Last week was Deaf Awareness Week, and the Sussex Innovation Centre was visited by the ITV cameras as high-street hearing specialists Hidden Hearing filmed a segment to promote the nationwide hearing loss campaign LoveYourEars.
Graham Spicer, of members Splash BI, was interviewed about the impact wearing a hearing aid has had on his work and home life, while other tenants were invited to take a free hearing test and get advice about how to better protect their hearing in the workplace.
Hearing loss in the labour force is much more widespread than many employers realise, affecting 1 in 8 people of working age. A recent nationwide survey commissioned for the LoveYourEars campaign has found that more than 1 in 5 employed UK adults felt that hearing issues have held them back at work.
In addition, it is estimated that more than 8 million people currently work in noisy workplaces that present a risk of hearing loss. The LoveYourEars campaign also warns against overdependence on headphones, which increasing numbers of employees use to listen to video conferences or music whilst in an open plan office.
The campaign puts forward seven practical steps for any employer looking to support colleagues with hearing loss and deafness:
- Encourage a psychologically safe working culture, in which people feel they can speak up and say when they can’t hear.
- Check that all participants on video meetings or conference calls can hear everybody else clearly at the start of the conversation.
- In an open plan office, ensure that people with hearing loss are given a desk with their back to the wall to reduce background noise.
- Make quiet rooms and smaller meeting spaces available for open plan office users.
- Face towards the room during presentations – don’t turn away to write on a whiteboard while talking.
- Be aware that people with hearing problems may need extra support and contact, in case of fatigue from concentrating to hear people.
- Promote and provide hearing health check-ups and awareness sessions as a workplace benefit to all staff.