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      Major survey shows importance of inclusive culture

      With 54% of respondents choosing not to disclose their deafness or hearing loss to their employer, results of our new survey show that an open culture is essential in organisations that value inclusivity.

      Working for change survey results

      With five million people of working age with hearing loss, and the figure set to increase with the rising retirement age, all employers should have hearing loss on their agenda. However, our major new survey of more than 1,000 people with deafness and hearing loss shows there is still a gulf between the vision of an inclusive workplace that many businesses aspire to, and the reality.

      But it doesn’t need to be this way. Through exploring real-life experiences in the workplace, our survey findings reveal some positive changes employers can make to support staff in reaching their full potential.

      Employees with hearing loss fear being open about their disability

      Often referred to as a ‘hidden’ disability, it may not be obvious that someone has a hearing loss and people may make a conscious choice not to disclose it to others, particularly in the workplace. Our findings demonstrate that this choice is often linked to a fear of how colleagues and managers will treat them and judge their ability to do the job.

      “I really worried that people would only see my hearing loss and not see me as a professional to be taken seriously.”

      Over half of respondents (54%) said they hadn’t told an employer about their hearing loss. Nearly nine in ten of this group (87%) said they’d avoided telling colleagues, while six in ten (62%) had delayed telling managers. Some of the main reasons for not disclosing hearing loss included:

      • concern over how competent others would think they were because of their hearing loss (60%)
      • perception that workplace adjustments were unlikely to be made (42%)
      • concern that they would be treated unfairly at work (33%)


      Almost a fifth of respondents (18%) hid their hearing loss, as they thought they might lose their job. Shockingly, a number of our respondents said they’d been told by an employer that they would be better off not continuing to work (18%), while others had felt pressured into reducing their working hours (12%).

      Creating an open environment

      Being aware of, and meeting, an employee’s needs is essential in supporting them to thrive in the workplace. Organisations that have successfully supported staff have done so by creating an open and informed culture in which both employers and employees feel comfortable about discussing disability.

       

       “They reassured me that I was worth the bother and that my employer wouldn’t mind making an effort for me.”

       

      Wessex Water, for example, (featured in our mythbusting guide) runs annual equality training for all recruiting managers. They’re encouraged to have open conversations with staff about their needs, which leads to discussion about what equipment is available, and any adjustments required.

      The price of poor management

      Having to hide hearing loss, not having a supportive manager, or not facilitating appropriate adjustments can have a significant impact on day-to-day experiences at work. 

      One of the most worrying findings from our survey was that eight in ten of our respondents (79%) said they’d felt stressed at work because of their deafness or hearing loss. And that’s not all; two-thirds (65%) reported feeling isolated and just under half (47%) reported feeling lonely at work because of hearing loss.

      “I feel excluded from office chat and often can’t follow at meetings – my colleagues don’t include me.”

      For some people, the impact of dealing with such feelings may become too much: over half of our respondents said they’d retired early because of hearing loss (56%). This means that employers are potentially losing out on valuable skills and committed staff – much sooner than they might need to.

      Improving deaf awareness

      Communication is a central part of both the informal and formal elements of work, whether it’s catching up on office chat at the water cooler or taking part in meetings – and being left out contributes to the isolation and stress felt by employees. Increasing awareness and understanding of hearing loss among the workforce, whether it’s sharing communications tips or running deaf awareness training for staff, can help your employees with hearing loss feel fully included.

      Explore our website for more advice on supporting employees with deafness and hearing loss or to get your organisation involved in Deaf Awareness Week in May 2018.

      Read our full survey results and methodology via the download link below.

      Do you want to see workplaces become more inclusive Follow our Hearing Loss at Work LinkedIn page, for news, tips and resources to help people with hearing loss and their employers in the workplace.

      Recent Posts

      Victoria runs Marathon for mother who lost hearing in operation

      Victoria Briand is taking on the London Marathon this Sunday to raise funds for Action on Hearing Loss. The mum-of-three is taking on the big challenge after her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour and lost her hearing following lifesaving surgery. Since, their entire family’s lives have changed forever. Read Victoria’s touching story in her own words.

      By: Victoria Briand
      19 April 2018

      Jackie Edwards, 60, runs Marathon

      Being a busy grandmother-of-eight hasn’t stopped Jackie Edwards, 60, from taking on 26.2 miles that is the London Marathon this weekend. Hailing from Evesham in Worcestershire, Jackie has been deaf since the age of four and now wears two hearing aids. By running the marathon with her daughter, Bev, Jackie hopes to raise vital funds for Action on Hearing Loss, a charity that is close to her heart.

      By: Jackie Edwards
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      The latest in hearing aid evolution

      Hearing aids have been around since the 18th century. From the earliest ear horns, they have evolved into what we see today – high tech digital hearing aids. These devices can carry out thousands of digital processes to try and ensure the sound quality is of the highest standard for their users. However, they are still far from perfect, so what comes next? Jesal Vishnuram, our Technology Research Manager, explains.

      By: Jesal Vishnuram
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      Getting medicines into the inner ear and improving hearing tests – new grants for hearing research

      We’ve awarded new grants through our Flexi Grant scheme, which provides small grants to researchers around the world to support a variety of activities that benefit hearing research as well as people with hearing loss or tinnitus. Tracey Pollard, from our Biomedical Research team, tells us more.

      By: Tracey Pollard
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      Recent Posts

      Victoria runs Marathon for mother who lost hearing in operation

      Victoria Briand is taking on the London Marathon this Sunday to raise funds for Action on Hearing Loss. The mum-of-three is taking on the big challenge after her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour and lost her hearing following lifesaving surgery. Since, their entire family’s lives have changed forever. Read Victoria’s touching story in her own words.

      By: Victoria Briand
      19 April 2018

      Jackie Edwards, 60, runs Marathon

      Being a busy grandmother-of-eight hasn’t stopped Jackie Edwards, 60, from taking on 26.2 miles that is the London Marathon this weekend. Hailing from Evesham in Worcestershire, Jackie has been deaf since the age of four and now wears two hearing aids. By running the marathon with her daughter, Bev, Jackie hopes to raise vital funds for Action on Hearing Loss, a charity that is close to her heart.

      By: Jackie Edwards
      18 April 2018

      The latest in hearing aid evolution

      Hearing aids have been around since the 18th century. From the earliest ear horns, they have evolved into what we see today – high tech digital hearing aids. These devices can carry out thousands of digital processes to try and ensure the sound quality is of the highest standard for their users. However, they are still far from perfect, so what comes next? Jesal Vishnuram, our Technology Research Manager, explains.

      By: Jesal Vishnuram
      16 April 2018

      Getting medicines into the inner ear and improving hearing tests – new grants for hearing research

      We’ve awarded new grants through our Flexi Grant scheme, which provides small grants to researchers around the world to support a variety of activities that benefit hearing research as well as people with hearing loss or tinnitus. Tracey Pollard, from our Biomedical Research team, tells us more.

      By: Tracey Pollard
      12 April 2018

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      Challenge yourself in 2018