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      Employees keep hearing loss a secret at work for fear of unfair treatment

      Fear of a potential negative effect on their career is preventing people with hearing loss from disclosing their condition to their employers.

      More than half of people living with deafness and hearing loss feel they can’t be open about it in the workplace, according to a new survey by charity Action on Hearing Loss. The new research has been conducted as part of the charity’s Working for Change campaign, which aims to change attitudes to deafness and hearing loss in the workplace. 

      A third of those who felt they could not be open about their hearing loss said it was due to the fear that they would be treated unfairly at work. A further 60% felt that others would assume they weren’t competent and 42% saw no point in disclosing their hearing loss as they didn’t think their workplace would be able to make reasonable adjustments. 18% of respondents thought they would lose their job if they told people about their hearing loss. 

      In addition, 79% of respondents have felt stressed at work because of their deafness/ hearing loss, 65% felt isolated and 48% felt lonely. 

      Jackie White, Northern Ireland Director at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “This new research shows that despite there being one in six people in Northern Ireland living with some form of deafness and hearing loss, many people in employment are struggling unnecessarily. It’s shocking that in 2018, and despite a lot of work by government and employers to encourage more inclusivity and accessibility, people with deafness and hearing loss feel they can’t be open about it. 

      “It seems much of the awareness raising has neglected to include invisible disabilities like deafness and hearing loss. The levels of stress and the isolation experienced by people with hearing loss at the workplace are shocking. The numbers are certainly not helped by working cultures where people are worried about talking openly about their condition and the support they might need.” 

      Michael Mulvenna, Employment Services Manager at Action on Hearing Loss Northern Ireland, said: “The prevalence of hearing loss is only going to increase, so it’s essential that employers create a working environment where people feel both able and welcome to disclose disabilities and sensory loss. There are a number of things employers can do to support staff with hearing loss and deafness. From basic deaf awareness training for staff and management, to taking advantage of Access to Work to cover the cost of amplified phones, there needn’t be barriers for anyone. If you need support in work or want to make your organisation more accessible to those with deafness/hearing loss I would urge you to contact our Employment Team who will be able to assist you.” 

      Catherine Christy, Chair of Employers for Disability NI, said: “This research highlights genuine fears experienced by people with hearing loss.  Employers can do much to lessen these and promote a positive culture which values employees with hearing loss. Employers for Disability NI member organisations take a strategic approach to enhance awareness of disability issues, implement reasonable adjustments and recognise the contribution of employees with hearing loss and other disabilities. Initiatives include the provision of “Disability Positive” training, identifying role models with hearing loss within their organisations and facilitating the exchange of information and experiences through, e.g. Disability Employee Networks, online staff discussion forums, emails, ezines etc. Adopting the right approach ensures that employees with hearing loss will feel valued and be able to work to their full potential”. 

      Action on Hearing Loss has produced guidance for employers on how to make their workplaces more accessible for people with deafness and hearing loss – from simple deaf awareness tips for staff to providing more detailed information on how the Government’s Access to Work scheme can help enable employees. 

      For more information on Action on Hearing Loss’ Employment Service in Northern Ireland, visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/northernireland 

      To find out more about the Working for Change campaign, visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/workingforchange.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

      ENDS 

      Contact for general media enquiries: 

      Rebekah McKinstry, PR Officer

      Tel: 028 9555 4129  Mobile: 07990 441402

      Email: rebekah.mckinstry@hearingloss.org.uk 

      Notes for editors:
       

      1. Action on Hearing Loss helps people to confront deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose.  Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way. Action on Hearing Loss gives people support and care, develop technology and treatments, and campaign for equality.
      2. For further information about Action on Hearing Loss or to become a member, visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk, contact the Action on Hearing Loss Northern Ireland Information Service on 028 9023 9619 or email information.nireland@hearingloss.org.uk.