Monday, November 5, 2012

Hearing Impaired in the Workplace

Being hearing impaired can be a real challenge in the workplace. The biggest problem is that few understand the problem, and usually the person with the hearing impairment is hesitant to admit the fact.
When in a one on one situation things may be just fine, especially if there is little background noise. In a crowd situation the hearing impaired person may hear, but not understand, 50% or more of what is said. It can be very frustrating in meetings etc.
Sound is made up of Frequency and Volume measured in decibels. In the ear that sound is converted to electrical impulses to the brain. Many things can happen to keep the sound from reaching the brain.
Say someone says the letter "A". That "A" is made of the frequency determined by that person's voice box and the loudness that he speaks. That sound goes out into the room and mixes with the noise in the room. A person with normal hearing in both ears has little problem understanding the letter "A".
But a person that has hearing in one ear only, cannot determine where that sound comes from. And the brain has to work twice as hard to process that sound.
It is a matter of information. With two ears twice the information available to the brain.
Same with someone that has a hearing loss the percentage of hearing loss, for whatever reason, reduces the amount of information available to the brain to process.
A normal ear may process the sound of the letter "A" with this much information, 0110110110011011 to the brain while the damaged ear may only send this much, ------11011---------, so the brain has to look for more clues as to what that information really represents.
If you will notice a person with hearing loss does everything possible to gather clues or information to help in the hearing process. Some of the things are:
  • Looking at your face or lips while you talk.
  • Turning their head so that the good ear is facing the speaker
  • Cupping the ear with the hand
Remember even a hearing aid does not work as well as a normal functioning ear.
I hope this helps you understand what the loss of hearing really is.