Applying for jobs is difficult enough but add in hearing loss and your job search just got a whole lot harder. According to the National Deaf Center, only 48% of deaf Americans are employed, compared to 72% of their hearing peers. Additionally, even with advanced degrees and dozens of credentials to their names, deaf and hard of hearing individuals often struggle to get hired for full-time, permanent positions.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to protect people with hearing loss and other disabilities from discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere in society, people with hearing loss still face significant hurdles when trying to join the workforce. To help you overcome those hurdles and land your dream job, all while advocating for your needs as someone with hearing loss, here are our top tips to job hunting with hearing loss:
Understand The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
Know your rights as someone with hearing loss. If you believe you’re being discriminated against because of your hearing loss, speak up. Although you will have to jump through some hoops, you can file a complaint through the ADA.
Generally speaking, actions that fall under the umbrella term of “discrimination” when it comes to applying for jobs include things like a refusal to make reasonable accommodations for your hearing loss, such as hiring an ASL interpreter or moving to a room with better lighting. Additionally, if you have reason to suspect that someone who was less qualified than you for a position was hired over you due to your hearing loss, you have a right to file a complaint.
Finding The Right Job
Before you start sending out your resume to every company you can think of, you should first figure out what jobs you’re qualified for. When you look through job postings, be sure to carefully check the job requirements. Do you need an undergraduate degree? Are they looking for someone with a professional certificate? If you have at least 90% of the qualifications the employer is asking for, you’re more likely to land that job.
Additionally, due to your hearing loss, you’ll want to ensure that you can perform the job’s essential functions as an inability to complete such tasks could make you ineligible for a position. Essential functions are anything that is fundamental to the job, or in other words, the main reason that the job exists.
For example, a court reporter’s job is to listen to what is happening in the courtroom and to transcribe the proceedings. Hearing loss could make this job difficult, if not impossible, thus, an ability to hear would be an essential function of being a court reporter.
That being said, you know yourself and your hearing loss better than anyone else. You know what you’re capable of doing, and there are plenty of jobs out there that could use your skills. The trick is to find the one that matches up with your qualifications and your interests.
Revealing Your Hearing Loss
Thanks to the internet and the advent of online job boards, it can be fairly easy to get through most of a job application process without ever revealing your hearing loss to a potential employer. In fact, when and how you choose to inform them about your hearing loss is entirely up to you. Additionally, there is no need to tell a potential employer that you have hearing loss in your resume or cover letter, especially if it really has minimal effect on your ability to do the job.
Since employers cannot ask whether or not you have a medical condition (including hearing loss), they can only ask if you can complete the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. If you’re confident that you can perform the essential job functions, you should have nothing to worry about on that score.
That being said, people with hearing loss often have to reveal their condition, whether they want to or not, during the interview process. If you will be doing a phone interview but need to use a telecommunications relay service, it can be helpful to tell the interviewer that you will be doing so, but there is no requirement that you do. Moreover, if you are having an in-person interview and would like to have a sign language interpreter with you, you can ask the employer to provide this reasonable accommodation.
However, the focus of your interview should not be on your hearing loss. Sure, this may be a part of your day-to-day life, but a job interview is about expressing what you can do for the company and how you will be an asset to achieving their mission.