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Deafness and hearing loss – is your business aware of the issues?

Action on Hearing Loss Birmingham

In the UK today, more than 11 million people are living with hearing loss.

This can range from a partial loss to a total inability to hear. All levels of hearing loss can make communication in the workplace difficult if the right support isn't provided.

If you don’t think that hearing loss exists in your business, it may be time for a rethink.

There are five million working-age people in the UK with some level of hearing loss – that’s around 12 in every 100 employees.

Added to this, hearing loss is often non-visible – along with the daily communication challenges it can bring – and research suggests that more than half of those affected feel reluctant to discuss it with their employer. Jennifer, pictured, put off telling her employer about her hearing loss for almost 10 years.

She said: “I didn’t want to be known as ‘the deaf one’ or for people to treat me differently. I really worried that people would only see my hearing loss and not see me as a professional to be taken seriously."

Hearing loss is set to become a more pressing issue for employers.

Currently, 42% of over-50-year-olds experience some form of hearing loss and this continues to increase significantly with age.

With the state pension age set to increase to 66 for men and for women in 2020, the number of older people in the workplace will rise.

Evidence shows that unsupported hearing loss can lead to early retirement, so in order to retain top talent and skills within your organisation, it’s worth getting to grips with the impacts of hearing loss.

But supporting employees with hearing loss needn’t be difficult. From making simple changes to the workplace environment to giving regular opportunities for staff to speak openly about their disability, there are many simple ways to ensure candidates and staff who have hearing loss are supported and included.

And there’s no need to fear the price tag of providing support – the government’s Access to Work scheme can help organisations to cover the cost of more expensive workplace adjustments such as the provision of communication support.

Our Working for Change campaign is championing inclusion and accessibility in the workplace for staff with deafness, hearing loss and tinnitus by supporting employers to attract, recruit and retain talented staff.

We’ve brought together a range of handy resources in our new Employers’ Hub (see www.actionhearingloss.org.uk/employers).

Get started by requesting a free deaf awareness toolkit including an Employers’ Guide and fingerspelling and deaf awareness posters at www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/employerstoolkit

If you require any further information or have any questions then please contact our Birmingham Office based on the Hagley Road on 0121450 8980 or email: marian.ferguson@hearingloss.org.uk