss workplace issues related to hearing loss. Exchanges are a bit sporadic, but we have had many wonderful discussions on employment issues. Here are two emails from a recent exchange.

July 2004 – If you think that the Federal Government is still looking to hire people with disabilities, you may be surprised by this article about a recent EEOC study!

October 2003 – Here are some thoughts on employment and hearing loss, as expressed on the HLWork email list, which focuses on hearing loss in the workplace.

July 2003 – Hearing loss in the workplace is always a popular topic at hearing loss conventions. Here’s Cheryl Heppner’s report on Beth Wilson’s workshop on that topic from the 2003 SHHH convention.

December 2002 – Dreading that holiday party? Here are some (tongue-in-cheek) tips from Randy Collins on how you can survive the ordeal.

November 2002 – Job hunt got you down? If you need a little pick-me-up (or even if you don’t), you’ll enjoy Attitude is Everything!

July 2002 – The 2002 SHHH Convention included a great workshop on hearing loss issues in the workplace. If you’re having problems at work, you may want to check out this report.

July 2002 – The SHHH Convention Research Symposium included the following employment-related presentations:

– Innovative Rehabilitation Interventions Regarding Employment by Dr. Steven Boone of the University of Arkansas Rehabilitation Research and Training (RRT) Center for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

– Maintaining Employment Status and Enhancing Personal Adjustment by Dr. Carren Stika of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) for Persons who are Hard of Hearing or Late Deafened

November 2001 – Anyone who’s read our newsletter for any length of time is familiar with Cheryl Heppner and her wonderful organization, NVRC. They recently held a workshop focusing on what employers are looking for in today’s market. Here’s Cheryl’s write-up.

October 2001 – You may have heard about a discrimination suit brought against Wal-Mart by two deaf men in Arizona. As a result of that suit, Wal-Mart will be paying for television ads in which the men tell their story. Here’s the information.

July 2001 – Japan Removes Occupation Restrictions on People with Disabilities

February 2001 – Here’s a great list of tips for people with hearing loss in the workplace. Thanks to Trudy Zahn (zahn@primary.net) for permission to share this with you.

January 2001 – Know any deaf lawyers? How many do you think ther are in the US? The answer may surprise you, as it did me and some of our readers. Here’s some interesting information on deaf lawyers in the US.

November 2000 – How are things at work? Does your hearing loss contribute to problems there? Is communications an issue. Get some ideas on how to approach these and other problems at the ALDACON 2000 Hearing Loss in the Workplace panel workshop.

July 2000 – There was a wonderful panel discussion on Hearing Loss and the Workplace at the 2000 SHHH convention. Cheryl Heppner of NVRC wrote up a great summary of the discussion and graciously shared it with us.

May 2000 – Another tough issue is determining for which jobs hearing is really a requirement, and for which it isn’t. Read about a court case involving an airline mechanic.

Think accommodations are too expensive? If you’re a small business, the Disabled Access Credit provides tax relief of up to $5,000 a year for accommodations you provide.

Life isn’t necessarily a lot better for people who have jobs, even for those who have fulfilling and challenging positions. Lack of accommodations in an employment situation can turn a potentially wonderful job into a nightmare. Read one person’s description of an employment situation that lacked accommodations. Notice the tone of the message. Now read another person’s description of an employment situation that provided accommodation. Notice the tone of that message. Which person would you rather have working for you?

More on this and related topics

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Would a Deaf Lifeguard be ‘Qualified’ Under the ADA?

February 2013

What would you do if you were hiring a lifeguard for a community wave pool and the applicant was deaf, but he was also certified as a lifeguard? A new court ruling this month shows how mistakes made in assessing the applicant’s medical condition can leave an employer drowning in litigation … Case in Point: Nicholas Keith, 22, was born deaf and communicates using sign language. He also uses a cochlear implant that helps him detect noises, such as whistles and people calling for help. Keith received his junior lifeguard certification and then successfully completed lifeguard training. (A Michigan county provided a sign-language interpreter to relay verbal instructions to Keith during both training programs.) Keith then applied for a lifeguard position at the county’s wave pool, requesting that a sign-language interpreter be present to relay verbal directions during staff meetings. The county offered Keith the job, conditioned on his passing a pre-employment physical. The doctor failed him, citing his inability to hear. Plus, the county’s safety and risk management consultants expressed concerns over Keith being unable to do the job, despite numerous accommodations the county was offering. So the county rescinded the job offer.  Full Story

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Fighting Workplace Discrimination against the Hearing Impaired

December 2012

Efforts to thwart discrimination against hearing-impaired and deaf individuals in the workplace were successful this fall when two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuits yielded wins for their plaintiffs. The EEOC won a rare summary judgment Sept. 21 against a Phoenix company that refused to accommodate and hire a hearing-impaired applicant. The company, Creative Networks, LLC, provides services to the disabled. The case arose when Rochelle Duran, who has had hearing loss since birth and was diagnosed with severe bilateral hearing impairment at age 12, applied for a position. The job required a series of orientation and training sessions totaling more than 24 hours for which Ms. Duran requested an interpreter. Creative Networks mandated that she find her own, and insisted that they would pay no more than $200 for interpreting services, according to the lawsuit. “Creative Networks denied Duran an employment opportunity, and the denial was based on her need for reasonable accommodations. Indeed, Defendant’s failure to offer Duran reasonable accommodations foreclosed her opportunity for employment by preventing her from proceeding further in the application process,” Judge David Alan Ezra of the US District Court in Arizona wrote in his judgment. (See FastLinks.) Next, the case goes to trial to determine damages and injunctive relief.  Full Story

