Bees with disabilities/ especially hearing…how did you tell your workplace?

posted 3 years ago in Career
Post # 3
Member
1574 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

I have disabilities, and the majority of the time my illnesses are invisible or very difficult to know that they’re there. I have a hearing loss (it’s a long story ,but it led to my Lupus diagnosis). It’s very minor, and I have the most difficulty when there is any sort of background sound. My hearing is slowly getting worse, and I will likely have a hearing aid soon (to match the new joints I’ll need in a few years). 

Does your hearing loss currently affect you and your job performance? If not, I would not mention it at all. Have you talked to your doctor about your prognosis?

Post # 5
Member
2562 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: March 2014

I think wait until you notice it begin to impact your job, and instead of “telling” your boss, bring your concerns up, provide a bit of medical background, and ask for reasonable accomodations.
This way you don’t send red flags to your employer (not that it’s legal for them to take any adverse action against you) and if it doesn’t worsen, you’re fine.

 The ADA requires workplaces to provide employees with reasonable accomodation in case of disability; you may want to look into these laws way before you bring this up, so that you’re well informed.
You may find a lot of wheelchair or vision impaired accessibility, but I do know that it includes some hearing accomodations as well. I work mainly with the construction requirments (phyisical side) of this law, but I understand there is more to it than the buildings we dwell in.

Post # 7
Member
272 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014 - Muhlhauser Barn

@NurseMandie:  I lost about 30-35% of my hearing when I was 2-3 years old due to a really high fever & went most of my life knowing that I had a lot of trouble hearing, but never doing anything about it. I’d go to the audiologist, they would tell me I needed hearing aids, I would ignore the advice & continue on not being able to hear. I never told my boss about my hearing loss until last year when I finally did decide to get hearing aids at the age of 27. Once he knew that I had problems hearing, they made sure to sit me in a less noisy area (less high traffic), made sure to get me a new phone with increased volume control, & got me a quieter keyboard (typing on mine actually hurt my ears once I got my hearing aids, it was soooo loud).

If I was in your shoes, I don’t know that I would necessarily bring it up to your boss immediately since it sounds like it will be gradual, but if you notice yourself asking people to repeat themselves more than you used then the time has probably come to bring it up. If you do get hearing aids, they do have multiple programs on them (which is neat, given how small they are!). I have a phone program, crowded room program, tv program & regular day-to-day program. When I pick up the phone my hearing aid actually makes a clicking noise to let me know that it has switched into phone mode. I believe there are now phones that are specially made to accomodate hearing aids too — my mom’s cell phone  has a hearing aid mode that can be turned on.

If you have any questions about hearing aids or anything let me know — I’ve only had these for a year and a few months now, but they have made life SO much easier for me. I have been going to audiologists annually since kindergarten though, so I’m well versed in how those visits go! Good luck!

Post # 9
Member
272 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014 - Muhlhauser Barn

@NurseMandie:  They’re insanely expensive — mine is a low end model & it cost $4,000 & insurance doesn’t pay for them, which is complete crap if you ask me. They do cover the cost of the audiologist visits, which I guess counts for something, although not much. Mine is pretty small — I have a behind the ear model which I was told would be better for my type of hearing loss (I have a “cookie bite” hearing loss, which is basically a cut way of describing I can hear high pitches & low pitches, but the range where people actually talk, I have a lot of trouble hearing). When I was younger I was told that they didn’t advise the in the ear type hearing aids for anyone under 30 because our ear canals are still changing until around then, but I don’t know how accurate that is. I’ll post a picture later — I don’t get service at work, so my phone won’t send the awkward picture of my ear I just took.

If your insurance offers an HSA account, I’d start putting some tax free money in there every paycheck if you can afford to, I had about $1,000 in there when I bought my hearing aids & then had to finance the remaining $3,000 on a CareCard, which is basically a healthcare only credit card. They gave me 12 months to pay off the card with 0% interest, then after that it would have been 24.99%. I would put $200 a paycheck into my HSA account & then use those funds to make the payment on the CareCard so that it wasn’t taxed & I managed to pay off the last of it 5 days before I would have hit the 12 month mark. Make sure you have an HSA that carries over at the end of each year & not the other kind if you plan on trying to save during the time between now & when you’ll need to buy them, I know the regular, non-high deductible healthcare plan we offer at work forfeits all your money at the end of the year if you don’t use it.

