Hear­ing Loss in the Work­place

The Weekly Vista - - News -

Peo­ple with pro­found hear­ing loss of­ten have dif­fi­culty get­ting and keep­ing jobs. Those that have em­ploy­ment need com­mu­ni­ca­tions ac­com­mo­da­tions to func­tion most ef­fec­tively. Depend­ing on the sever­ity of your loss, your em­ployer’s ef­forts to pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion may greatly af­fect your at­ti­tude to­wards your work.

Whether it’s out of ig­no­rance, un­cer­tainty, fear or mal­ice, em­ploy­ers are of­ten un­will­ing to hire peo­ple with hear­ing loss. De­spite this be­ing il­le­gal un­der var­i­ous laws in the United States, it is still an ex­tremely com­mon prac­tice. In ad­di­tion, many in­di­vid­u­als with hear­ing loss are stuck in jobs that are un­ful­fill­ing, of­fer no ad­vance­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties, or lack chal­lenge and in­ter­est. Some­times, an in­di­vid­ual’s lack of con­fi­dence and men­tal state may be the cul­prit—they are stuck be­cause they be­lieve that it is ex­tremely un­likely they will get hired for an­other job, re­gard­less of their qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence. On the flip side, lack of ac­com­mo­da­tions in an em­ploy­ment sit­u­a­tion can turn a po­ten­tially won­der­ful job into a night­mare.

Hear­ing loss and the Amer­i­can Dis­abil­i­ties Act (ADA)

Ac­cord­ing to the ADA, 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 (EEOC Reg­u­la­tions 2011). That be­ing said, some peo­ple with hear­ing loss will have a disability un­der the ADA and some will not. The Dis­abled Ac­cess Credit pro­vides tax re­lief of up to $5,000 a year to a small busi­ness for ac­com­mo­da­tions pro­vided. Here’s what the law states:

Is it a rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion for an em­ployer to make sure that an em­ployee wears a hear­ing aid or uses an­other mit­i­gat­ing mea­sure?

No. The ADA does not re­quire em­ploy­ers to mon­i­tor an em­ployee to en­sure that he uses an as­sis­tive hear­ing de­vice. Nor may an em­ployer deny an in­di­vid­ual with a hear­ing disability a rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion be­cause the em­ployer be­lieves that the in­di­vid­ual has failed to take some mea­sure that would im­prove his hear­ing (EEOC, 2006).

Must an em­ployer pro­vide a sign lan­guage in­ter­preter as a job ac­com­mo­da­tion?

An em­ployer may be re­quired to pro­vide a qual­i­fied in­ter­preter as an ac­com­mo­da­tion, ab­sent un­due hard­ship. An in­ter­preter may be re­quested and re­quired dur­ing any stage of the em­ploy­ment process (e.g., in­ter­view, train­ing, on-the-job) (EEOC, 1992).

Must an em­ployer pro­vide rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion, such as a sign lan­guage in­ter­preter or re­al­time CART cap­tion­ing ser­vice, so an em­ployee may at­tend train­ing pro­grams?

Ac­cord­ing to the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion (EEOC), an em­ployer must pro­vide sign lan­guage in­ter­preters, CART ser­vices, and other rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tions, that will pro­vide em­ploy­ees with dis­abil­i­ties with an equal op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in em­ployer-spon­sored train­ing, ab­sent un­due hard­ship. This obli­ga­tion ex­tends to in-house train­ing, as well as to train­ing pro­vided by an out­side en­tity. Sim­i­larly, the em­ployer has an obli­ga­tion to pro­vide rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion whether the train­ing oc­curs on the em­ployer’s premises or else­where (EEOC, 2002).

Is an em­ployer re­quired to pur­chase a pre­scribed hear­ing de­vice (e.g., hear­ing aid or cochlear im­plant) as a rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion?

An em­ployer is not re­quired to pro­vide an ac­com­mo­da­tion that is pri­mar­ily for per­sonal use. Rea­son­able ac­com­mo­da­tion ap­plies to mod­i­fi­ca­tions that specif­i­cally as­sist an in­di­vid­ual in per­form­ing the du­ties of a par­tic­u­lar job. Equip­ment or de­vices that as­sist a per­son in daily ac­tiv­i­ties on and off the job are con­sid­ered per­sonal items that an em­ployer is not re­quired to pro­vide. How­ever, in some cases, equip­ment that oth­er­wise would be con­sid­ered “per­sonal” may be re­quired as an ac­com­mo­da­tion if it is specif­i­cally de­signed or re­quired to meet job-re­lated rather than per­sonal needs (EEOC, 2002).

For more in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing hear­ing loss and the ADA, visit Ques­tions and An­swers about Deaf­ness and Hear­ing Im­pair­ments in the Work­place and the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act at http://www.eeoc.gov/ facts/deaf­ness.html.

The Pro­fes­sion­als at Bet­ter Hear­ing and Bal­ance Con­nec­tion want to help you hear bet­ter at work and play. Call to­day for your free con­sul­ta­tion at 479-657-6464 or visit our web­site at www.bet­ter­hearingand­bal­ance.net. Our of­fice works with pro­grams that pro­vide fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for those in the work­place that ap­plies to both hear­ing aids and as­sis­tive de­vices. We also con­nect pa­tients to var­i­ous dis­count pro­grams in or­der to get peo­ple suc­cess­fully hear­ing again.

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