If your hearing loss develops slowly over time, it can take years before you realise the effect that it’s having on your work life.
If your hearing isn’t what it used to be, at work you might find that you:
- struggle to follow what people say during meetings
- often ask colleagues to repeat what they say
- often misunderstand what is being said
- find it hard to understand speech over the telephone
- avoid socialising with colleagues
- often get confused about which direction sound is coming from.
If you’re experiencing difficulties like this, and haven’t yet been diagnosed with hearing loss, don’t put off getting your hearing tested. Research shows that the sooner you get help with your hearing loss, the less impact it will have on your life. See our section Diagnosing hearing loss and deafness
Once your hearing loss has been confirmed, tell your employer, so they can help you get the support and equipment you need at work.
How do I tell my employer about my hearing loss?
It’s best to speak to your manager about your hearing loss, at a time and in a place you’re comfortable with. Explain how your hearing loss affects what you can hear, and the effect it’s having at work.
Your manager should explain your employer’s policy for supporting people with a disability or health condition, and what the next steps are for making sure you get the support you need.
If you find that your manager isn’t supportive, or responds badly to your hearing loss, follow our steps for resolving the issue.
What can I do if my employer doesn't respond well to my hearing loss?
If your employer doesn’t support you in the workplace, or give you access to the same opportunities as others because of your hearing loss, this could be discrimination (unfair treatment) under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland).
There are steps you can take to try to resolve the issue:
- Talk to your employer informally. Discuss the issue with your manager, or with your HR department. Raise your concerns and ask for information about your employer’s policy on supporting employees with disabilities.
- Request a mediation meeting. This is where a neutral third party helps both sides to resolve the issue. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has information about mediation on its website.
- Make a formal complaint using your internal complaints or grievance system.
If you follow these steps and still aren’t happy with the outcome, you could consider taking your case to an employment tribunal. This is likely to be a long, expensive, and stressful process, and we recommend you get advice from an organisation specialising in disability or employment law before going down this route.
Which organisations can help me if I have a problem with my employer?
There are organisations that can provide information and support if you have any trouble with your employer as a result of your hearing loss.
A website run by the charity Law for Life: the Foundation for Public Legal Education. It provides information on rights and the law, including how to recognise discrimination and take steps to end it.
Citizens Advice helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free information and advice. You can search for your local bureau online.
Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
The EHRC protects human rights, promotes equality and challenges discrimination. It publishes a wide range of practical guidance and advice on its website.
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)
ACAS provides information, advice, training and other services for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems.
Labour Relations Agency (in Northern Ireland)
An independent agency that provides advice on good employment practices and services to help resolve employment disputes.