1 in 8 people of working age have some form of hearing loss. Here are things you can do to make your workplace inclusive for staff who are deaf or have hearing loss or tinnitus
Understand hearing loss and its impact
More than half of deaf people and people with hearing loss are reluctant to discuss it with their employer.
It’s important to learn more about hearing loss, its impact on your staff members and the ways you can support them.
Deaf awareness training
Deaf awareness training can help you get a better understanding of hearing loss and learn some communication tips that will benefit everyone in your organisation.
You can book deaf awareness training with RNID.
Encourage staff to take care of their hearing
Hearing loss is often hidden in the workplace. Many people have hearing loss that they have not addressed, or that they may be reluctant to tell managers or colleagues about.
By encouraging your staff to look after their hearing, you can identify any problems early and put support in place to help them thrive at work.
Helping your staff get the health support they need can lead to:
- improved staff satisfaction and wellbeing
- improved productivity and efficiency
- retaining talented and experienced staff.
Our online hearing check
A great way to get your staff to think about their hearing as an important factor in their success at work is to roll out our free online hearing check.
It takes 3 minutes. You could consider incorporating it into your organisation’s wellbeing activities.
For example, you could encourage staff to take it on World Hearing Day (3 March) or during Deaf Awareness Week (held annually in May).
Make the working environment accessible
Think about background noise, in both remote and physical environments.
Having a quiet area available in in-person workplaces can help.
If you use video conferencing apps, there are lots of accessibility features which can benefit staff members who have hearing loss.
Staff members who are deaf or have hearing loss or tinnitus may find it hard to communicate in workplaces that are in shadow and where there’s lots of glare on screens.
People who use British Sign Language (BSL) or rely on lipreading need to be able to see people they’re speaking to clearly.
Health and safety requirements
Health and safety requirements for deaf staff and staff with hearing loss are essentially the same as for everyone else, but they may need additional support, such as a vibrating fire-alarm pager.
Make reasonable adjustments to the workplace where required.
A workplace assessment will tell you whether you need to make reasonable adjustments.
Make meetings accessible
Meetings can be difficult for anyone who is deaf or has hearing loss, whether they’re in person, remote or hybrid.
Our 2019 research with employees who are deaf or have hearing loss or tinnitus found that 50% said they found face to face meetings difficult.
There are lots of things you can do to make in-person and remote meetings inclusive. Read our tips for making meetings accessible
Video conferencing apps have many accessibility features. Read our guide to using accessibility features on video conferencing apps
From chats in the kitchen to internal announcements, good communication benefits everyone.
People’s communication needs vary. However, there are general communication tips you can use in the workplace. Read our tips for communicating with someone who is deaf or has hearing loss
Use plain English
Plain English is clear language that all readers can understand.
Research shows that everyone prefers plain English. For many BSL users, English is a second language, and plain English is much easier to understand.
It’s important to use plain English across all of the ways you communicate, from face to face conversations to workplace policies and reports.
There are some simple, practical things you can do to help:
- use the kind of informal language you’d use if you were talking to a friend or family member
- avoid jargon and specialist terms where they’re not necessary
- if you do need to use specialist terms, include a definition
- explain all abbreviations, acronyms and initialisations
- use literal language rather than figurative language (such as metaphors, similes and figures of speech)
- proofread your writing for clarity.
Make social conversations inclusive
Social interaction can be a barrier for deaf people and people with hearing loss.
In our 2019 research, 66% of respondents found socialising with colleagues difficult.
Here are things you can do to include deaf people and people with hearing loss in conversations at work and at social events:
- Introduce the topic to anyone joining the conversation. It can be hard for deaf people and people with hearing loss to join a conversation midway through. A quick summary can help. For example, “we were talking about the Liverpool game last night.”
- For in-person workplaces, think about seating arrangements in communal areas. A horseshoe or semi-circle is helpful because everyone can see one another.
- If you don’t know a staff members’ communication preferences, you can always ask them. It’s better to do this than to avoid interacting at all.
- Make sure locations for social events are well lit and don’t have too much background noise.