Recite logo

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

by Justin Crick | Oct 11, 2012

Of these 9 million it is estimated that 3.5 million are of working age (16 – 65).

What is deaf and hard of hearing?

Deaf or Hard of Hearing means different things to different people, however the term ‘deaf’ is often used to describe people with profound or severe hearing loss, whereas ‘hard of hearing’ tends to refer to people who have mild to severe hearing loss, but with some degree of hearing – often enhanced by a hearing aid.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may have specific terminology they feel more comfortable with using and indeed terms that they strongly dislike. Just because one person prefers to be identified one way does not mean that another person will also wish to be labelled in that way; therefore it is wisest to ask the person directly what terminology he or she prefers.

Working with deaf or hard of hearing people

Research undertaken by the Labour Force Survey, shows that only 68.1% of people who had “difficulty in hearing” were in work, compared to 81.2% of people who are not disabled; yet there are very few jobs which they are unable to do, given the right support and 'reasonable adjustments' in the workplace.

Often a major barrier to employment for people who are deaf or hard of hearing is the general attitude of employers and a lack of basic deaf awareness. However, good employers will recognise that people are the key to the success of an organisation, and that many deaf people have developed extra skills such as effective communication and high levels of concentration and awareness.

By making simple changes in the workplace, employers are able to tap into this skilled labour force, and unleash the talents of those already employed.

Simple changes that can improve things, without being an exhaustive list, include:

  • Discussing individual training or employment needs at induction and ensure you act on these
  • If someone is deaf or hard of hearing, ask if they need to lip read you
  • Making sure that you have the person's attention before you start speaking
  • Speaking clearly, not too slowly and using normal lip movements
  • Don't shout, it's uncomfortable for a hearing aid user and can look aggressive
  • Trying to reduce isolation in an office environment by sitting someone who is deaf or hard of hearing where they can see everyone else
  • In meetings, encouraging the group to speak one at a time
  • Checking that the person you are talking to is able to follow what you are saying
  • Possibly providing additional support such as a loop system.

Specialist deaf awareness and product training is available through the re-adjust initiative; products from re-adjust include:

(Source: RNID, Disability Rights Commission, UK Council on Deafness)