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Question for Hearing Impaired Nurses

Disabilities   (1,461 Views | 2 Replies)

laKrugRN specializes in Cardiac, ER, Pediatrics, Corrections.

5,650 Profile Views; 479 Posts

Hello AN Family!!

I am a new nurse. Due to an accident as an infant, I have lost a good amount of my hearing in my right ear. My left ear is damaged but still within the normal functioning range. I do not tell employers because it is all I have ever known. I am used to it. To me this is "normal hearing." I do not feel it impairs my ability to care for patients. I can still hear just fine in a stethoscope with my left ear.

What do you guys think? Is this dishonest? What do you tell employers about your hearing loss? What is your hearing loss severity? I am not trying to conceal anything, I just don't consider it a disability because it does not interfere with my daily life. It's just the way it is for me.

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llg has 43 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

6 Followers; 13,268 Posts; 59,586 Profile Views

My hearing level is very similar to yours. I am totally deaf in one ear and slightly hard of hearing (but still in the "normal" range) in the other. The difference is that mine hearing loss did not occur until I was 38 years old (21 years ago). I know the difference between the hearing I have now and the hearing that most other people have.

Our hearing IS compromised and it could have some clinical implications in certain situations. I therefore feel obligated to tell my employer ... but I don't do so immediately. When filling out an application and it asks something like, "Do you have any conditions that would interfer with your ability to do the job?" I answer "No" -- because I believe I can do the job. Then at the end of the interview, after they have seen that I can interact with other people well, I tell them that I have a small hearing impairment that does not require significant accommodation.

The difficulties I have noticed in the clinical area because of my hearing impairment include:

1. Immediately discerning the direction from which sound comes from. For example, someone will start talking or a monitor will alarm and I won't immediately know which way to look. If there are multiple phones (or alarms) ringing at the same time, I tell which one is ringing unless I get real close. Back when I had good hearing in both ears, I had the ability to determine the direction of the source of sound. This problematic phenomenon has been well documented in people with hearing in one ear only.

2. When there is a lot of background noise, I have more trouble understanding speakers who mumble ... or who are wearing a mask ... or have a lot of facial hair ... or have a significant accent ....etc. than people with good hearing in both ears. That phenomenon is also well-documented.

3. In general, I have more trouble understanding conversation in very noisy environments. For example, I am representing nursing at a busy career fair soon and I know that it will be problematic for me for me to hear everyone who comes to our table because of all the background noise -- much more problematic than that sort of thing was back when both ears still worked.

These are the main things off the top of my head. You might want to talk to an attorney or someone else knowledgable about employment for people with handicaps. I did when my sudden loss occured. (I had a friend who advised me for free.) He helped me devise the strategy I described above. I don't want to get caught in a lie or accused of hiding something by not telling them that I do have a hearing impairment. But on the other hand, I want them to see how capable I am before I mention it. I joke that it might even make me MORE attractive as a hiree -- because by hiring me, they can claim they hired a handicapped person -- without actually having to make any significant accommodations that would be expensive or inconvenient for them.

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laKrugRN specializes in Cardiac, ER, Pediatrics, Corrections.

479 Posts; 5,650 Profile Views

I really like the way you put this! I can relate to those problems you have listed. I've always been the one to say, "WHAT?" If we are talking in a noisy area. Do fire alarms bother you? For some reason when they go off, I feel like my head is on sideways and the better ear is like 100x more sensitive. I hate alarms! I appreciate your suggestion and will do some looking into it. I also select "no" on apllications when asked about performance difficulties. But, I would never deny my hearing loss or purposely conceal it. I appreciate the suggestion to mention it to employers in the beginning but not right after the first handshake ;)

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