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      Mental wellbeing, hearing loss, and the workplace

      Our research and policy officer, Rowena, brings us her insights into mental health and hearing loss in the workplace. She explains how employers can help combat stigma – and foster a supportive culture.

      By: Rowena Stobart | 09 October 2018

      Taking care of employees' mental wellbeing is good for business. In a recent study, international consultants, Deloitte, estimated that poor mental health costs UK employers £33bn-42bn each year.

      Their research also looked at several organisations that had implemented workplace mental health interventions; they found that most showed a positive return on investment. And it's not simply a financial cost. As Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer highlight, in their recent review of mental health and employers, the human cost of poor mental health is also huge –– it can have a massive impact on the person experiencing it.

      With the right support, hearing loss doesn’t have to equate to poor mental health. But someone with hearing loss who doesn’t get the support they need at work – coupled with poor awareness among colleagues and managers – could experience a negative impact on their wellbeing. Our recent survey showed that, of those respondents who said their employer hasn't made reasonable adjustments for their hearing loss, nearly all (89%) said they'd felt stressed at work because of their hearing loss.

      There are five million people of working age with hearing loss in the UK and this number is set to rise as our workforce ages. It's more than likely, therefore, that some colleagues at your organisation have hearing loss – or will develop hearing loss in the future. So it's important to understand the possible impact of unsupported hearing loss on mental health.  

      Stigma and unsupported hearing loss

      One reason that people don’t get the support they need is that they don't like to tell people about their hearing loss because of its stigma. In our survey, over half (54%) of respondents said they’ve put off telling their employer about their hearing loss. And, of these respondents, 60% did so because they thought colleagues would think they weren't competent at their job.

      And our research suggests that, in some cases, they’re right to be worried. Nearly a fifth (18%) of survey respondents said that their employer has implied or suggested that they would be better off not continuing to work because of their hearing loss. Others have reported feeling bullied at work:

      "When I got my first hearing aid…I got jokes about: 'he's wearing a new bluetooth headset' etc, which I found embarrassing and uncomfortable."

      Fostering a supportive culture

      It’s hardly surprising, then, that people aren't disclosing their hearing loss at work. But let’s get one thing clear: hearing loss needn’t be a barrier to people excelling in most jobs.

      Employers must foster a workplace culture that embraces hearing loss. Workers need to feel that they can be open about asking for support with their hearing loss and then be able to get the support they need.

      And providing support for someone doesn't have to be difficult. It costs nothing to make sure you have good communication skills and if equipment or communication support is needed (such as a sign language interpreter), help is at hand: organisations can use the government’s Access to Work scheme to help them support their staff.

      How Action on Hearing Loss can help

      Find out more about supporting employees with deafness and hearing loss, and get useful tips and resources, on our Employers' Hub.

      Recent Posts

      Could a malaria drug hold the key to treating Usher syndrome?

      Researchers in the US have found evidence from zebrafish that the anti-malarial drug artemisinin could help to prevent the hearing loss associated with Usher syndrome type 3A. Tracey Pollard, from our research team, tells us more.

      By: Tracey Pollard
      19 July 2019

      Preventing hereditary hearing loss using gene editing technology

      Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in the US have used gene editing technology to prevent progressive hearing loss in mice with a genetic form of deafness which is also found in people (DFNA36). Tracey Pollard, from our research team, tells us more.

      By: Tracey Pollard
      19 July 2019

      Apple's new noise monitor

      Apple has long been investing in their tablets and phones to raise awareness of fitness. However, since the launch of their smartwatch, healthcare apps have become increasingly important and their latest app now includes hearing health to help protect hearing in noisy environments. Jesal Vishnuram, Technology Manager, tells us more.

      By: Jesal Vishnuram
      18 July 2019

      Protecting a lifeline in Parliament

      Over 700 of you have written to your MP, asking them to protect your local NHS audiology service. We held an event in Parliament on 26 June and MPs from constituencies across England dropped by to hear why hearing aids are a lifeline – and should be protected on the NHS.

      By: Jess McNulty
      28 June 2019

      Recent Posts

      Could a malaria drug hold the key to treating Usher syndrome?

      Researchers in the US have found evidence from zebrafish that the anti-malarial drug artemisinin could help to prevent the hearing loss associated with Usher syndrome type 3A. Tracey Pollard, from our research team, tells us more.

      By: Tracey Pollard
      19 July 2019

      Preventing hereditary hearing loss using gene editing technology

      Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital in the US have used gene editing technology to prevent progressive hearing loss in mice with a genetic form of deafness which is also found in people (DFNA36). Tracey Pollard, from our research team, tells us more.

      By: Tracey Pollard
      19 July 2019

      Apple's new noise monitor

      Apple has long been investing in their tablets and phones to raise awareness of fitness. However, since the launch of their smartwatch, healthcare apps have become increasingly important and their latest app now includes hearing health to help protect hearing in noisy environments. Jesal Vishnuram, Technology Manager, tells us more.

      By: Jesal Vishnuram
      18 July 2019

      Protecting a lifeline in Parliament

      Over 700 of you have written to your MP, asking them to protect your local NHS audiology service. We held an event in Parliament on 26 June and MPs from constituencies across England dropped by to hear why hearing aids are a lifeline – and should be protected on the NHS.

      By: Jess McNulty
      28 June 2019

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      We're really proud of everyone who's a part of Action on Hearing Loss, and hope you'll feel inspired to become a part of our community.​

      We campaign for changes that make life better for people who are confronting deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss.

      Our ears are our organs of hearing and balance. They have three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear.