Deaf or Hard of Hearing–When to Tell A Potential Employer

When hunting for a job, do you indicate that you are deaf or hard of hearing on your resume or the job application?

The Wall Street Journal tackled the topic in their article, Finding the Right Way to Disclose a Disability:

Disclosing a disability is a personal decision but can be beneficial if done right. Only you can decide whether — and when — to tell your new employer about your disability. Disclosing a condition can help protect your legal rights but can also leave you open to discrimination. Still, experts say you’re better off giving management a heads-up.

Among my deaf and hard of hearing friends, there seems to be a lot of divide on the issue of whether or not to disclose a disability when applying for a job.  “Don’t give the Human Resources department an excuse to dump your resume in the reject pile,” says Lenny Kepil, who works for Tellabs.  When Lenny was laid off from his job at Lucent Technologies a few years ago, it took him several thousand resumes and a few interviews later to land a job back in the same field. 

Karina Chupina explains the “catch 22” that comes with job hunting in her article, A Look at Education and Employment in Germany:

Getting a job nearly always poses a plaguing dilemma for the deaf and hard of hearing: whether they should disclose their disability or not when sending their CV or resume to a potential employer. The controversy centers about the fact that the employer cannot reject an applicant on the basis of disability, but practice shows that applicants who have identified themselves as hard of hearing or deaf persons often are rejected. It remains unclear whether there was a biased attitude towards the hearing disability on behalf of the employer, or lack of the requisite skills.

Howard Rosenblum, a deaf attorney in Chicago, states that the issue is a complicated one.  “It depends on the job that the deaf or hard of hearing applicant is applying for,” he explains.  “If it is a state or federal job, it is often a good idea to disclose a disability because those employers often look for diversity.”

Howard urges more caution when applying for jobs in the private sector.  “All too often, private companies seem to have this fear of hiring people with disabilities.  Sometimes, when people with disabilities disclose their disabilities on a resume, they do not even get interviews at all.  When they take it off, they may get interviews, but many times they are not hired or called back for second interviews.”

For deaf or hard of hearing applicants who use interpreters, they face the difficult decision of whether or not to request accommodations for the interview process.  Requesting an interpreter for an interview puts the deaf or hard of hearing person at a disadvantage, because companies can balk at the idea of having to pay for an accommodation during the hiring process.  “I often tell deaf people who want jobs to bring their own interpreter during the hiring process,” says Howard.  “Even though the company is supposed to pay for interpreters by law, bringing your own increases the chances of being hired.”

Neil McDevitt, a deaf firefighter and Program Director at TDI, suggests putting the information about being deaf or hard of hearing in the cover letter.  “The cover letter gives you a chance to put your best foot forward, so to speak,” he explains.  “If you make it clear that the fact that you’re deaf or hard of hearing has no bearing on your ability to do the job, it will take the doubt out of the employer’s mind.  I’m also of the opinion that a place that makes a fuss about a person being deaf isn’t a place worth wasting your time at in the first place.”

I personally have done it both ways: cover letters that address being deaf and cover letters that only focus on my skills with no hint of being deaf.   I’ve put down relay numbers and I’ve also put down a friend’s number (they’d take a message and I would call back via relay, using my voice).  I know that there were probably some jobs where my resume never stood a chance due to disclosure but I’ll never know for sure.

In this day and age, here’s something else to consider– employers are increasingly using web searches to find out information about a potential hire.  Chances are, employers are going to quickly learn information disclosed on the internet, including any mention of a disability. 

The whole debate of whether or not to include a disability in the job seeking process is a moot point if we don’t have employers who are willing to consider the abilities, not the disabilities of potential hires.

10 replies
  1. Lenny Kepil
    Lenny Kepil says:

    Regarding the comments of employers looking for “diversity”… That’s basically when employers are looking to meet EEO guidelines which do not uniquely identify deafness?

    I was floored when I discovered there was no such identifier for the Deaf…

    What’s more, I’ll bet that globalization has skewed
    those numbers in such a way that employers can claim meeting such expectations w/o American Workers.

