What Jobs Can You Do With Hearing Loss?
The other day Srinivas — one of my readers — asked me a question:
“I know you’ve talked with a lot of people with hearing loss. What kind of jobs do they do? I am asking because I sometimes feel exhausted working in a company, and I thought freelancing might be a good fit for me.”
For a few seconds I started to mentally list which jobs the people I know do. Then I stopped abruptly.
Wait a minute.
No need for a list. You can do anything you want to do!
“Srinivas, there are very few jobs that you cannot do just because of your hearing loss. But — given your hearing loss — there may be many jobs you think you can’t do.”
This point is important, so let me repeat it: “Because of your hearing loss, there may be many jobs you think you can’t do.” And that mindset can really work against you.
The truth is: When people don’t realize they are capable of doing the job they want, they may tend to settle for work they don’t feel passionate about. With just a little attitude correction, these people can rock jobs they love.
Granted, because you have a hearing loss, you probably can’t become a jet pilot. Just like you can’t be a jet pilot if you don’t have perfect sight. Astronaut is out. Astronauts need way more than perfect hearing. But those two careers don’t account for the 99 percent of jobs out there, surely.
That 99 percent is available to you. Today.
The big mistake I see people make, and I’ve done this myself in the past, is to look at a job they’d like to do, a job they could love, and think they can’t do it because they can’t do it exactly like someone else is doing it.
Let’s look at an example
Consider Mr. J. J. Sharpguy, an experienced account executive in the construction business. For 20 years he’s successfully met new customers every day. Recently his hearing ability has diminished, and suddenly seeing new clients all the time isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Seeing people in noisy construction sites is draining the life out of him. Most of his energy is spent trying to figure out what his clients are saying. After only a few hours, he’s so exhausted he can’t think of any winning things to say to his customers. He can’t even keep them engaged. It’s over, he thinks. He can’t do the job anymore.
Or can he?
Perhaps he just can’t do the job exactly like he used to.
It’s more likely that J. J. needs to acknowledge that Hearing Loss has barged into his life. Now he must manage the situation, using his hard-earned skillset. He’ll get busy and figure how to let hearing loss into his life; he’ll adjust his role so he can still do his job well and have fun while doing it.
Do it differently
Often when you face a job situation that hearing loss has made difficult, you don’t need to change dramatically. If you don’t want to give up meeting your customers, but you want to preserve your energy, keep one or two days in your week free of meetings to become really productive and recharge. (Introverts, with or without hearing loss, often use this strategy to excel.) It can work for you.
Or if you can see fewer new customers and more existing customers whom you are familiar with, that would relieve some pressure.
Remember, hearing loss is like handling another trait of your personality. The more aware you are of it, the better you’re likely to handle it.
Unnecessary struggles of youth
In my first year of university, I wouldn’t wear hearing aids, yet (that comes the following year). The lecturer spoke with his back to the class as he was scribbling on the whiteboard. And I struggled to hear. It was stressful.
But worse — I wanted to teach, too.
If I couldn’t hear him, how could I be a lecturer myself? How could I hear any of the questions from the audience? How could I do any type of teaching job?
I didn’t even know I wanted to work in education at the time, but the thought that I would never be able to saddened me deeply.
See? That’s what I thought. That I’d never be able to do something I really cared about.
Little did I know that in the years to come I would teach many workshops, I’d be invited to do public speaking, I’d work with thousands of school teachers in the U.K. to help kids learn about making mobile apps, and finally, I’d be teaching about hearing loss through Superhuman Hearing. All of this in English — a language I didn’t speak properly until age 30.
One step at a time
All I had to do was to make incremental adjustments. First, I disclosed my hearing loss to others, and that allowed me to ask for help. For the workshops, I hosted them in small rooms with only a handful of people. With public speaking in large rooms, I made sure the audience asked their questions using a microphone.
When I worked with teachers in the U.K., I joined a charity called Apps for Good, and I worked behind the front lines, giving teachers the tools they needed to help the kids. Nowadays, I’m teaching about hearing loss online, and from the other side of the world!
It turned out that with some adjustments I managed to do what I loved in my own unique way. And over time I realized I love education because it has the power to change people’s behavior, and that can change the world.
These adjustments worked wonders for me. Your goal is to find out what works for you.
So what do you really want to do?
If you’re thinking about a new career or adjusting your current role, don’t think: “What can I do in spite of my hearing loss?” Rather, think: “What do I love to do?”
“What do I have fun doing? What energizes me?”
Dale Carnegie, who wrote the bestseller “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” once said: “People rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it.”
Whether you have hearing loss or not, you’ll do better at things that you like doing.
Once you’ve figured out what you like to do, and you identify a job, the second step is to ask yourself: “How can I do it?”
What adjustments do you need so your hearing loss doesn’t become an obstacle? How do you train people around you? And what accessories can help you do a better job?
Who can you ask for help?
If you choose a job that involves few social interactions in your day, ask yourself if that’s what you truly enjoy.
I spent years working in server rooms (refrigerated rooms full of computers and no people) before realizing I wanted to work with more people and fewer computers.
I realized that I was doing this job not because I liked it, but because it was easy.
One day, I disclosed my hearing loss to my manager and my colleagues, and in a little time, dealing with clients and meetings became easier. I told my manager I’d like to work with clients abroad, and they sent me to all parts of the world. That completely changed my life.
Don’t pick a job just because it’s easy, and don’t stay in your existing one because you don’t have to deal with people much. If dealing with people is what makes you happy, find a way to do it that works for you.
What about you? I’m curious…
What adjustments have you made to make your job work for you? Or what job would you love to do but feel that your hearing loss is holding you back? Let me know in the comments below.
Read more at Superhuman Hearing.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.