When, at the age of only two weeks, our elder daughter was diagnosed with a bilateral mild/moderate hearing loss, one of our first thoughts was how that would affect her and what opportunities it might limit as she grew up.  A poll recently commissioned by the charity Action on Hearing Loss to look at employers’ attitudes to recruiting and retaining people with a hearing loss suggests that, if current attitudes prevail, the workplace may be one area where she might feel an impact.

The results of that poll, combined with those of a survey conducted of people with hearing loss, highlight a lack of confidence on both sides of the employment relationship:

  • over one in three businesses (37%) would not feel confident employing people with hearing loss;
  • over half of businesses (57%) say there is a lack of support or advice available for organisations when recruiting people with hearing loss;
  • nearly a third of people with hearing loss (33%) thought they would be treated unfairly at work if they disclosed their hearing loss; and
  • two in five respondents (42%) thought their employer wouldn’t make any reasonable adjustments, so there was no point in disclosing the hearing loss.

These results are troubling and clearly show that, particularly with an ageing workforce, we need to do more to help employers become hearing loss confident.  With that in mind, here are some top tips or pointers for you to think about within your business:

  1. There are some important free sources of advice provided by the Government for employers, which are well worth consulting not just in relation to employing people with hearing loss but in relation to all disabilities:


  • Disability Confident:



  • Access to Work:



  1. Charities like Action on Hearing Loss and the British Deaf Association provide guides for employers to give guidance for them on deaf awareness and supporting staff with hearing loss.


  1. Hearing loss can make people feel isolated. The Action on Hearing Loss survey results reported that 65% of respondents had felt isolated at work because of their hearing loss.  It’s easy to see how feelings of isolation could result in an employee losing motivation and engagement, with a corresponding decrease in productivity.  If an employee leaves because of their hearing loss, you lose all of their knowledge, skills and experience, adding to which finding and recruiting a replacement can be both costly and time-consuming.


  1. An employee with hearing loss may well be disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. If they are, you need to be mindful of the possibility of discrimination claims and will be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments.  Even if no formal duty arises, it would be good practice to talk to an employee about how you could adapt their working environment to alleviate the impact of their hearing loss and simple changes might bring large benefits for both of you:


  • adjusting the layout and lighting of a meeting room so that, for example, a person wanting to lip-read is sitting with their back to a window;
  • siting a desk in a location away from noisy equipment or background disturbances;
  • in an open plan office with background noise, positioning yourself close to the employee when you need to communicate with them;
  • with the employee’s permission, ensure colleagues are aware of the hearing loss and understand how they can communicate and involve that employee effectively;
  • installing equipment such as flashing-light fire alarms;
  • use other technology that might assist your employee, for example, Bluetooth connections to hearing aids, captions for videos and speech to text software; and
  • giving employees time off for audiology appointments.


  1. Show understanding to an employee where you discover they have a hearing loss, reassure them that they won’t be treated less favourably or unequally as a result and make an effort to understand extent of that loss. Hearing loss varies considerably and it is going to be important for you to understand its extent.  Often, individuals will be able to contribute fully to the workplace without adjustments or with only minor adjustments but discuss with them whether they are comfortable making the hearing loss known to their colleagues as this is likely to prevent counterproductive reactions and limit the possibility of misunderstandings.  You might also want to discuss whether they would be willing to, for example, participate in a deaf/hearing loss awareness campaign or run a session for their team or co-workers on how the loss affects them in the office.

It is in nobody’s interest if an otherwise talented, experienced and motivated member of staff leaves work because they feel their employer is unsupported or if a business shuts itself from employing a group of individuals because of fear over how to address hearing loss in the workplace.  Action on Hearing Loss hopes that by breaking down barriers and providing employers with greater access to information and support, businesses will be more willing to employ and work with people with hearing loss and that, in turn, individuals won’t feel a need to hide what can, in any event, be a very isolating condition.

Ellie Hibberd is a senior associate and head of HRExpress. For more information on HR and employment law issues please contact Ellie on 01392 210700 or email employment@stephens-scown.co.uk