Hearing loss

Having a hearing loss adds an extra layer of difficulty to finding employment, and to daily work.  It can be very isolating to feel excluded from conversations among colleagues, and very tiring to be always trying to make sense of partial information.

One in six people in the UK have some degree of hearing loss. It is never too early to start looking after your hearing.

If you are having difficulties hearing …

  • Check your hearing with Action on Hearing Loss’s online hearing check.
  • Talk to your GP, who may refer you to audiology services for tests and hearing aids.  Alternatively you may get a hearing test from a private audiologist.
  • Talk to your line manager, who may suggest that you contact the Occupational Health service or the Staff Disability Advisor for advice on ways to help you at work.
  • Contact Hearing Link, a specialist UK charity that provides a range of services and support for people with hearing loss.

Protect your hearing

Exposure to noise is a major cause of hearing loss.  Look after your hearing at work, and outside work. See the Guidance from the Safety Office on Noise at Work, including guidance for departments on hearing protection.

Environment

The environment can make a big difference to people with hearing loss: some people may be able to cope well in a quiet room talking to one other person, but may find it impossible to distinguish sounds in a noisier environment.

  • Someone with a hearing impairment is likely to find it easier in a smaller, quieter office, than in an open plan office with multiple phone calls and conversations.
  • Continuous noise such as that from air conditioning may be difficult.
  • Some people with a hearing impairment like to be by a wall, so that they are not surrounded by sound.  Some like to face the door, so that they are not surprised by visitors.
  • In a large lecture room it is normally best for someone with hearing loss to sit at the front, to minimise the distanced the sound needs to travel to them.
  • It is easier to lipread in a well-lit environment, when the faces of speakers are not in shadow.  In a lecture room that is darkened to show slides, that may mean that an additional task lamp is needed to illuminate the speaker.
  • Ask the person with a hearing impairment where they want to sit, and save them that place. 

‘I have regular meetings with my colleagues and I prefer to sit in the same place at the end of one side, so that I don’t have anyone on my deaf side and the light shines on my colleagues’ faces.’

  Assistive equipment

Hearing aids are crucial, but people may need additional assistance to hear better in particular situations at work e.g.

Funding may be available through Access to Work for equipment. 

Support by a person

  • A British Sign Language interpreter, either in person, or working remotely over am Skype link.
  • A speech to text interpreter, or captioner, who types speech so that it appears on a screen.
  • A lipspeaker, who supports someone who uses lipreading.

 Funding may be available through Access to Work for communication support. 

Local British Sign Language classes are run by Deaf Direct

Lipreading

People with hearing loss, especially if they have previously had full hearing, may rely on lipreading in face to face communication.  Attending a local class can help an individual to practice.  Classes are run by ATLA and Deaf Direct.

The Lipreading Practice website is a free resource with video clips, exercises and resources.

 Tinnitus 

Tinnitus is a condition where the individual hears sounds in their ears that nobody else can hear.

The condition is often exacerbated by stress.  There are various ways to manage tinnitus at work, including listening to white noise or music though headphones.  For suggestions see Action On Hearing Loss's guide to tinnitus.

https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/your-hearing/tinnitus.aspx

Communication tips for colleagues

Deaf Awareness sessions

  • Where a team member has a hearing impairment, the whole team may benefit from hearing awareness training.

Fire alarms

  • If you cannot  hear fire alarms, we may install flashing light alarms, or issue you with a vibrating pager, depending on your building.  Contact your departmental health and safety officer.

Hearing induction loops

Check the University's Access Guide to find details  of hearing loops in our buildings, including receptions desks, seminar rooms and lecture theatres, and portable loops.

Time off work for audiology appointments

  • Your department may be willing to give you time off work to attend audiology appointments.

Interviews

  • It is good practice to ask shortlisted candidates whether they require any reasonable adjustments at interview.  Where a candidate requests a communication support such as a sign language interpreter, this should be paid for by the recruiting department.  Possible suppliers include Deaf Direct and Action on Hearing Loss .
  • Focus on the candidate’s abilities, not their hearing loss.

For further information and advice:

Contact the Staff Disability Advisor, Caroline Moughton email caroline.moughton@admin.ox.ac.uk  or Occupational Health.