  2. Steve
    Steve says:


    I don’t usually mention my hearing loss until the end of an interview. Hopefully, it hasn’t been a problem during the interview and so when I do mention it at the end my future employers have had a chance to see that my hearing loss isn’t a major problem for them during the working day. With a bit of luck, by that time they’ve also realised I’d be good for the job!

    Obviously, if I’m having to ask people to repeat themselves during the interview then I will tell them why. Doing that is a good indicator of the employers attitude towards hearing loss.

    Thankfully I’ve never had an employer who has had a problem with it and frankly, if an interviewer did have a problem with it then they can find someone else to take the job.

    I always find that if I’m honest about what I can and can’t hear then there’s never a problem.


  3. Darlene Hester
    Darlene Hester says:

    Hello, i am not able to find no job because of my disability(hard of hearing). I haven’t work since Novermber 30, 2007. I got layoff and the job closed down. I am really suffered and i can’t even get ssd. And my report say I have sevred hearing loss and I was born hard of hearing. I am really stress out,

  4. James
    James says:


    It is interesting that the whole debate of whether or not one should disclose thier disbility on their CV. I’m hard of hearing since i was born. I do get severely stress out about the whole thing of failing to land a job. However, i have come to realised that people like ourselves have to be clever in such situations. One needs to get to know about the company as much as possible, particualrly the hr staff! We cannot assume that being rejected for a job is based on the fact that the compay are being discriminative. We got to build the required skill for the job as best as possible. In that way, when you are being interviewed for the job, you will be very positive in the interview and this in itself wil indicate that the interviewers will realised that the client has the required skill. It is harder to do this but we have to prove the employer beyond doubt that we are competive and capable of performing the job at the highest level



  5. Ann
    Ann says:


    I was born with this disability. There is nothing they can do for me. I also have been in this position of not telling an employer of my disability and then after hire, tell them. Seems to go ok for a while, then something always happens that I loose my job. Always told it is an attitude problem. How does one keep a job if you cannot hear instruction. Dealing with the public is very stressful as well. You get called names and are ridiculed by them. They go as far as telling your boss that you should not even be working there because you can’t hear. Not good!

  6. Ann
    Ann says:

    It is so bad that I don’t hear what my interveiwer says 90% of the interview. I don’t go out in public only if i have to. This is and has been taking a toll on my self esteem. People take advantage of those that are hard of hearing. Even ” ” loved ones! I am sorry for venting, but it’s the dan truth. no one whants to have an employee who cannot hear!

  7. Phillip
    Phillip says:

    Hello, I am deaf with a cochlear implant. I have an Associates College Degree as well. I have been unemployed since 2005 due to my hearing loss. I grew up wearing hearing aids as my form of hearing and had multiple jobs with no problems. I figured if I got the implant then it would better my chances of landing employment, boy was that a mistake. I have applied to almost every possible job field and have not gotten 1 phone call for an interview. There are laws that discriminate against the deaf, but of course we have no proof that we are being discriminated against. There has got to be something we can all do. This is just beyond crazy if you ask me. Social Security Disability does not pay enough for me to survive on my own, good thing I have a wife that is bringing in some income.

  8. SA
    SA says:

    I became hard of hearing from medications taken over 30 years and have had this problem just 1.5 years. I am in HRRecruiting Manager. I know about age,sex, racial and other types of discrimination, but became a victim of it. I have looked for work 8 months, finally landed a job in recruiting at less than1/2 the pay I made before. Immediately I noticed co-workers isolating me, the put me far from the group on a different floor, and eased me out of the job in just 3 days.

    Working at home I don’t feel any discrimination. I use audio assist on my phone and do most of my research on the computer. The work-around plan is great and I am happier than ever.
    Hope others see their disability as a way to communicate in different ways.

  9. Juan Mercado
    Juan Mercado says:

    Hi, like Ann #6 & #7, I too was born being HOH. And I could not agree with him more. I work in the construction business as a lic. plumber doing public jobs. The thing is, I still go trough the same humiliating routine on a daily basis.

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