What Are Hearing Impairments?
Hearing impairments encompass a range of conditions -- from slight hearing loss to
Individuals may be deaf or hard of hearing and be able to speak clearly. Employers
may place them in almost any type of position, except those for which acute hearing
is a legitimate safety requirement. Even in those circumstances, employers should
perform an individualized assessment. Such persons may need extra time in settings
where there is a lot of oral communication, such as interviews and meetings.
Communication difficulties should not be regarded as indicative of more extensive
impairments and should not be allowed to obscure an applicant's knowledge, skills
and abilities. In many situations, it may be necessary to obtain the services of a
qualified sign language interpreter to provide effective communication if the person
who is deaf or hard of hearing uses sign language as his or her primary means of communication.
Other accommodations that may be necessary include the use of assistive listening
systems and devices for persons who are hard of hearing, or computer-assisted real-time
People who have hearing impairments might be able to hear some sound, but might not
be able to distinguish words.
People with this type of hearing impairment can use an amplifying device to provide
Other people might not be able to hear sound at all.
Consider the following suggestions when interacting with individuals who are deaf
or hard of hearing:
To get the attention of a person with a hearing impairment, tap the person on the
shoulder or wave your hand.
When speaking with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, face the person directly.
Attract his or her visual attention before starting a conversation. For instance,
if you are entering his or her office and the person's back is to you, flicker the
Show consideration by placing yourself facing the light source and keeping your hands,
cigarettes, and food away from your mouth while speaking.
When speaking to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, use meaningful facial expressions
and gestures to emphasize your intent and attitude. This helps to substitute for your
tone of voice. Try to find a quiet place away from computers, telephones, and other
sources of noise, that has adequate lighting.
Not all people who are deaf or hard of hearing know or use sign language. Do not assume
they need interpreters.
If using a sign language or oral interpreter, speak directly to the person with the
hearing impairment, not the interpreter. Speak clearly, in a normal tone of voice,
and keep your hands away from your face.
Do not shout at a hearing impaired person. Shouting distorts sounds accepted through
hearing aids and inhibits lip reading.
If you cannot understand the person with a hearing impairment, do not be afraid to
ask him or her to repeat the message. If this approach does not work, you can ask
if it would be helpful to communicate by writing or using a computer terminal.
If you are with someone with a hearing disability in a group, provide whatever support
with which the person is comfortable so that the person can follow what is being said.