According to figures from Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the Royal National Institute for the Deaf), one in six people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss, of which approximately one third are below retirement age – and these figures are growing year on year.
Many people who are deaf or have hearing loss will be considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010, and would be protected from discrimination under this legislation. Employers need to ensure that they do not treat a person with hearing loss any less favourably than any other employee, which may involve making reasonable adjustments. It is also advisable for employers to ensure that team members have been given some form of deaf awareness training to overcome potential communication barriers.
An interesting article on Action on Hearing Loss’s website, which reports the results of research carried out to mark last year’s Deaf Awareness Week (19-25 May 2014), states that three out of four people with hearing loss feel their employment opportunities are more limited than their hearing peers, with almost 80% naming employers as the major barrier. Clearly, this is a troubling statistic, and suggests that much more needs to be done to protect the rights of people with hearing loss in the workplace.
There are many useful resources available on the broad subject of hearing loss and, more specifically, protecting the rights of individuals with hearing loss in the workplace. Some of these include Action on Hearing Loss, the British Deaf Association and the Royal Association for Deaf People. Or for information on a whole range of work health-related topics, see the Fit for Work website.