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How to effectively manage someone who is deaf or has hearing loss or tinnitus

1 in 8 people of working age have some level of hearing loss.

As a manager, you should be prepared for conversations about hearing loss in the workplace, and know how best to support staff members who disclose theirs.

In our 2022 survey of operational managers, over a quarter (27%) said they did not feel knowledgeable about hearing loss.

Have an open discussion

It’s important to create an environment where staff feel comfortable to be open about their hearing loss.

Think about the points at which you provide opportunities for staff to share information about their hearing loss: from the recruitment stage to regular intervals throughout someone’s working life. This is particularly important as staff may acquire hearing loss over time.

Read our tips for talking about hearing loss at work

It’s important to bear in mind that each person will have a different experience of hearing loss, and will have different communication needs. Ask staff about their needs, rather than making assumptions.

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.

Find out about RNID’s deaf awareness training

Use the right terminology

In 2022, we did research with line managers and senior leaders. Read our report Hearing loss at Work: employers insights.

Our research showed that employers are concerned about getting the language around hearing loss right.

Terms to use

These terms are generally accepted:

  • ‘deaf’
  • ‘deaf people’
  • ‘hearing loss’
  • ‘hard of hearing’.

Terms to avoid

There are some terms that the communities we support have told us they prefer are not used:

  • ‘hearing impaired’
  • ‘the deaf’.

Like an individual’s experience of hearing loss, the terms with which they identify will vary. Our advice is simple: just ask.

The terms that staff members want other people to use to describe themselves can be added to their reasonable adjustment record for future reference.

Understand hearing loss

As a manager, it’s helpful to understand the causes of hearing loss, the different levels and ways it can have an impact on people when they’re at work.

Read about the types and causes of deafness and hearing loss

Make reasonable adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland), employers are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people who are disabled because of hearing loss.

Read our guide to workplace adjustments for deaf people and people with hearing loss

It’s important to remember that what’s reasonable will depend on the individual with hearing loss and their specific needs. They should be involved in the conversation on adjustments. 

To be able to give the best tailored support, we recommend offering the employee the option of a workplace assessment, which outlines the changes that employers can make to remove barriers for staff with hearing loss. 

Workplace assessments are usually provided by the government scheme Access to Work. Read our information about Access to Work for employers

They’re also available from specialist providers, including RNID.  Find out about our workplace assessments

Adjustments should also be reviewed on a regular basis (for example, at annual appraisals), to account for any changes to needs. 

You might also consider creating a reasonable adjustment passport, or record with your member of staff, which can aid in initial reasonable adjustment requests and can provide a reference point for reviews of reasonable adjustments.

For advice on creating a reasonable adjustment passport or record, contact us.

Make the workplace inclusive and accessible

There are some really simple actions you can take that will help to make the workplace more inclusive and accessible for anyone with hearing loss.

Addressing basic environmental factors, like background noise and light, and making sure workplace announcements are not audio-only, can make a big difference.

Read our guide to making your workplace inclusive and accessible

Contact us

There are lots of things you can do to make your organisation more inclusive for staff and customers who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.

We can help.
Contact us

Page last updated: 18 May 2023

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