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Workplace Diversity, Generationally Speaking: Part 2

Published: 04/01/2014

Last Updated: 07/19/2017

In part 1, we discussed the different characteristics of the four generations that currently make up the U.S. workforce. So, how does this affect the daily interactions between colleagues? How can colleagues be respectful of the generation gaps that sometimes cause tension?


This is pretty close to what your workplace looks like with at least three generations in the mix, right?

Okay, maybe that’s not quite accurate, but using the criteria of each generation described in part 1, can you imagine a workplace with that many different personalities mixed together? Luckily, we understand that work is a place where people have different methods of time management, teamwork, and communication. The latter is what many people consider to be the grease for the gears; things would move with great difficulty or not at all without communication. Imagine how communication difficulties can escalate when hearing loss is in the picture.

Here are the facts about hearing loss in the generations:

  • About one in every three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss due to a number of possible causes.
  • 17% of adults ages 20 to 69 have permanent hearing damage due to excessive exposure to noise.
  • 14.6% of Baby Boomers have hearing difficulties.
  • 7.4% of Generation Xers already have hearing loss.
  • Almost 12% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 have noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Currently, many insurance plans do not provide adequate coverage for hearing healthcare services and treatment options.

Why are so many people experiencing hearing loss at an earlier age? Think about the increased accessibility of live concerts, portable music players, and headphones in the past few decades. In 1972, a Deep Purple concert in London reached a measurement of 117 dB. In 2009, KISS played a concert in Canada that, at its peak, measured 136 dB. (Read more about decibel levels here.) In 1980, the Sony Walkman was released in the U.S. It was the first portable music player with the capability for the user to listen with stereophonic headphones. How many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers wore hearing protection during concerts or kept the Walkman volume low? How many people in all of the generations do that today with concerts or their MP3 players?

As the generations age, the likelihood of more of them experiencing hearing loss will increase, so it’s important to understand how to communicate with someone who has hearing loss, whether or not they’re wearing hearing aids.

Contrary to what you might think, talking to someone who has hearing difficulties doesn’t always look like this:


Sometimes, the person will pretend to hear you because he or she is embarrassed to ask you to repeat yourself. Other times, the person can’t hear you at all, so it appears that he or she is ignoring you. Keeping in mind some easy communication skills can help everyone understand one another, plus it might even boost your overall professional etiquette.

If you have normal hearing and are communicating with someone who has hearing loss:

1. Politely get the person’s attention

2. Make eye contact when you speak with someone.

3. Speak clearly and try not to mumble or mutter.

4. Shouting won’t make a difference, plus it’s kind of rude.

5. Be patient!

6. Ask about what things you can do to make communication easier.

If you have hearing loss and are communicating with someone who has normal hearing:

1. Focus on the speaker and make eye contact.

2. Don’t pretend you’re listening.

3. Explain the ways in which the person can make communication easier with you.

4. Relax! If you show you’re relaxed, the other person will pick up on that.

With all of the differences between generations, effective communication is necessary inside and outside of the workplace, especially when it comes to communicating around hearing loss. While many Baby Boomers and Millennials may have to work a little harder than other generations to get to a place of working well together, each generation can learn from the others to become better individuals and professionals.

How’s your hearing? Find out here.


Last Updated: March 31, 2014


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