The Baby Boomer generation currently makes up about 27 percent of the current workforce. With hard work as one of their core values, it’s no surprise to learn that this generation plans to continue aging within their professions. The youngest Boomers turn 60 this year, close to traditional retirement age.
However, the privilege of aging arrives with its own share of challenges. In an unprecedented trend, we are now seeing more people living with hearing loss prolonging their time in the workforce. If you’re an older employee with no plans to retire, read on for more on dealing with hearing loss in the workplace.
The Hearing Loss We Encounter As We Age
Along with the rewards of an extended professional career, including personal satisfaction and financial support, comes the risk of encountering hearing loss in the workplace.
Both aging and noise play a role in the decline of hearing health over time. Both actors work to degrade the health of important inner ear cells. These inner ear cells do much of the heavy lifting in our process of hearing. They receive the noises from the world around us and translate them into sound information. As electrical signals, the sound information travels from the inner ear to the brain for processing.
Over time, as these change agents take their toll, the health of the inner ear cells decline. They do not repair themselves or repopulate, instead, the number of cells we have to work with declines. As their number decreases, we lose the ability to hear the full spectrum of noise.
One of the first signs of hearing loss is difficulty understanding speech, and so in the workplace, communication falters.
How Hearing Keeps Us Safe At Work
In some professions, the main concern about working with untreated hearing loss is physical safety. Manufacturing, agriculture, the military and construction are all occupations that see an interface with heavy machinery and physical demands.
Hearing is one of the cues we use to protect ourselves in risky situations. Shouts and alarms raise our awareness and may prevent accidents. Clear communication with coworkers in precarious situations helps keep employees safe. When sound no longer works to give advance warning of impending mishaps, and without alternative methods of relaying important information, tragedy may strike.
The Impact Of Hearing Loss On Productivity
For other workers, safety in the workplace isn’t as much of an issue. However, hearing loss can still disproportionately weight performance. In a typical office setting, communication with coworkers still matters. If hearing loss is unacknowledged and untreated, communication errors can occur resulting in the types of errors that reflect poorly on performance. For instance, mis-hearing an order for 15,000 units and ordering 50,000 might inflict real financial damage on a business.
Untreated hearing loss also places a burdensome amount of stress on cognitive load. Referred to as listening fatigue, people with hearing loss have to work harder to piece together the bits of sound information they receive. It’s like trying to do a puzzle when you are missing a quarter of the pieces. This excess work shouldered by your brain feels exhausting and can result in a lack of focus or simple mistakes.
Tools For Working With Hearing Loss
Treating hearing loss is one of the most profound steps you can take to make listening easier and less burdensome. Instituting a proven solution like hearing aids can have the secondary effect of boosting confidence, too, which helps support a happier and more successful working life.
With a diagnosis of hearing loss, your employer is also required by law to make reasonable accommodations for your condition and it also prevents you from being fired on the basis of your disability.
Simple interventions like forgoing telephone calls and meetings in favor of written communication can make a huge difference in your experience. Requesting agendas prior to a meeting or an outline of action items after a meeting might be the small tweaks that make your work life substantially less complicated.
Schedule A Hearing Consultation
If you’re concerned about changes in your hearing health and how they might impact your professional life, schedule a hearing consultation today. Together, we’ll begin the conversation that gets you on the path to your healthiest hearing yet!