Research from the UK shows 50% of people with hearing aids reported difficulty accessing goods and/or services because of their hearing loss. On top of that, more than 70% of hearing aid wearers said having a hearing loss educated staff would strongly encourage them to choose one business over another. Get it from the source here (pdf).
20% of Americans over the age of 12 have a hearing loss. This prevalence increases to over 40% when we look at those age 60-69 and it just goes up with age from there. Read the research on this here.
So, let’s break this down; 48.1 million Americans have hearing loss (though, probably more by now since those numbers were from 2008 and the population is aging) and half of them have difficulty simply getting access to what you are selling. That is like having a store where you need 20 parking spots to accommodate the customer traffic you need and you decide to put lawn chairs and a fake palm tree in 2 of those spots, while you watch people drive away because there is no parking. This makes no sense to do for a number of reasons, one of them being the fake palm tree.
The thing is, I don’t think 99% of businesses know that is what they are effectively doing. Even if they did, knowing what to do about this barrier that exists between businesses and customers isn’t the same for every business, nor is it always incredibly clear what to do.
For example, look at car dealerships. People are discussing important details in test drives, where the driver can’t face the salesperson to get visual cues and there is a lot of road noise. Furthermore, face to face at negotiation time, the dealership may be a very large space with reverberant hard floors and lots of windows. While the dealership can’t be completely redesigned, the salesperson would probably want to know what they can do to facilitate being understood. Many people with hearing loss will not ask for what they need to hear you better and will often bluff that they understand so they don’t have to say ‘what?’ so often.
What about hair salons? Hair dryers are running and people take their glasses and/or hearing aids off for their haircut. Every hair stylist knows the specifics on what style, what length, and all the catch-up about how life has been for the past 2 months is where 90%, if not all, of their tip is coming from. Again, we can’t get around all of these issues. But, we can surely learn how to make the best of the situation so clients feel like they get much more out of working with you than with any other stylist.
No matter if you are working with people, in person or on the phone, hearing loss is impacting your business whether you know it or not.
This has all been about customers having hearing loss, but the same prevalence of hearing loss applies to employees! As an employer this can seem tricky with all the laws about discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act – the reality is that it really isn’t THAT tricky and making sure your employees have reasonable accommodations so they can perform their jobs well, means your business can perform better! But, I get it, this may be easier said than done – that is why Hearing Ally offers training on this topic too.
I want to know how you think this applies to your business or your experience as a customer or as an employee with hearing loss – I’m all ears! (I know, I know, I’ve never used that one before)