Help staff with hearing impairments succeed.

AuthorDavenport, Anniken

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 37.5 million American adults report some trouble hearing, including deafness, being hard of hearing or having sensitivity to noise. They may have been born with a hearing limitation, acquired it from a childhood infection, had their hearing damaged by loud noises or developed hearing loss as they aged.

Hearing loss may affect major life activities such as working. People with hearing loss and related limitations may qualify as disabled under the ADA, entitling them to reasonable accommodations.

The ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate disabled applicants and employees so they can perform the essential functions of their jobs. What's reasonable depends on the size of the employer, its assets and resources, and whether the requested accommodation is unduly expensive or disruptive. Fortunately, many possible accommodations of hearing-related disabilities aren't unduly expensive or difficult to implement.

What is a hearing impairment?

To qualify as a disability under the ADA, a hearing impairment must substantially impair a major life function, which includes the ability to hear and work. Almost by definition, hearing impairments qualify as disabilities, even though the level of impairment may vary by individual and any mitigation measures, such as using hearing aids or having cochlear implants.

Accommodating hearing loss

Hearing-impaired applicants who request reasonable accommodations in the hiring process are entitled to them. These can include the presence of an American Sign Language interpreter during a job interview, either in person or via a remote connection. After hiring, an employee may be able to communicate directly with co-workers by writing or email, but may need an ASL interpreter to participate in meetings or training sessions.

Other common reasonable accommodations include the use of assistive technology and environmental modifications such as:

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