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Employees with hearing loss face stigma at work

56% of people with hearing loss feel that opening up about it will negatively affect their career

Research by Action on Hearing Loss showed that 60% of respondents thought their competency would be questioned if they spoke about their hearing loss with colleagues, while 42% felt they would not be supported if they raised the issue. A further 79% have felt stressed and experienced isolation in the workplace.

Paul Breckell, chief executive at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “This new research shows that despite there being 11 million – that’s one in six people – living with some form of hearing loss or deafness in the UK, many of those in employment are struggling unnecessarily.

"It’s shocking that in 2018, and despite a lot of work to encourage more diversity and inclusivity, people with deafness and hearing loss feel they can’t be open about it.”

The research found that workers with problems with their hearing felt that employers could be doing much more to support them, and highlighted significant challenges in the workplace. Half (50%) of respondents said that they could not communicate well with colleagues, 72% found that it made their life stressful, and 19% felt that they were being treated unfairly.

Roger Wicks, director of policy and campaigns at Action on Hearing Loss, stressed the importance of opening up a conversation about deafness and hearing loss.

“There’s still some overriding stigma so it’s very much about awareness," he said. "Hearing loss is an invisible disability, and managers might not realise the extent to which it exists in their companies. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding”.

Wicks agreed that employers could make simple changes to make life easier for employees. “A lot of it comes down to good common sense and courtesy," he said. "Making sure that you look at the person when you speak, making sure you’re not covering your mouth with your hand, and turning your desk so that can people can lipread all make a huge difference. The good news is that this information is really easy for HR to get across, and really simple to do.”

Action on Hearing Loss's research surveyed 1,072 people with hearing loss across the UK.