If you’re not using the HSA to pay for it, you should be able to claim the hearing aid purchase on your taxes given the price of it. Every little bit counts when you’re paying that much money for them.

Also, my hearing aid has a warranty where if anything happens within the first 3 years, I can get a replacement set of hearing aids for $300. I’m tempted to “lose” this pair just so I have a spare 🙂

Despite all of this, I am so glad I finally got mine. They really do make a huge difference in my day-to-day life… if I don’t have them in now I really feel like I’m living in a bubble, I can’t hear a thing.

I’ll post those pictures once I get home!

 

Post # 11
Member
1574 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2013

@NurseMandie:  It depends on your relationship with your company. You could probably just talk to HR if you don’t want to talk to your direct boss (although I’m sure they’d figure it out). My last two primary jobs were not nice about my health issues at all. If it’s going to be gradual, and you find that you are currently having difficulty hearing at least some times, I would pull your boss aside and give them a heads up. At my current job, I told my direct supervisor and since most of my interaction w/ her is via email or conference call (she is several hours away), she knows that I just turn my phone up louder but may ask her to repeat – I ddin’t want her to think that I’m asking her to repeat b/c I’m tuning her out or not paying attention. With my advocacy job, I am often in places where there is lots of background noise (typically hospitals and police stations), so I do tell my clients that I have a mild hearing loss so please don’t be offended if I ask them to repeat. I’ve not had a problem yet – sometimes they’ll ask if it’s better if they move closer, etc. 

when i’ve supervised people, I’ve always appreciated when they give me a heads up on anything. The job I just left (management type roll), one of my employees let me know about her mother’s health (terminal cancer) and we worked out how she can spend more time with her mom, as well as we talked about just how she is doing. We temporarily switched some things around for her and also cut her hours slightly (with her agreement). Then I just asked her to keep me in the loop on her mom’s health. Obviously, she coudln’t predict when her mother will pass (she’s still hanging on. They said less than 2 months… 4 months ago!) but when she was in a rough patch, I made sure to have at least one person I could call in on short notice. Once she took her mom to the hospital and I was off and I hopped in to do her job. 

I once told a really amazing prof about my hearing (and later, other health issues) and he was AMAZING. He asked what would help me – and then accommodated it (mostly, letting me sit in the front area and trying to not have his back to the class). I never felt like he spent more time looking at me, but also understood that watching his lips helps me (Ive had the hearing loss my whole life, so I am pretty good at reading lips). He actually has a very thick accent, adn I got quite good at understanding him so I often had to tell the class what he was saying (for example, he kept calling Google “goggle” and journal articles “those papers here” – not sure what that was about). At my last job, I did have a few coworkers I told about my health and while my bosses were NOT good (I got literally screamed at so loud my nurse heard from the phone while i was in the hospital), the coworkers I did tell were great. THEY were so caring and helpful – so if tehre is anyone like that, it can help. I told them that sometimes I am more tired, or achy so I may have difficulty doing certain things. 

@amandaleaou:  hope it’s okay if I jump in with some questions (if not, PM?). I also have a hearing loss and am told that I should look into hearing aids “soon”. Do any plans cover hearing aids, b/c dang, that’s insane. I know when my grandfather passed, it was very easy to donate his (and now I see why). He had two pairs. I have a high frequency hearing loss. Luckily several friends of mine are in audiology school, so I’ve gotten hooked up for freebie visits – and probably can for a long time since they’re *always* look for people for the students to practice on (haha, my step dad went once and told the girl she was wrong, he can’t have a hearing loss. He hears just fine! As he’s shouting b/c um, he can’t hear). Are the hearing aids comfortable? Are they hard to get used to? I remember always seeing my grandpa’s in the bathroom (in this one dish), but he had two pairs. Do you sleep in them? How do you hear your alarm clock or things at home at night if you don’t? (a friend of mine worked with deaf and hearing loss people, and they had essentially vibrating alarm clocks – she was at their camp, whch was really fun. I volunteered there for a bit). If your hearing keeps changing, can they adjust the hearing aid or do you need a new one? Sory if that’ a ton or any questions are dumb. I’d rather be prepared in case I need them sooner (like a year or two) rather than later.

