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      Tackling the loneliness of hearing loss - putting the business case

      Loneliness costs businesses £2.5bn a year. Our Director of Policy and Campaigns, Roger Wicks, makes the link between hearing loss and loneliness, and suggests changes to support employees.

      By: Roger Wicks | 12 January 2018

       

      Can you imagine being at work, sat in an office full of colleagues you know and respect – but feeling lonely and isolated?

      For a large proportion of the UK’s five million working-age people with hearing loss this is their daily reality. In our latest survey, 65% of people with hearing loss said they felt isolated at work and 47% felt lonely.

      Not surprising, then that 79% went on to say that their hearing loss made work more stressful.

      But what about the huge cost to the employer? The new report from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Combating loneliness one conversation at a time, presents some shocking statistics, including the finding that loneliness costs businesses £2.5bn a year through the harm it does to workers or the people they care for. The Commission found that the costs mount up from lost days, low productivity and high staff turnover. 

      “Loneliness costs businesses £2.5bn a year”

      The Jo Cox Commission is clear that tackling loneliness needs action across society – it’s not the sole responsibility of leaders and employers – but business leaders do need to create and nurture ‘connection-friendly’ environments.

      So, what do these findings mean for employers who do want to make sure that staff with hearing loss are genuinely integrated into their workplace?

      First, they must encourage employees to disclose their hearing loss, indeed all disabilities – and create the environment and culture that allows this to happen.

      Around half of the people we surveyed said they’d hidden their hearing loss from people at work. Obviously, no employer can provide the right support if they’re completely in the dark. Communication needs to start at the recruitment stage – with candidates asked whether they need any support or adjustments.

       “Half the people we surveyed said they’d hidden their hearing loss from people at work”

      Employers must also make the small, simple adjustments necessary to accommodate the needs of people with hearing loss. Many of these cost nothing. For example, letting someone move their desk to face colleagues, or making sure meeting rooms are well-lit so employees can lipread.

      Some adjustments do cost money, such as providing a hearing loop or a listening device such as a Roger Pen – but when these are classified as more than a ‘reasonable adjustment’, the cost can be met, in full or in part, by the government’s Access to Work scheme.

      Another essential for a connection-friendly work environment is staff who are deaf aware. It makes business sense for companies to offer staff deaf awareness training. If employees can’t communicate with colleagues with hearing loss then they can’t communicate with the 11 million UK consumers with hearing loss. Deaf awareness training incorporates simple, commonsense tips, such as speaking one at a time in meetings – and taking care not to obstruct your mouth if a colleague or customer is lipreading you.

      The Jo Cox Commission depicts clearly the interdependence between workplaces and loneliness – something that is exacerbated by hearing loss. Employers need to create the connection-friendly environments to unlock the true potential of their workforce. 

      Find out more  about supporting employees with deafness and hearing loss and remember to follow the Hearing Loss at Work LinkedIn page for news, tips and resources.

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      Recent Posts

      Ageing and hearing loss: what’s sex got to do with it?

      As we grow older, any one of us can lose our hearing. So why are men more at risk than women? We’ve supported the career development of Dr Lisa Nolan, who has now set off on her own line of research, to find out why.

      By: Dr Carly Anderson
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      New research – switching on hair cell regeneration

      Researchers in the US have uncovered the role of a protein called ERBB2 in the processes underlying hair cell regeneration. Their findings could one day lead to a new approach to restoring hearing in people. Tracey Pollard, from our Biomedical Research team, tells us more.

      By: Dr Tracey Pollard
      16 November 2018

      Living with dual sensory loss: Carla and Cameron’s story

      Norrie Disease is a rare genetic disorder, mainly affecting boys, that leads to blindness and, in most cases, progressive hearing loss as well. Other symptoms include autism and cognitive impairment.

      By: Carla, mum to Cameron
      15 November 2018

      How to thrive at work if you are deaf or have hearing loss

      Is hearing loss affecting you at work? Do you sometimes feel stressed and isolated? Our Working for Change campaign aims to change attitudes in the workplace, so that people who are deaf or have hearing loss can work more easily. Plus, we’ve products, services and resources to help you focus on your work, not your hearing.

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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.