Know Your Rights with Hearing Loss

Know Your Rights with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is often described as an invisible disability, due to the non visual ways it often presents. However, just because people can’t immediately see hearing loss may affect you or someone you love, doesn’t mean it’s any less serious. Unaddressed hearing loss can lead to a wide range of often irreversible effects. These include rifts in personal as well as professional relationships, chronic depression, social isolation, decreased mobility, a greater risk of falls and accidents leading to hospitalization and an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia. 

Hearing loss is a communication issue, making it difficult to navigate the world, hear directions, respond to alarms and alerts in a timely manner or follow directions and conversation. However, with accommodations, you can enjoy all the joys and access to the world as anyone else. Hearing loss is a recognized disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means that there are laws to protect your rights. However, you need to know your rights to take advantage of them. Here is a run down of your rights and how to take advantage of them:

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into effect in 1990 to ensure that people with physical or mental impairments that limit their life activities receive reasonable accommodations at work and in public. It specifies exactly how you can take advantage of your rights in the workplace, in public settings, over communication networks and more.

Public Accommodations for People with Hearing Loss

It can be incredibly overwhelming to navigate public spaces for people with hearing loss as you may well know. It can be especially difficult to hear when there are many conversations going on at once, or when receiving information over public speakers, at movies, performances, shows, public transportation stations and more. The ADA addresses this by requiring public entities such as public transportation, commercial facilities, and medical centers like hospitals and clinics be accessible for those with disabilities. They are also required to provide reasonable accommodation to these people. This can include providing sign language interpreters apon request or providing closed captioning at movie theaters.

This law covers a wide range of accommodations including fire alarms and other alarm systems in formats such as blinking lights as well as sound to alert those with hearing loss as well. Another common accommodation in most public spaces is the presence of an induction loop, also known as a telecoil. This uses an electromagnetic field to send sound to a wide range of hearing aid users, to communicate public information directly to many at once.

Accessibility in the Workplace

Untreated hearing loss has been reported to effect earnings significantly. In addition, the unemployment rates of people of working age with hearing loss is disproportionately higher than those with normal or treated hearing loss. The ADA does offer accomodations in order to make it possible for you to have the same access at work as anyone else. This can include rights such as baring employers from questioning whether you have hearing loss (or any disability) in your job interview. However, they can inquire as to your abilities to perform essential functions of the job in question.

Once you have a job the ADA offers protections and reasonable accommodations including the availability of assistive computer software that help with communication within and beyond the workplace, printed meeting notes, talk to text technology, and telecommunication relay services which transcribe phone calls. Other examples of reasonable accommodations includes asking to be moved to an area which has less background noise so you can hear better.

Other Protections with the ADA

Just because you have hearing loss doesn’t mean you are less than anyone else and the ADA strives to enforce this. This means that the ADA prohibits discrimination of and offensive conduct toward people with disabilities, including  offensive jokes, name-calling, intimidation, ridicule, or mockery in public settings and working environments.

If you feel as if you’ve been discriminated against, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. For information and instructions on reaching your local office, call: (800) 669-4000 (Voice) or (800) 669-6820 (TDD).

Treating Hearing Loss

If you suspect you have a hearing loss you can take advantage of so many accommodations and rights – however the first step is diagnosing the loss. Schedule a hearing exam with us today and find out how you can take control of your life!