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.

Expand All

  • Check your hearing with Action on Hearing Loss’s telephone 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.

Exposure to noise is a major cause of hearing loss.  Look after your hearing at work, and outside work. Read the Safety Office information on Noise at Work.

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.’

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

  • A conversation aid to help in meetings;
  • A wireless system with a remote microphone which can be worn by other people, or used directionally.

Funding may be available through Access to Work for equipment (see our Funding webpage for more information). 

  • A British Sign Language interpreter, either in person, or working remotely over a 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 (see our Funding webpage for more information). 

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 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.

  • Read RNID tips on communicating with staff who are deaf or who have hearing loss.
  • In meetings, it is helpful for the person chairing the meeting to ensure that one person speaks at a time, and that changes of topic are clearly signalled.
  • Where a team member has a hearing impairment, the whole team may benefit from hearing awareness training.
  • 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.

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.

  • Your department may be willing to give you time off work to attend audiology appointments.
  • 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 supplier include Action on Hearing Loss.
  • Focus on the candidate’s abilities, not their hearing loss.