Many people resist getting hearing aids—even when it becomes clear they’re needed—out of fear of appearing older or infirm. This is an understandable concern, especially in today’s economy where more competition for fewer jobs and dwindling opportunities for advancement mean you need every advantage possible. However, the truth is hearing aids can help you remain vital and successful. It’s not treating your hearing loss that can damage your career.
Perception is everything in the job market
Make no mistake, hearing loss impacts jobs, particularly getting hired and retaining work. Hearing loss has been linked to high unemployment and underemployment. Underemployment means that even if you have a job already, you are more likely to be in a lower-level position than you are capable of holding and may not receive the same career advancement opportunities as those who can hear well.
Hearing loss can make it very difficult to perform your job duties at peak levels, especially if you are in a position where you regularly interact with the public, co-workers, and management. You probably don’t realize just how much you are missing during meetings and work-related conversations — after all, how could you know if you’ve missed something important?
The only way you might find out is after the damage has been done:
- After co-workers are chuckling uncomfortably because you offer a complete non-sequitur of a response to your boss’s question.
- After you miss a deadline change that you didn’t hear.
- After a customer complains you weren’t paying attention during a phone call because you had to keep asking him or her to repeat information
Incidents you may think are minor or infrequent quickly add up in the minds of co-workers and managers, until they formulate negative opinions based on lack of information about your hearing loss:
- You are inattentive
- You are careless
- You are too old to keep up with the needs of the business
None of these is conducive to career advancement or even retaining your current job.
But what about the perception that because you need hearing aids, you are telegraphing a disability to potential employers, or if already working that you are ready for retirement? These concerns are generally unfounded today and based on outdated images of large, clunky hearing devices that whistled and were impossible not to notice. These highly visible hearing aids were also found mostly on the ears of much older people than those wearing hearing aids today.
Now, hearing aids are available as tiny devices that are all-but-imperceptible, boosting hearing ability while remaining discreet. They can also be found on the ears of many younger people as more and more are diagnosed with hearing loss.
Case study: Susan Kladitis
49-year-old Susan Kladitis knows all too well the difficulties of maintaining a vibrant professional persona despite hearing loss. As a customer service representative in the financial industry, she needed to hear everything her clients said when discussing their private money matters. However, as her hearing loss advanced, she found herself struggling to hear clients, particularly since her desk was situated in a large common area that often became crowded and noisy. She found herself constantly asking clients to repeat themselves. She knew she was missing key details about their needs and concerns, and struggling to understand made her workday long and exhausting.
Susan realized that something needed to change if she was going to be able to help her customers and retain her position. An avid water enthusiast when away from work, she approached a hearing care professional and asked about hearing aids that could stand up to the rigors of both her professional and personal lives. It took some time, but finally her hearing care professional learned about a then-new hearing aid on the market, Siemens Aquaris™. The waterproof, dustproof, shock-resistant design suits Susan’s extracurricular activities like no other hearing aid on the market. And, its sophisticated digital technology provides a more natural sound with robust noise management, allowing her to suppress the extraneous noises in her work environment.
The result? Susan is now able to go to work with a renewed sense of confidence in her ability to communicate and do her job to the best of her abilities. “I can hear much more clearly and realisitically,” Susan said. “I used to have to focus hard and concentrate on what my customers were saying to me, rather than thinking ahead to the service I could provide them. But that’s no longer a problem. Because of my improved hearing, I’m better at work!”
Hearing aids help you connect and look connected
Along with the advent of ever-present, meant-to-see ear buds and Bluetooth® enabled earpieces, wearing anything on or around the ears has become as commonplace and fashionable as wearing glasses. And when was the last time you heard of someone losing out on a job or promotion for wearing those?
Gabrielle Filips received her undergraduate degree and Master of Science from Illinois State University. She received her Doctorate in Audiology from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in Arizona. Gabrielle practiced with a group of Ear, Nose & Throat doctors in the Chicago area for ten years and was partner in a private practice for two years before joining Siemens Hearing Instruments as an Educational Specialist in March 2008; her current responsibilities include the training/education of staff and professionals on Siemens technology, services and software.