Hearing loss, deafness and/or tinnitus affect 12 million UK people so being fully aware and catering for the requirements of any staff members with additional needs is essential for inclusive employers.
For most employees with hearing challenges, there should be no need to change jobs as extensive support is available. As an invisible disability, employers need to be aware of the barriers an employee may be facing. Speaking openly about how hearing loss affects the ability to work may cause inhibition, embarrassment and anxiety and pretending all is fine while straining to catch what people are saying, is common.
HR departments and line managers need to encourage employees with hearing challenges to speak out in a relaxed face-to-face environment.
Ideally, a hearing check should accompany a regular staff health check and be conducted reassuringly, helping an employee to see that support is available. A regular health check can also identify any changes to hearing levels and employees may need to be granted time off to attend occasional audiology appointments.
When hearing loss has been diagnosed, a workplace assessment can identify and minimise any issues that may be worrying an employee by implementing often quite simple adjustments. The assessor will examine how best the employee can perform their role when the necessary adjustments are in place.
Employers are under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that an employee with hearing barriers can perform their role without unfair disadvantage.
Some employers may be concerned about this, expecting dramatic change and huge costs, yet a few small adjustments, often free or relatively low cost and easy to implement, can make a significant difference. Offering flexible working hours and making slight improvements to an employee’s environment such as seating adjustments to aid lip-reading, the provision of assistive listening devices or a hearing loop system are all simple, inexpensive measures. With today’s assistive technology, there is an excellent range of devices designed to facilitate communication and overcome obstacles for colleagues with hearing loss.
To assist organisations, we’ve launched a video to highlight the barriers employees with hearing challenges face and potential solutions.
Visualise’s holistic workplace assessments can help employees with hearing loss successfully develop their careers while feeling included and valued as part of the team.
Hearing loss, deafness and tinnitus needn’t mean job loss, so to find out more or to make a referral, please visit our workplace assessments page