USAA Employee, Tim R., injury adjuster, has not let his diminished hearing stand in the way of his career.
When USAA employee, Tim R. takes a call, the member on the other end of the line is often in a tense mood, calling from the scene of an accident, a hospital or an auto repair shop.
“These members are often in a heightened state of emergency and talking fast, usually in a noisy environment,” explains Tim, injury adjuster. “It can be challenging for me.”
When Tim was a teenager, he noticed his hearing was changing. After years of being in noisy environments, including working at an airport, Tim learned that he had developed tinnitus.
“My hearing is diminished, and tinnitus causes a lot of noise inside of your head,” explains Tim. “Imagine having a conversation with a loud sink faucet running – it is like that. There is a noise between us, and it can inhibit conversation.”
As a frontline employee frequently taking calls from frustrated or anxious members in noisy environments, his diminished hearing could have been an obstacle in Tim doing his best.
“Through USAA’s health benefits, I was able to get a pair of hearing aids,” he says. “I also was able to get an over-the-ear headset, which helps to block out background noise on my end while I was in the office.”
Today, Tim works from home full time. While he says the quiet environment is beneficial, he still sometimes has difficulty hearing members on the phone.
“I don’t look at myself as having a disability, just a slight imperfection, and we all have our slight imperfections,” says Tim. “It’s important to be comfortable enough with those imperfections to advocate for yourself. Sometimes I have to stop the other person – whether it’s a member or someone else – and ask them to slow down or move to a quieter environment.”
It’s a lesson that Tim has been able to pass along to his daughter, who was born deaf in one ear.
“I have no doubt that she will be successful in whatever career she chooses,” he says. “We are both paying attention to the world and learning how we can do things better little by little, and I hope others can do the same.”
Tim says it’s important for people – both in the professional world and personally – to be patient and bear in mind that you don’t always know the challenges others are facing.
“We can all contribute, we are all valuable and have our own skills, talents and experiences,” he says. “We are all learning how to adapt and overcome certain things so we can do our jobs and take care of the people around us.”