Accommodating Employees with Hearing Impairments
According to the National Association of the Deaf, the term “deaf” refers to individuals who are not able to hear well enough to rely on hearing as a means for processing information. The term “hard of hearing” refers to individuals who have some hearing loss but are able to use hearing to communicate.
Individuals who are hard of hearing generally have some useable hearing but have difficulty perceiving sound at low volumes and reacting to sounds or understanding speech, especially when background noise is present.
Employees who are hard of hearing may or may not use assistive technology such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with hearing loss will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. Numerous hearing assistive technology and solutions exist and should be explored to provide assistance in the workplace.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Hearing Impairment and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
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