In the UK more than 11 million people are living with hearing loss, there are different causes of hearing loss, these include:
- Exposure to loud noises
- Ear conditions
- Being born with deafness
If someone is deaf or has hearing loss then under the Equality Act 2010 this can be defined as having a disability.
Deaf Awareness week is this week (3rd – 9th May 2021) this awareness event is held on an annual basis and has a different theme assigned to it every year. 2020 was to raise awareness of ‘acquired deafness’.
The 2021 focus is ‘Coming Through it Together’, following the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The aim of Deaf Awareness week is to:
- Raise awareness
- Improve access to support, education, social care and employment
- Improve the quality of services for people with hearing loss or who are deaf
- Ensure people have access to the information they need
- Raise awareness about the importance of recognising language and culture and preventing hearing loss
Deaf awareness facts
- Hearing loss and deafness is classed as a hidden disability
- There are international sign languages including American and French as well as British Sign Language (BSL)
- In the UK there are regional variations of BSL the same as with the spoken language
- During the pandemic the use of face masks makes it harder for those with hearing loss to communicate, therefore face masks with a transparent panel over the mouth have been designed to be able to lip read through a mask.
How to be deaf aware
- Ensure you have a person’s attention before you start to talk to them
- Ensure you are in a well-lit area so that someone can lip read you
- Try to find a quiet place to communicate as background noise can be distracting
- Do not shout, talk in your normal voice, especially if someone is wearing a hearing aid
Hearing loss in the workplace
Anyone suffering hearing loss should not be disadvantaged applying for jobs, employers need to ensure that they are understanding of the condition and support employees.
Employees have reported that they are worried about telling employers about any hearing loss they may be experiencing because they think they will get a negative reaction or that their job maybe at risk.
Training and awareness
Employers should ensure that all managers and leaders are trained in hearing loss, so they understand what it is, the causes and how to support their employees.
Employees should be offered a Risk/Workplace assessment if they are deaf, have hearing loss or inform their employer of potential hearing loss, by conducting a risk/workplace assessment, this can identify any changes that need to be made to assist and support employees to be able to perform their jobs.
Employers are legally required to make any reasonable adjustments needed to ensure that employees with a disability are not disadvantaged during the recruitment process or while in the workplace.
Employers will need to communicate differently to employees who are deaf or suffer from hearing loss.
Different ways of communication include:
- Using sign language interpreters
- Provide captioned training videos
- Using different technologies, such as a text phone or voice recognition software
- All forms of company communication should be made available in writing for employees who require it
- Ensure meetings are conducted in good lighting to enable lip reading
- Have visual emergency notices
Ensure that during the application process candidates are informed that the company offers support to any candidate that needs it during each stage of the recruitment process, this can include things such as:
- Keep application forms in simple English, this is their second language as sign language is their first language
- Informing candidates exactly what is required of them during the interview stage
- Allowing an interpreter or text to speech during an interview,
- Offer a work trial as this allows applicants to demonstrate their skills on the job