What is it? One in six people in the UK have hearing loss or are deaf. Hearing impairment is a partial or total inability to hear. This may range from mild hearing loss in one ear to profound loss in both. Individuals may be born with hearing loss for genetic reasons or due to infections when their mother was pregnant (Rubella/ German Measles was a major cause before the Rubella vaccination and the MMR was introduced), conditions such as Meniere’s disease, and importantly in the workplace - exposure to noise.
Many of us will have impaired hearing as we get older, and this is the most common cause of deafness. This is important as more of us work to an older age.
Strengths: A hearing-impaired person will often have heightened visual awareness and so will be good at reading body language. In common with others in the workplace with a disability, those with hearing loss are likely to be highly diligent, have a strong work ethic, and have strong loyalty to organisations that support them well - so become long-serving employees with a high level of corporate knowledge and skills.
Challenges: Hearing impairment is an invisible disability that can lead to barriers and miscommunication. Even relatively mild hearing loss can make some sounds hard to pick up, especially in noisy environments. Not being able to communicate effectively is stressful and can lead to the individual feeling undervalued and isolated. We recommend viewing the Oscar-winning short film, The Silent Child, which illustrates this well. This film is available through a number of sources including BBC iPlayer at The Silent Child.
Solutions: Action on Hearing Loss provides a useful guide to employers. Adjustments are recommended to “level the playing field” to take account of impairments and allow the individual to make maximum use of their abilities. We suggest considering the following to support those with hearing loss, depending on the specific needs of each individual:
- All being aware these colleagues have this impairment – ensure you look at them, and if hearing loss is only on one side, speak with them on their better side.
- Ensure meeting rooms have good lighting to aid lip-reading
- To work in an office with good acoustics and low distraction
- To provide flexibility to attend audiology appointments
- Communication support such as speech to text reporters
- Provide a portable hearing loop or other listening devices
The Government may provide funding for adaptations through the Access To Work scheme.
For further information on support or advice on integrating a person with a disability into your team, get in touch with us at Cordell Health.