Action on Hearing Loss Logo
    Total results:
    Search
      Total results:

      Three reasons I hid my disability at work, and how employers can (and should) help change things

      By: Jennifer Stanley | 17 January 2018

      Jennifer is from York. She has a daughter, a partner, and works as a Business Coordinator. She’s had hearing loss since birth and wear two hearing aids.

      Today it’s easy for me to tell you, and my employer, that I have a hearing loss. But it hasn’t always. For almost 10 years I actively hid my hearing loss at work. 

      I feel that this held me back professionally, and stopped me contributing as much as I could have. I wasn’t able to put across the dynamic, professional image that I wanted: the real me. 

      Jennifer Stanley

      Why did I hide my hearing loss? Here are some of the reasons… 

      1. I didn't want it to define me or for me to be defined as disabled.
         

        I didn’t want to be known as ‘the deaf one’ or for people to treat me differently. To me I was just me and I really worried that people would only see my hearing loss and not see me as a professional to be taken seriously. As a driven and committed employee I didn’t want to make a fuss and felt that I should be able to cope and keep up, and that if I didn't that was my fault. I felt that I had to prove to my employer that I was worth the extra bother of employing a disabled person. More than anything, I didn't want people to think that I was stupid.
         

      2. I’d had negative experiences
         

        “Oh no, not another one”. This is how I was once welcomed to a new assignment, by a senior colleague, after I told them I had hearing loss. Another time, I shared my preference for email communication with one of my managers, who was unwilling to make adaptations and insisted I use the phone more often than e-mail. While, thankfully, I’ve also encountered many supportive people at work, these intolerant attitudes are all too prevalent, and they made me even less open about my hearing loss.
         

      3. I wasn’t aware of the support available
         

      Because I was anxious about disclosing my hearing loss at work, for a long time I didn’t seek help. When I got a new job after a career break I found out about the government’s Access to Work scheme and booked myself a workplace assessment. The assessor came to my workplace and talked through all the challenges and problems that I had. To my surprise they had solutions to suggest both in terms of technology and raising awareness of my needs among my colleagues. They reassured me that I was worth the bother and that my employer wouldn’t mind making an effort for me. 

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

       It doesn’t need to be like this 

      Eventually, age, acceptance and a supportive line manager encouraged me to be open about my hearing loss, but I often wonder what I could have achieved by now had this support been in place from the get-go. 

      It took me many years to realise the negative impact that hiding my hearing loss was having on colleagues’ view of me. I didn’t follow conversations, perhaps seemed confused, avoided using the phone, didn’t network at events and didn’t contribute as much as I could have in meetings. 

      Colleagues thought of me as being very quiet and reserved (friends know that I’m really not!) and I wasn’t putting across the dynamic, professional image that I wanted. When I did tell people about my hearing loss it was usually at the point in a conversation where I was already struggling, flustered and embarrassed – and the other person was probably getting fed up. 

      I now strongly believe that employees should be able to be up front about their disabilities – for me, I’ve found that being open is actually the best way to make sure that I come across as capable and competent. I feel that my open approach has actually earned me respect among my colleagues. 

      But it is the responsibility of the employer to make sure they create an environment in which employees feel confident and comfortable enough to be open, knowing that they will be supported and that disclosure will not jeopardise their employment. Managers can support staff with simple actions like having regular, open conversations to find out what their needs are. 

      While managers don’t need to have all the answers, they should be aware of equality and inclusion policy and procedures and be able to signpost their staff to support and information. New research from Action on Hearing Loss has found that over half of people with hearing loss feel forced to hide it from their employer. 

      Things are getting better for me now. Colleagues are supportive and know that, if I’m two steps behind in the conversation, it's because I haven't heard, not because I can't keep up.

      Having found new confidence, and not wanting to do things by halves, I also had my head shaved for charity so I couldn’t hide my hearing aids behind long hair anymore. I took the opportunity to get pink glitter moulds and decorate my aids. Contrary to what I thought would happen, this actually boosted my confidence no end and I now get compliments on my aids from colleagues.

       Get help supporting your employees with hearing loss and remember to follow the Hearing Loss at Work LinkedIn page for news, resources and tips.

      Recent Posts

      Our top five headphones for hearing loss

      If you, or a loved one, have hearing loss, watching TV and listening to music can be a challenge. Increasing the volume might annoy the neighbours – and doesn’t always help. A simple pair of headphones might be all you need to enjoy your favourite activities again. Check out our top five headphones for hearing loss. Buy now and enjoy 10% off until 4 October 2018.

      By: Sally Bromham
      24 September 2018

      Can brain activity tell us how well a child can hear with their cochlear implants?

      Researchers in Nottingham are developing a new way to tell how well young children and babies can hear with their implant, by looking at their brain activity. We’re funding PhD student, Faizah Mushtaq, to develop a tool that could help children with cochlear implants. Faizah tells us more about her exciting research and how you can help.

      By: Faizah Mushtaq
      18 September 2018

      Detecting sound is easy - the hard bit is getting a machine to know what it means

      Whether it’s the sound of a doorbell, or complex speech patterns, sound recognition technology will transform everyone’s lives - including people with hearing loss and deafness. Kevin Taylor, our Product Technologist, tells us more.

      By: Kevin Taylor
      17 September 2018

      Treatments for hearing loss: What’s new?

      Over 20 treatments to restore or protect hearing are currently in clinical trials. If they are successful and pass all three stages of these trials, the way we manage hearing loss could change significantly. Our Translational Research Manager, Dr Carina Santos, tells us the good news.

      By: Carina Santos
      14 September 2018

      Recent Posts

      Our top five headphones for hearing loss

      If you, or a loved one, have hearing loss, watching TV and listening to music can be a challenge. Increasing the volume might annoy the neighbours – and doesn’t always help. A simple pair of headphones might be all you need to enjoy your favourite activities again. Check out our top five headphones for hearing loss. Buy now and enjoy 10% off until 4 October 2018.

      By: Sally Bromham
      24 September 2018

      Can brain activity tell us how well a child can hear with their cochlear implants?

      Researchers in Nottingham are developing a new way to tell how well young children and babies can hear with their implant, by looking at their brain activity. We’re funding PhD student, Faizah Mushtaq, to develop a tool that could help children with cochlear implants. Faizah tells us more about her exciting research and how you can help.

      By: Faizah Mushtaq
      18 September 2018

      Detecting sound is easy - the hard bit is getting a machine to know what it means

      Whether it’s the sound of a doorbell, or complex speech patterns, sound recognition technology will transform everyone’s lives - including people with hearing loss and deafness. Kevin Taylor, our Product Technologist, tells us more.

      By: Kevin Taylor
      17 September 2018

      Treatments for hearing loss: What’s new?

      Over 20 treatments to restore or protect hearing are currently in clinical trials. If they are successful and pass all three stages of these trials, the way we manage hearing loss could change significantly. Our Translational Research Manager, Dr Carina Santos, tells us the good news.

      By: Carina Santos
      14 September 2018

      More like this

      As the largest charity for people with hearing loss in the UK, we understand how hearing loss can affect everything in your life from your relationships, to your education and...

      It’s Deaf Awareness Week 2018 from 14–20 May. Download and use our free posters, communication tips cards and fingerspelling cards to help increase deaf awareness in your office, school or...

      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.​