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Stigma fears preventing workers with hearing loss from speaking up

Friday 19th January 2018
A large proportion of workers with hearing loss are risking going completely deaf because they are scared to tell their employer of their problem. Image: Highwaystarz-Photography via iStock
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A significant number of workers in the UK could be putting their hearing at risk of long-term damage due to a failure to disclose their employers that they are suffering from hearing loss.

Action on Hearing Loss has published a new report that shows 60 per cent of workers suffering from a decline in their hearing function don't want to disclose this information to their boss because of fears they would be labelled incompetent - even if their job has caused the hearing loss in the first place.

What's more, 42 per cent said they wouldn't tell their boss because they didn't think their company would be able to help them in any way. Meanwhile, one-third were concerned that they would be treated differently at work if they admitted to having issues.

Yet this failure to tell anyone is increasing stress levels for 79 per cent of those struggling with work-related hearing loss, while two-thirds admit to feeling isolated among their colleagues as a result.

These findings therefore suggest that more needs to be done to remove the stigma of hearing loss in UK workplaces, and audiologists could have a role to play in advising businesses on changes they could implement to better protect employees' hearing function.

Paul Breckell, chief executive at Action on Hearing Loss, commented: "It's shocking that in 2017, 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.

"It seems much of the awareness raising has neglected to include invisible disabilities like deafness and hearing loss."

The Business Disability Forum wants all workplaces to ensure they are welcoming, accessible and adaptable for people with disabilities of all kinds so that employees always feel supported.

Diane Lightfoot, chief executive officer of the forum, highlighted research it has carried out showing that more accessible workplaces typically have lower staff turnover levels, demonstrating that such changes can be beneficial for all parties.

Written by James Puckle

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