Hearing Loss in the Workplace
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.