18 May 2009

Workplaces ignoring needs of hearing impaired employees

In 2008, hear-it carried out a number of online surveys about daily life with hearing loss. The results are being published in a series of articles on www.hear-it.org. Here is the fifth article.
Workplaces ignoring needs of hearing impaired employees

Workplaces fail to meet specials needs of hearing impaired employees, according to a survey conducted by hear-it. This is of growing importance as the number of people young and old with hearing loss increases.

The employers overlook that hearing impaired employees have special needs with respect to the work environment and work processes.

  • Eighty-two percent, or eight in ten, working people with hearing loss reported that their work is planned without their hearing loss in mind.
  • Only one hearing impaired respondent in five stated without reservation that accommodation was made in their work environment to meet the needs of hearing impaired employees.

These findings were made in a recent online survey carried out by the non-commercial hear-it AISBL organization.

The survey found that a large proportion of hearing impaired workers fight lengthy battles to receive understanding and support from their employers for their special condition. Just one in four said that their employers or managers offer full understanding and support for their hearing issues.

Problem for employers and society in general

The failure to support hearing impaired employees is a growing problem for the employers, according to Kim Ruberg, Secretary General, hear-it.

- The employers risk losing many of the highly qualified hearing impaired workers and professionals in the one sixth of the population who have hearing loss. The hearing impaired minority is growing, with more and more young people suffering from hearing loss, and hearing impairment will affect a significant share of the workforce of the future, explained Ruberg, referring to reports issued by the Better Hearing Institute in the United States and by hear-it.

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What employers can do

Ruberg pointed out that employers can take a number of often easy steps to improve work conditions for hearing impaired employees. The first one is to support and encourage them to seek treatment with hearing aids.

Other steps include changes in the work environment, such as improvements in acoustics with the installation of noise absorbing ceiling tiles, tipping chair legs with felt pads, replacing plastic containers with woven baskets, and offering technical assistive devices.

About the survey

331 hear-it users participated in the survey, which was one in a series of surveys about living with hearing loss.

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