Managing Hearing Impaired Employees

Hearing Impaired people encounter difficulty at work because their disability is not visible.

If you are dealing with H/I persons, ask them how you can make changes in the environment to make the work place better for them.

The communication gaps with H/I people are due to the following facts:

  • People assume that H/I people can hear and understand everything they are spoken to if they are wearing Hearing Aids. However, it should be understood that hearing aid picks up all types of noises, not just speech.
  • It is not easy for people who are not hearing impaired to understand the difficulties of H/I persons because it is an invisible ailment which we don't take seriously. If you really want to assess their needs, spend a day stuffing your ears with cotton and taping your mouth. Only then you can plan what aid H/I persons need to accomplish a job and how they could be effectively communicated.
  • If you are employing an H/I person, follow these guidelines. They can be your potential revenue earners.

    Guidelines for employers:

  • Patience is the key. Understand that communication is a delicate thing. You need to evolve how H/I person can be explained; getting annoyed is not the solution.
  • Don't start conversation before they are ready to listen to you.
  • Look directly at an H/I person as he/she will hear you by your sound and lip movements.
  • If you are using an Interpreter, ensure that the H/I person is well conversant with the sign language used by the Interpreter.
  • Use flashing light as alert mechanism rather than sound.
  • Use sms, chatting and e-mails. It is always better, even for normal people, to communicate in written mode than in spoken words.
  • Training at Work place:

    Training is a continuous process. Hearing Impaired persons need special care during training. Following strategies need to be adopted:

  • Use circular seating arrangements. If that is not possible, front seats should be reserved for H/I persons and their interpreters.
  • Face the class while speaking. If an interpreter is present, make sure the trainee can see both the interpreter and the trainer.
  • If there is any interruption in the class, get the attention of H/I person before resuming the session.
  • Use Visual information frequently. Visual information is the primary means of communication. Films, diagram, graphs, cartoons or any other visual means are easily understood by H/I people. If charts, graph, pictures, etc. are used, describe the material and then show the training aid. This allows the learner to focus on one major stimulus at a time.
  • Be flexible. Allow an H/I student to work with audiovisual material independently and for a longer period of time. Ensure, don't assume – the trainer needs to ensure that H/I persons have understood, rather than assuming that they have understood and continuing with newer learning objects. Frequent evaluation is a key to successful learning.
  • Identify a suitable location for the instructor. Light source should be behind the learner. Trainer should not stand in front of a window or in a dark area as it makes speech hearing difficult.
  • Peers as helpers. The peer sitting next to the H/I may help him in following the correct page or in taking notes. The peer can also make carbon copy of the notes so that the H/I person will have his/her own notes and copy of the peer's notes.
  • Avoid difficult words: Trainers need to avoid using difficult words and instead should use simple words.
  • Preview course material: Whenever possible H/I persons should be allowed to preview the material and their basic doubts should be cleared.
  • Take care of fatigue: H/I persons may feel exhausted more easily than normal learners; their fatigue should not be considered as their disinterest. The fatigue may be due to continuous strain during learning.
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