4 Mixed Signals You May Be Sending at the Office Due to Hearing Loss

If you suffer from hearing loss, you are well aware of some of the ways that it affects your ability to communicate. You may sometimes miss words or entire sentences in conversation. It is definitely something that can interfere with productivity at work. However, you have likely learned to compensate and to remember things like being sure you have extra batteries at your desk or that you charged your batteries last night.

The real struggle may be recognizing some of the mixed signals you might be sending to coworkers without realizing it. Here are 4 that are particularly important to pay attention to while at work.

#1 Missing that Greeting in the Hallway

Hearing loss makes it vital to pay more attention while traveling the halls of the office. If a coworker offers a greeting and you don’t hear it, that person may think you’re giving him or her the cold shoulder. Frosty relationships in the workplace don’t bode well for productivity. So be sure to at least make eye contact and smile when passing fellow employees. Then if they say hi, you’ll see the mouth movement even if you don’t hear it.

#2 Coming Off as Less Confident

Conversations play a vital role in the workplace. A linguistics professor named Deborah Tannen, Ph.D. wrote a book on this topic. One thing she learned through a study of communication in the workplace is that communicating differently can make a person seem less confident. While the book particularly addresses how this affects women in the workplace, it can clearly also apply to the difficulties that conversations present for those with hearing loss.

#3 Coming Off as Less Intelligent

Unfortunately, some supervisors want employees to show more initiative and may consider those who ask more questions to be less competent. You may simply be asking to make sure you heard correctly and understand what is expected of you, but unless your supervisor knows about your hearing problem and is understanding of it, the wrong conclusions may be drawn.

#4 Body Language Gets Misinterpreted

Not hearing what was said may not only cause you to respond the wrong way verbally but also with body language. Consider these examples:

  1. You tilt your head and furrow your brow because you didn’t completely hear what was said and are trying to figure it out. The person you are talking to takes it as confusion and wonders how you could have misunderstood a simple statement or question.
  2. You lean in to hear a person better. The individual you are conversing with takes it as a challenging or threatening stance and is either standoffish or more competitive with you in the future.
  3. You don’t respond to a statement or question as expected. The person you are talking with decides that you are either disinterested in them or that you are flat out rude. Either way, it is difficult for a working relationship to grow.

These are just a few ways you can get your signals crossed at the office due to hearing loss. How important it is then to have your hearing aids well-adjusted by a professional.

Statistics and research mentioned are taken from the Better Hearing Institute. BHI is a not-for-profit corporation that educates the public about the neglected problem of hearing loss and what can be done about it. Find them at www.betterhearing.org.

Article Written By

Caleb Rhodes, HIS

Caleb Rhodes studied at Western Kentucky Technical and Community College and Parkland College in Champaign Illinois with a focus on hearing instrument sciences. He began assisting the hearing impaired in 2003 and is licensed as a hearing instrument specialist.


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