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Talking about hearing loss at work

Hearing loss is often a non-visible disability. Many people feel there is a stigma about being deaf or having hearing loss and hide it from their employer.

It’s vital to create an environment in which employees feel comfortable to be open about their disability.

Supporting someone with hearing loss doesn’t have to be difficult and showing someone that you’re there to help is invaluable. Everyone with hearing loss is different and therefore the assistance needed will vary from person to person.

Once an employee shares information about their condition with you, it’s OK to ask how their hearing loss affects what they can hear, and the effect it’s having at work. You can then work with your employee to discuss the support that’s available. 

Recruitment stage

Employers need to demonstrate that the culture and practices are in place to offer individuals the right support from get go. Candidates should be asked whether they require a adjustment during all phases of the recruitment process. However, an employer should not unnecessarily ask candidates about a disability during the recruitment phase.

For more information, see recruiting deaf people and people who have hearing loss.

“I didn’t want to be known as ‘the deaf one’ or treated differently. Eventually, age, acceptance and a supportive line manager encourage me to be open about my hearing loss” – Jennifer Stanley, NHS England

Offer stage

Provide another opportunity for the candidate to tell you about a hearing loss (or other disability), and any support or adjustments that they require. You could include a question in the offer of employment letter, or in any form new members of staff are required to fill out

While in work

It’s good to continue to give staff opportunities to talk about their hearing loss throughout their working life. This is particularly relevant for those who develop hearing loss later in their career.

If someone has hearing loss, it’s important for them to get support at the earliest possible stage. If you offer health checks for your employees, then you should include a hearing check as part of this. You should make it clear during these checks that your organisation is on hand to support anyone who is diagnosed with a hearing loss. You can also use appraisals or performance reviews as an opportunity for employees to discuss the development of any health condition which might be relevant to their work.

Jennifer Stanley’s story

NHS England Advisor Jennifer Stanley, 35, has had hearing loss since birth but concealed it at work. Eventually, an understanding line manager encouraged her to be open about her hearing.