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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.

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      For the first time ever, selected mobile phones with EE Pay As You Go plans, tailored for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, are available from Action on Hearing Loss.

      By: Brian Burns
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      A team of researchers and clinicians at UCL’s Ear Institute and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital are delighted to announce that the REGAIN trial is approaching its first anniversary and are continuing to recruit people with hearing loss to participate in a ground breaking clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of a new drug that aims to treat sensorineural hearing loss. The criteria for eligibility to participate in the trial has recently been broadened to include participants with hearing loss of up to 20 years duration (see below for further information).

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      Recent Posts

      EE partnership brings unbeatable packages

      For the first time ever, selected mobile phones with EE Pay As You Go plans, tailored for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, are available from Action on Hearing Loss.

      By: Brian Burns
      17 October 2018

      REGAIN update on the progress so far and a further opportunity for people with hearing loss to take part in the trial

      A team of researchers and clinicians at UCL’s Ear Institute and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital are delighted to announce that the REGAIN trial is approaching its first anniversary and are continuing to recruit people with hearing loss to participate in a ground breaking clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of a new drug that aims to treat sensorineural hearing loss. The criteria for eligibility to participate in the trial has recently been broadened to include participants with hearing loss of up to 20 years duration (see below for further information).

      By: REGAIN
      16 October 2018

      Preventing hearing loss: the search for treatments

      Medicines like aminoglycoside antibiotics or cisplatin are used to combat life-threatening infections and cancer, respectively, but their use may come at the price of someone’s hearing. Several treatments to prevent the loss of hearing caused by these medicines are currently being developed. Our Translational Research Manager, Dr Carina Santos, tells us more.

      By: Dr Carina Santos
      12 October 2018

      Shining a light on the cochlea

      We fund research across the globe into treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus. One of our newest projects, at the Bionics Institute in Australia, is investigating if we can improve how well cochlear implants work using light.

      By: Dr Tracey Pollard
      11 October 2018

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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.