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EEOC Issues Updated Guidance on Accommodating Hearing Disabilities

In January 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidance on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to individuals with hearing conditions. "Approximately 15 percent of American adults report some trouble hearing," according to the EEOC's release. The EEOC states, "Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have other hearing conditions can perform successfully on the job and, under the ADA, should not be denied opportunities because of stereotypical assumptions about these conditions."

Individuals with a hearing impairment fall within the protections of the ADA if they can show that they are substantially limited in hearing or another major life activity. Employers may not consider an employee's use of hearing aids or cochlear implants, which can improve hearing, to determine whether individuals are impaired. Deaf individuals "should be easily found to have a disability."

The EEOC's published guidance reflects a series of questions and answers that address how to interact with and address workplace issues for individuals with hearing disabilities. These questions include topics such as when an employer may ask applicants or employees about hearing conditions, what to do with information voluntarily disclosed, what types of reasonable accommodations employees may need, how to handle safety concerns, and how to prevent harassment of employees with hearing disabilities. The ADA applies to private employers with 15 or more employees and state and local government employees. The EEOC guidance is linked here: Hearing Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act.