New Report on Hearing Loss in the Workplace

By Ellen Pucke

In our June 2018 workshop, “Partners in Hearing: Learning Together,” participants explored gaps in resources and support for people with hearing loss. The workplace was one of the themes that emerged, so we turned to our partner organization, Action on Hearing Loss, to learn more about their research on the topic. Johanna Taylor, Head of Campaigns, took the time to walk us through their 2018 “Working for Change: Report on Workplace Experiences of People with Hearing Loss.”

What did the 2018 study on workplace experiences find? 

Our latest research revealed that more than half of people living with hearing loss in the UK feel they can’t be open about it in the workplace, 51% of those people felt that others would assume they weren’t competent and 42% saw no point because they thought that reasonable adjustments wouldn’t be able to be made. Among other findings in this report, it shows us that there is a long way to go to make workplaces more hearing loss-friendly.

What is the Working for Change campaign?

We have been doing research with people with hearing loss for many years, and time and again, employer attitudes have been cited as the biggest barrier to employment and that’s an area where we can affect change. When the right support and understanding is there, hearing loss doesn’t have to interfere with peoples’ ability to thrive in the workplace.

Making that happen requires input from both sides— the employee and the employer. In 2017 we wanted to explore the cause of employer attitudes toward hearing loss. We found that in fact employers didn’t necessarily have bad attitudes toward hearing loss, but simply lacked the confidence regarding how to support employees with hearing loss, what to say, what to do, and what their legal obligations are. Two thirds didn’t know about Access to Work, a scheme which can help meet the costs of reasonable accommodations— things like interpretation services or equipment, like amplified telephones.

Our Working for Change campaign will help employers to feel more confident about recruiting people with hearing loss, as well as overcoming some common myths about hearing loss and employment. It will also help employers support their employees who already have, or will develop, hearing loss.

People with hearing loss are often reluctant to disclose their hearing loss because they fear being seen as incompetent, which can make it difficult for employers to identify their needs. While on the one hand we’re encouraging employers to create a culture that gives staff the confidence to be open, we also have plans to expand the campaign to empower employees with hearing loss to ask for the support they need.

What can hearing care professionals do to help their patients in the workplace?

First and foremost, have that conversation with your patient about where they work, what the environment is like there; investigate what equipment might be able to help.  Support that can help them thrive in the workplace is a key component of comprehensive care.