Bad Hearing

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about possible racial misunderstanding due to hearing loss:

I may be working at a restaurant soon but my manager and co-workers all have heavy accents and I have bad hearing. I don’t want to be annoying or look racist by asking over and over what they said. How can I make this situation better for me and my co-workers?

Signed: Don’t Want To Be Seen As Racist

Dear Don’t Want To Be Seen As Racist:

From what you say, you aren’t yet employed in a restaurant that has a manager and co-workers who have language that you might not be able to understand. Having a language different from yours doesn’t mean that they have as you put it “heavy accents”; it’s just that their manner of speaking is different from what you are used to—when speaking and hearing.

Have you discussed your hearing disability with the employer and asked if that is a problem? Probably, the orders are coded and you can learn them—by signs, numbers or short-phrases. It’s wise to be upfront about not wanting to misunderstand because of your hearing loss. When you talk with a manager, I wouldn’t use the words “heavy accent.” Of course, misunderstandings are common even when there is no language difference and when there is no hearing loss. That’s why menus and instructions are coded and numbered. If your job would entail called-in orders, that might be another problem. Accurately hearing customers with different ways of speech is also a challenge. Fortunately, many employers want responsible help, and therefore they will make adjustments for such disabilities as yours. But you will have to do most of the adjusting.

Apparently you have observed what goes on at this particular restaurant, and if you are hired, you will need to talk about how you might learn their way of giving and taking orders. Approach this without apology and a positive attitude.

Meanwhile, would it not be wise for you to get training for a career in which poor hearing is not a problem and/or getting a hearing aid if that would remedy your hearing loss.

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Let us know what happens if you can make time to do so.

William Gorden