Why Employers Should Hire Deaf and Hard of Hearing Employees
Hearing in the workplace. Pretty essential and necessary, yes, but in today's society when so much is done over email and the internet, it's becoming less of a necessity. I may be saying this just to make myself feel better about how much anxiety I experience(d) when applying for jobs.
Did you know that 60% of the people with hearing loss are either in the work force or in educational settings? Normally, 60% would seem pretty high, but when you think about how much emphasis our society puts on the value of working or being in school, only 60% of 100% of deaf/hoh people are part of that community. Why is the number not higher? Are they afraid of being turned down for being deaf/hoh? Do they not have the resources to be part of the community (i.e. interpreters, closed captions, etc.)? What is it?
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, "While people in the workplace with the mildest hearing losses show little or no drop in income compared to their normal hearing peers, as the hearing loss increases, so does the reduction in compensation." This fact alone is precisely one of the reasons I've always been so hesitant to reveal the details of my hearing loss to a potential employer. Being a female is a fight enough. Being a female with a severe hearing loss is a whole different game.
So why exactly does compensation go down? Let's think about it for a second. The way I get the message/task may take a little more time as hearing loss worsens if you insist on verbally telling me what to do. Personally, I think it should always be in writing for the purpose of both parties having the exact same bit of information cause you know 'lost in translation' (which can happen in writing, too, I know, but not in the same way), but maybe that's just me. Anywho, just because we can't always hear does not mean we're not capable of achieving goals and accomplishing tasks. In fact, most of the time it's just the opposite.
We've been fighting our whole lives to prove we're worthy. Our determination and dedication is even more prevalent. Don't you want someone who is loyal and hardworking? We're detail oriented and can provide insight that others might not have. We work extra hard and can take direction well. Oh, and when you have our attention, you have our full attention because we actually look at your face and give you eye contact.
Remember how in my last post I talked about the job training center in Cambodia begging for more deaf/hoh employees because of their work ethic? I'm telling you we can provide a unique perspective and will do whatever it takes to meet your standards as well as ours (which can be pretty dang high)!
I can remember having so much anxiety when I first started looking for jobs in the entertainment industry because all of the jobs that I knew about at the time were very phone heavy. I was terrified to reveal the details of my hearing loss, but dammit I was determined to make it in this industry. I just sucked it up and sat on desks waiting anxiously for the phone to ring and sweating profusely when it did. At the time, I preferred on set jobs because while we used to communicate, you could visually see the person you were chatting with if need be.
I was so relieved when I went to work for an entertainment marketing agency that was not incredibly phone-centric. After a few weeks, I quickly realized that the calls that did come in were from the same few people. I read the caller ID and memorized their voices, so I was better prepared each time the phone did ring. There was the occasional unknown caller, but my anxiety and stress levels had subsided so much at this point, and my boss (who didn't know about my hearing loss until a year into employment and only because I had to have an Esteem battery replacement surgery) never faulted me for getting a name wrong. I made up for my phone mishaps in organization, being detail oriented, and doing everything that was asked of me (and more) in a timely manner.
Hearing or hard of hearing, we all have strengths and weaknesses. For me and my fellow deaf/hoh comrades, our lack of hearing abilities is just a weakness that is far less important than our strengths. So employers, please take a chance on us, and give us an opportunity to show you what great value we can be!
PS Thank you to those companies and applications that are working to make phone quality/clarity much better, something that is valuable to anyone, hearing or not.