Post # 12
Member
272 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014 - Muhlhauser Barn

@NurseMandie:  I switched insurance plans for two years just so I could do the HSA because I knew there was no way I would separately save & that tax benefit helps so much. I would definitely look into it! I think it drill probably depend on how bad your hearing loss gets… For me since I can’t hear much in the spectrum where the human voice falls 5 years of hearing is worth the $4,000, but if your hearing only ends up fading in a high pitched spectrum or something like that it may not be worth it to you personally. I would probably start saving for either the hearing aids or the surgery & be consistent about going to your doctor so you can make the best choice for you when the time comes. At least that way you’d have funds to help with whichever option is best.

 

Post # 13
Member
272 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2014 - Muhlhauser Barn

@MsLobizon:  ask away 🙂 I wish I had known someone else with hearing loss when I was buying mine, because its an experience that not many younger people have to go through! I don’t know of any legitimate companies that offer hearing aid coverage, but I know there were some shady looking “hearing aid plans” that I found online… They’d charge a “discounted” raids on hearing aids through the years, you just had to pay a monthly payment every month… From what I could tell they were offering the cheap miracle ear type hearing aids though, which you could buy on your own for like $200, but that I’ve always been told are complete crap (I’ve never had one so I can’t say that for sure, but there has to be a reason they’re that much cheaper than the “real” hearing aids). That’s awesome that you have friends in audiology! They honestly may be able to get you a discount that insurance can’t get you — maybe on a pre-used model or just an older model… Most modern hearing aids can be tuned or programmed by audiologist, so if you can get your hands on one, they should be able to get a new ear piece & program it for your needs. So if your hearing does change they can also just adjust the program so you won’t need to pay for a new one every time your hearing changes either.

As for comfort… They’re not uncomfortable, but they take some getting used to. If my ear gets pressed on for some reason the ear piece can hurt a bit, but that doesn’t happen often. I can’t sleep in the, because I sleep on my side and it would hurt to have them pressing into my ear all night. I can hear high pitches, so I changed my alarm tone to the highest pitch I can find so it wakes me up. I know there are alarms that wake you up using light or vibration too though since you have high frequency loss. 

Let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂

Post # 15
Member
2576 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: November 2013

Oh wow. This is refreshing to see. I’ve worn hearing aids since I was 5 due to a bad flu that caused a moderate hearing loss. It’s always been a “disability” that I’ve felt alone in, b/c younger people never really had it… until recently. I’m seeing more and more people with hearing aids who are in my age group (20s-30s) lately. I hope that the “stigma” associated with hearing aids goes away soon b/c it’s quite unnerving.

@NurseMandie:  Unless it affects your ability to do your job properly and your performance, I wouldn’t mention it to your employer just yet. If you get a hearing aid and find that you can’t work with your current office equipment or whatnot, then I would bring it up so your workplace can provide you with equipment geared towards those with hearing aids – hearing-aid compatible phone, etc.. I can’t speak for your case, but having hearing aids really doesn’t impact my work, and I work in an office where I talk on the phone, etc.. However, for me it’s all I’ve known as I’ve had these when I was 5. I can imagine that it may be a little jarring for someone who is just getting them as an adult.

Post # 16
Member
2576 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: November 2013

@amandaleaou:  My last pair of hearing aids, I worked with a place called Hearing Planet. They were really good. They basically arrange your visit with an audiologist and offer a monthly payment plan for your hearing aids. I think they also arrange a discounted rate as well. At the time, my insurance was really good and actually covered 75% (!!!) of the cost. I made payments on the rest via CareCredit. And these are Siemens not MiracleEar.

Totally hear you on being alone in this process. One of my good guy friends just recently got diagnosed with hearing loss, and he has to wear HAs. He’s really good at getting good deals on stuff, so since I am due for a new pair soon, he is helping me with the “shopping” aspect of it.

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