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Hearing Loss in the Workforce - Plus, three reasons why you should employ someone with hearing loss

By: Paul Harrison Updated: 11th October 2021 in: Hearing Loss Awareness, Latest News, Articles
Hearing Loss in the Workforce

Hearing Loss in the Workforce

Plus, Three Reasons Why You Should Employ Someone With Hearing Loss

 

What has been a trend of late is the hybrid working concept, especially after the pandemic and the introduction of remote working.  Whether working remotely or sharing your time in and out of the office - we need to ensure equality and inclusivity within the workforce.  This is even more paramount for those who have hearing loss in the workplace.

 

Hearing Loss and Employment - The stats

Statistics show that one in six people in the UK has some form of hearing loss.  This will undoubtedly rise over the years, as music associated hearing loss, and retirement age rises with it.  Inevitably the number of people with hearing loss in the workplace will increase.  Other figures you might find interesting are there are around 9 million people in the UK with hearing loss and, on average, four million are of working age.

 

Hearing Impaired Employment Opportunities

Such figures tell us that there are still millions of people out there who want to work and feel that their hearing loss dictates their job prospects, challenges in initially finding employment or keeping employment.

 

Hearing Loss in Employees - The sad reality

Most people with hearing loss choose not to disclose this information to their employer because of possible discrimination.  Even with a huge decrease in stigmas, exclusion issues and better education in hearing loss awareness, these opinions and discriminations are still very relevant today.  Unfortunately, there are candidates out there who continue to be discarded for roles when their hearing loss is discovered. 

With facts like these, it is not surprising that more and more people are asking – are people with hearing loss able to be an asset for companies and the workforce?  The short and definitive answer is yes and not only that they can offer an array of advantages. 

 

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"Many of the patients I see tell me that they would rather not declare they have hearing loss on job application forms.  They genuinely feel they would not be shortlisted for an interview if they did"

Paul Harrison - Audiology Expert & Founder of Hearing Aid UK

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Hearing Loss and Employment Law - An obligation

All employers are legally obligated in the Equality Act 2010* to provide an inclusive and equal opportunity workforce.  This also means those who have hearing loss.  They need to accommodate and offer such things as assistive listening devices and other alterations that can help any day-to-day communication challenges.

 

 A Little Extra Support - Not an inconvenience

Those with hearing loss need a little extra support, but it is important to know that this doesn't mean their productivity is any less than those who have 'normal' hearing or make the working environment more stressful.

Seamless communication is the answer that will unlock misunderstanding and promote relatability within professional relationships.  Only subtle changes are often needed in the workplace that can really make a positive impact such as clear and slow speech between colleagues.  Understanding the best way to communicate with someone with hearing loss is paramount in any industry - especially if a workforce hasn't been exposed to hearing loss before. 

Educating and bringing awareness to the whole team on the basics of what hearing loss means and what support they will need to work successfully is the best place to start.  Awareness will result in a more inclusive and successful working environment.

 

Other employer accommodations and adjustments could be:

 

  • Revisiting the layout of conference rooms with better lighting, so those with hearing loss can see everyone clearly for lipreading purposes.
  • Modifying aspects of a role to cater to those with hearing loss.
  • Ensuring that someone with hearing loss has an office with good acoustics, so the sound is transmitted well.
  • Offering communication support for conferences like speech to text and captions.
  • Installing hard-of-hearing phones in their office that have light indicators and similar concepts for fire alarms.
  • Installing a hearing loop system that is portable or providing alternative assistive listening devices and hearing aid accessories for work trips away and within conferences in the office.
  • Time off for hearing healthcare appointments with their audiologist or ENT department.

 

The Benefits Of Employing Someone With Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss and Employees

Three benefits of employing someone with hearing loss

 

Here are three of the many benefits of employing someone with hearing loss:

1.  Resilience in Chaos

People with hearing loss are consistently having to tackle stumbling blocks such as isolation and discrimination have probably occurred at some point in their lives.  Therefore, their performance in managing stress, deadlines and projects is great.

Even though some with hearing loss need additional support in communicating within the workforce, it should not be seen as a disadvantage.  Due to the need for extra support, all communication and meetings must be more transparent.  Resulting in a better communication structure and organised workforce.

 

2.  The Power of Concentration & Adaptation

Arguably, one of the main advantages of having hearing loss is the ability to maintain focus all day.  Due to struggles with making sense of sound and speech in their lives, their concentration levels are high and consistent. 

To hear a sound, you have to rely on more than just your ears.  It is your brain that plays a huge role in how you process sound.  People with hearing loss learn to fine-tune their brain’s ability to focus on noise and speech – which in turn helps their hearing and concentration.

There are many people with hearing loss that have had a disability since childhood and therefore have a high level of adaptability.  Firstly, understanding the adaptations needed and then having to be proactive and adjust accordingly.

 

3.  Additional Support

Additional support is more likely to be extra consideration, more designated time and a little research into hearing loss.  Educating the workforce is a huge step to a deeper understanding amongst employees.  However, if extra equipment is needed businesses may be entitled to apply for help by the government**

It is clear that people with hearing loss make a positive addition to the workforce, especially when they are correctly supported.  Hearing loss should never be a reason why a candidate fails to be employed.  They want to be as successful in their work-life as those with ‘normal hearing’ do.

 

 Want to know more about hearing loss and employment?

If you would like more information on how you can support a colleague with hearing loss, how you can educate your workforce about hearing loss or if you think you have hearing loss and would like to arrange a free consultation - call us free on 0800 567 7621 to speak with one of our audiologists.

 

 

Read Next:  Hearing Loss Facts

 

 

 * Visit the rnid.org.uk website to learn more about hearing impaired employment rights.

** Visit the gov.uk website to find out more about the Access to Work Scheme.

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This article was written by Paul Harrison - Audiology Expert

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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