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Truck Drivers with Hearing Loss Can’t Cross State Lines

Sept 2012

Randall Doane has been driving big rigs for more than 10 years. Driving double and triple trailers, and tankers and hazardous material, he’s logged more than a quarter million miles across nearly 30 states and Canada until this year when he failed a hearing test. Doane’s wings have been cut, so to speak, as his routes are now limited to the state of Texas. Along with 45 deaf or hard-of-hearing drivers, Doane is requesting an exemption from the federal law prohibiting deaf drivers from driving commercial vehicles across state lines. He’s an experienced driver who wants to drive, but his hearing loss is holding him back. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that any commercial driver be able to perceive, with or without a hearing aid, “a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than five feet” or that the driver “does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels.” A refrigerator hum is about 40 decibels. A diesel truck is 84 decibels. Prolonged exposure to sounds over 90 decibels can lead to gradual hearing loss. Truck drivers risk hearing loss every year they stay behind the wheel. Professional driver licensing is done at the state level, but with commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce, drivers must obtain a federal license as well. Most states allow the deaf to drive commercial vehicles, but federal law prohibits them from obtaining a commercial driver’s license for interstate commerce.   Full Story

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Task Force Examines Health Care Career Options for Deaf People

July 2012

Deaf and hard-of-hearing (D/HH) individuals have made significant gains in many employment sectors since the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the  Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended by the Americans with Disabilities  Amendments Act of 2008. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that only 5.8%  of   D/HH persons who are in the labor force work in the health care industry compared to  9.7% of hearing workers. In addition, data from the American Community Survey indicate  that almost 25% of these 5.8% D/HH individuals are employed as aides in nursing, psychiatric, home health, and personal care areas. Almost 69% of these workers have less than  a baccalaureate degree compared to 59% for hearing persons employed in similar jobs. This  means that, not only are proportionally fewer D/HH persons employed in the health care  professions, but when they are employed, they are in positions that require less education.  Generally, D/HH workers are underrepresented in those health care occupations requiring  higher degrees and overrepresented in those occupations requiring less education.   Full Story

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The dollars and sense of addressing hearing loss in the workplace

June 2012

Hearing loss doesn’t win many headlines. Nor does it win much time in the doctor’s office. But maybe it should. And perhaps America’s employers should be the first to listen up.

Consider this:

  • The majority of people with hearing loss are still in the workforce. That’s more than 20 million Americans.
  • Workers with hearing loss are five times more likely to take sick-days due to severe stress than their co-workers without hearing loss. Perhaps this is because most people with hearing loss don’t get tested and treated.
  • Hearing loss is linked to a three-fold risk of falling among working-aged people (40 to 69) whose hearing loss is just mild. Falls and fall-related injuries cost billions in health care costs in the United States each year.
  • Unaddressed hearing loss often leads to isolation, anxiety, and depression. For employers, the estimated annual economic burden of depression, sadness, and mental illness is $348.04 per employee. More absences from work are due to depression, sadness, and mental health issues than from any other illness.  Full Story

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Deaf Americans: Fighting for the chance to serve in the military

February 2012

Yesterday, the Pentagon unveilled plans to allow female service members to join combat battalions. Last fall, the military ended its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing gays to serve openly. Now another group of Americans is fighting to wear the uniform. Keith Nolan, a deaf man, wants to fight for his country. For now, he’s focused on fighting a Pentagon policy that stops the deaf from enlisting. “There are a plethora of various non-combat jobs accessible to the deaf: intelligence, computer technology, map drawing, supply,” Nolan says. When Nolan, now 29, couldn’t pass a standard hearing test he was turned away from the Army’s ROTC program. Now, he’s asking Congress to change the policy. And in the deaf community, he’s become an icon.  Full Story

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New York’s finest called out on hearing aid ban

November 2011

For prospective officers applying to the New York City Police Department, the message seems to be that those with a hearing loss severe enough to warrant amplification need not apply. Two city police officers, Deputy Inspector Daniel Carione, 44, and Sergeant Jim Phillips, 40, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charging that the police department discriminates against individuals with hearing loss after they were reportedly forced to retire for wearing hearing aids. The policy is clear cut although misguided, according to Brenda Battat, Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, whose letter to the editor appeared in The New York Times a week after they broke the story (June 27, 2011). “Barring young police officers from using the excellent hearing aids available today and forcing older police officers with hearing aids to retire is discriminating,” Battat wrote  Full Story

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Should the military accept deaf recruits?

July 2011

With relatives who fought in World War II, Keith Nolan has long dreamed of following in their footsteps and joining the Army. About a year ago he joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps, and has excelled in the program’s classroom and field training activities. He has all the makings of a model soldier, except for one thing: he’s deaf. While Nolan maintains there are plenty of non-combat roles he and other deaf people could fill, U.S. military policy does not allow deaf people to enlist. He’s trying to change that.  Full Story

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NYPD Cops with Hearing Aids File Discrimination Complaints with EEOC

June 2011

The New York Times is reporting that two former police officers with hearing aids have filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the New York Police Department (NYPD). The officers were forced to retire because of their hearing aids. The article states that new officers with diagnosed hearing loss are not allowed to join the NYPD, but that existing officers who were diagnosed with hearing loss could wear a hearing aid, although this policy was informal. In at least two cases, the NYPD even reimbursed the officers for the hearing aids. In late 2009, according to the Times article, the NYPD began to rigorously enforce its ban on hearing aids. The policy forced some officers to retire and other officers with hearing aids to remove their hearing aids before going on duty,  Full Story