Adulting with hearing loss is not for the weary! Students and children get a lot of support, but being an adult with hearing loss can also be challenging. Lack of awareness, understanding and not being able to relate (because hearing loss is invisible) can cause for difficult work or college life situations.
You are your greatest ally and champion! Use these tips for helping professors or your work leaders and supervisors to better help you succeed in your role under their supervision!
(College) Engage the Hearing & Speech Sciences Dept or a Speech Pathologist/Audiologist.
If you're at a large state school or a university with an associated hospital, you likely have a speech and hearing department. This should be one of the first meetings you have! Go directly to the Director of Audiology or the head of the speech and hearing department. Faculty love other faculty, so engaging this expert (SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT OR SME), can have a great outcome. Now you have an expert champion who also garners respect amongst peers.
If you don't have access to this type of department or faculty, consider anyone in communications or schedule a meeting with your speech pathologist/audiologist. They can help prepare some dialogue, even in email, create a one-sheet of information and possibly even jump on a Zoom to share tips to help you succeed with your professors!
(Both) Have meetings BEFORE you start the class or job
Don't wait until it's too late. Often, waiting until it gets bad, well, it makes it bad; creates "bad blood" so to speak. Start off every year by meeting with your leader or professor. Review a list of needs and ask them if they have questions. Ask them a lot of questions that will engage them vs "telling them" what to do.
- I will use a FM system (like the Roger Pen or Cochlear's mini-mic) in meetings
- I have bluetooth features with my technology. Can I have a phone that can bluetooth?
- I need visuals when possible
- Please look directly at me when speaking in meetings so I can read your lips/expressions
- I need to sit up front in the boardroom
Prepare a list of "must haves"
You may not get everything. Be okay with that. You need to find out what the most important things are that you need from your supervisors and co-workers. Stick to that list and establish those things before (possibly later on) asking for additional accommodations. You want to engage and bring them into your story first. This will help you get more flies with honey, not vinegar!
Have Monthly or Quarterly "check ins" to communicate needs/adjustments
Follow up is key. Schedule meetings each month or quarter specifically to discuss your performance and how their support is helping you...or how they can help you perform better by providing (x, y, z).
Engage & Empower...don't Offend
This is super important! You want to choose words and phrases that will encourage them to be on your team! You have lived a lifetime with your hearing loss and you still have much to learn. Imagine what it's like for those who know very little about it. Be your own advocate and be sensitive!
When they are DIFFICULT
This isn't okay. You have rights. If you've exhausted your efforts and they refuse to support your needs, then it's time to take further action.
- document every meeting and take notes
- keep a record of emails
- consult the local office of disabilities
- contact a disabilities attorney and see if he/she will send a pro bono letter
- contact US at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help!
Whatever you do, remember you are your best advocate! What you do now will pave the way for a younger generation of people with hearing loss coming after you!
Don't ever hesitate to reach me at email@example.com.