5 Things Employers Should Know About Employees with Tinnitus

Two male workers drilling and making a window frame.

Millions of Americans of all ages suffer from tinnitus, described as a ringing in the ears. It’s a problem that can affect people in many ways. Research shows about 45% of workers have some level of tinnitus. But often, employees with tinnitus don’t tell their boss or coworkers about their problem. Here are five things employers should know about employees with tinnitus.

  1. Occurs suddenly

    People with tinnitus say the hearing problem happens without warning. Suddenly they notice a new sound in one or both ears, such as chirping, hissing or ringing. Scientists say the sounds come from inside the head and are a sign of an underlying condition such as circulatory problems, ear or head injury, or noise-induced or age-related hearing loss.

    When the sound starts, people often think something is medically wrong. Hearing experts say the more people focus on the sound, the worse it seems.

  1. Impacts concentration

    Tinnitus doesn’t impact people’s ability to hear. Instead, the sounds interfere with their ability to concentrate during meetings and conversations. The constant hissing or ringing sound can get on their nerves.

    Employers could encourage tinnitus sufferers to listen to music, set at a low volume using noise-canceling headphones, when working on a project to distract them from the ear ringing. Review this information to learn more about how tinnitus can impact job performance.

  1. Increases fears

    Many people with tinnitus hesitate to tell others about the problem because they think people won’t understand. They’re afraid they’ll be labeled as the employee with a hearing problem.

    Tinnitus sufferers get tired of telling people that they can hear OK. It’s the sound in their ears that causes them to lose focus during meeting discussions and conversations.

    About 42% of tinnitus sufferers say living with the stigma of tinnitus adversely affects their work. They are afraid to tell their employers about the problem. They believe their boss will think there is something wrong with them and they can’t handle challenging projects. Because of this, they fear being passed over for a promotion.

  1. Reduces quality of life

    A diagnosis of tinnitus does not mean life has to stop. Millions of people with tinnitus lead normal lives. However, 65% of people with tinnitus said the constant ear ringing does impact their lives. They report struggling with mood swings, depression, sleep disturbances and sound sensitivity.

    Medical professionals say there isn’t a simple explanation as to why some people develop tinnitus. Causes can include medications, stress or a head injury. Find out about more causes of tinnitus.

  1. Tips for coping

    Although there isn’t a cure for tinnitus, hearing professionals can offer tips to help sufferers cope with ear ringing. Some people benefit from wearing hearing aids. They find the increased hearing volume can mask the ringing and hissing sounds. Also, people with tinnitus who have problems sleeping have found relief by using a fan or white-noise machine.

American Tinnitus Association
Verywell Health
Harvard Heath