More than half of people living with deafness and hearing loss feel they can’t be open about it in the workplace, says new research. This is because they fear disclosing their condition to their employer would have a negative effect on their career.

The new research, by charity Action on Hearing Loss, found that a third of those who felt they could not be open about their hearing loss said it was due to the fear that they would be treated unfairly at work. A further 60% felt that that others would assume they weren’t competent and 42% saw no point because their workplace wouldn’t be able to help them.

In addition, says the research, 79% of respondents have felt stressed and two-thirds have experienced isolation in the workplace.

“This shows that despite there being 11 million – that’s one in six – people in the UK living with some form of deafness and hearing loss, many of these in employment are struggling unnecessarily,” says Paul Breckell, chief executive at Action on Hearing Loss. “It’s shocking that in 2018, and despite a lot of work by governments and employers to encourage more inclusivity and accessibility, people with deafness and hearing loss feel they can’t be open about it.”

Hidden disabilities

According to the charity, much of the awareness raising has neglected to include hidden disabilities like deafness and hearing loss. It describes the levels of stress and the isolation experienced by people with hearing loss at the workplace as ‘shocking’. It adds that the situation is not helped by working cultures where people are worried about talking openly about their condition and the support they might need.

“The prevalence of hearing loss is only going to increase, so it’s therefore essential that employers take note of these findings and create a working environment where people feel both able and welcome to disclose disabilities and sensory impairments,” says Breckell.

How employers can support staff

The new research has been conducted as part of the charity’s Working for Change campaign, which wants to change attitudes to deafness and hearing loss in the workplace. The charity has produced guidance for employers on how to make their workplaces more accessible for people with deafness and hearing loss.

“There are a number of things employers can do to support staff with hearing loss and deafness,” says Breckell. “From basic deaf awareness training for staff and management, the fundamentals of which are common courtesy and being considerate, to taking advantage of Access to Work to cover the cost of amplified phones, there needn’t be barriers for anyone.”


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