Towards a comprehensive approach for managing transitions of older workers with hearing loss

Demographic and legislative trends suggest that many older workers may remain at work past the traditional retirement age. This extended work trajectory poses new challenges and opportunities for workers with acquired hearing loss as they age. Workplaces require a new approach to enable transitions of older workers with hearing loss to remain safe and productive. A review of the literature on older workers, those with hearing loss, and strategies used to accommodate them suggests that individualized and piecemeal approaches are predominant. While universal design represents a fresh ideology that may help create more accessible and usable products and environments, its application to improve workplaces for older workers with hearing loss is limited. This paper proposes that occupational science be integrated with knowledge in hearing sciences, accessibility, and usability to assist with the transitions faced by older workers with hearing loss. A more comprehensive approach including the following three key components will be posited to examine the nexus of aging, hearing loss and work: (1) the use of an occupational perspective, along with concepts in hearing sciences to examine hearing demands and improve hearing access; (2) the use of contextual processes to promote physical and social change, and (3) the inclusion of Universal Design for Hearing (UDH) considerations as stakeholders develop more hearing friendly workplaces.

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