Wearable technology, aka “wearables,” are everywhere. From fitness monitors to smartwatches, people sport body-worn devices (wearables) and ear-worn devices (hearables) wherever they go, and that includes the workplace. This is good news for people who wear hearing aids or use hearing accessories to help with a hearing loss. The stigma of visible assistive devices is diminishing as the popularity of wearable personal electronics and cool gadgets advances.

hearables

IconX, a “hearable” from Samsung Gear.

With regard to electronics that are worn at ear level, it’s getting kind of tough to tell the difference between an earbud, an in-ear monitor, a Bluetooth-enabled ear piece for a mobile phone, or another variation of a “hearable”…and a high-tech hearing aid.

In a July 2016 blog post for the “Sound Reasoning” column at Better Hearing Institute (BHI), contributing writer Dianna Theokas, AuD, lists five compelling reasons why your patients should wear their hearing aids to work. Here we share the highlights, edited and adapted from Theokas’s original post.

If your patients have skipped wearing hearing aids to work or feared using hearing accessories openly because they were afraid of negative perceptions or repercussions in the workplace, here are 5 sound reasons to flaunt them with confidence.

  1. Hearing well increases your odds of finding a job. A study by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) confirmed that workers who wear hearing aids are more likely to find and retain employment than those who leave their hearing loss untreated. Yet many potential employees still think it’s in their best interest to hide their condition during the hiring process. If you think you can “get away” without wearing hearing aids or concealing your hearing loss from a potential employer, think again. You might have just answered an interview question with a non-sequitur or asked the interviewer to repeat themselves one too many times. Those mistakes could cost you a great career opportunity.
  2. good hearing helps job performanceWearing hearing aids can help you keep your job. While it’s true that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from openly asking you if you are you losing your hearing, they can still find ways to ask questions that lead to the same conclusion. They can even require you to have a medical exam if your job performance has declined significantly and your manager can reasonably assert your hearing ability is the likeliest cause. If your hearing loss goes untreated, your job may be in jeopardy despite federal protections–an employer has legal options, such as moving you into a different position where a hearing problem won’t be as detrimental to work performance, even if it is a lower paying demotion.
  3. Hearing aids can improve your chances of advancement. Although the ADA protects you from open discrimination by your employer, loopholes exist (eg, passing you over for promotion without citing your hearing difficulties as a factor). Wearing hearing aids and otherwise addressing your hearing loss sends a positive message to employers: you’re willing to do what it takes to succeed in your job. Establishing yourself as proactive, confident, and able to overcome challenges like hearing loss demonstrates you’re someone management can depend on, which in turn encourages them to consider you positively when promotion opportunities arise.
  4. No longer miss important directions or information. Hearing better prevents misunderstandings during critical exchanges with customers, co-workers, and managers. The BHI study cited above found that nearly 7 out of 10 participants with hearing loss reported improvements in their ability to communicate effectively in most job situations thanks to their hearing aids. These improvements included hearing better while on the telephone and during meetings, small gatherings, and one-on-one conversations.
  5. Hearing devices reduce instances of discrimination. Again, the ADA can be circumvented by employers determined to get rid of you so long as they avoid mentioning your hearing loss as a factor (e.g., making sure you’re let go during a general layoff). The fact that untreated hearing loss has been linked to a 25% reduction in earning potential demonstrates there are ways companies can penalize you for not hearing well despite the law.

Your patients may not be up-to-date on the latest advances in hearing aid technology, so consider sending out “the latest hearing technology has arrived” emails or postcards to your tested-not-sold patients. Those who are still in the workforce and would prefer others not to notice that they are losing their hearing, may be great candidates for some of the more discreet, remote-controlled hearing aids that have arrived on the market. They can take full advantage of these technologies in the workplace.

Starkey Muse hearing line

Starkey’s Muse products can be discreetly adjusted via a smartphone app.

Many people with hearing loss may not yet realize that there are now wireless hearing aids available in either behind-the-ear or in-the-ear models that are so small they are invisible to others. Many of these instruments work with accessories that can be hidden under clothing or tucked in pockets, and are controllable by smartphone apps so that when you make adjustments it looks like you’re sending a text. Even some of the newest sound processors for cochlear implants are cable-free, smaller in size, and come in a variety of colors that can be hidden under the hair.

Did you know your patients can use CareCredit financing to help cover the costs of updating or upgrading their hearing technology? This is more great news to share with patients who may be worried about covering the costs of hi-tech hearing aids and gadgets.

We’re living in a world of wearables and rapidly advancing “ear-level” technology, so your clients will be happy to know that there’s really no good reason not to start using these at work or on the go to boost hearing and maintain (or boost) job performance!

This content was provided to the 4MyHearingBiz community by CareCredit, The Hearing Review, and also adapted from an article by Dianna Theokas, an educational specialist for Signia, who is responsible for training customers and sales staff on the company’s technology and products.

Image credits: CareCredit; Samsung; Starkey Hearing Technologies; Unitron; © Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)