Hearing loss fear in the workplace for British ageing workers

Fear of losing their hearing is a main concern for British workers, with many worrying that the impairment will impact their job.

Silence is far from golden for millions of ageing Brits who struggle at work rather than admit they have a problem with their hearing.

New research reveals six out of ten people over 55 have noticed their hearing has deteriorated and say it is affecting their ability to do their job properly.

Four in ten say that their confidence had dropped as a result. Feeling less productive and marginalised amongst colleagues were other key anxieties.

Commissioned by Starkey Hearing Technologies and conducted by OnePoll, the survey of 800 UK working adults, age 55 plus, looked at the impact of hearing loss in the workplace.

Fear the hearing loss

To hide their hearing loss from colleagues, almost half of respondents say they would avoid using the telephone, with one in ten admitting to dodging phone conversations altogether. A third try to get out of meetings and a quarter say they’d shun socialising with colleagues to keep their secret safe.

And for more than half of the respondents, concern that their employer would not be supportive was another reason to keep their hearing loss to themselves. A similar number also said they would be unlikely to confide in colleagues.

More than half of those polled said having to ask colleagues to repeat themselves was one of the first signs that their hearing wasn’t what it used to be. For four in ten, having to concentrate much harder to follow conversations and increasing the volume of laptops and phones were early indicators.

For a third of respondents it was difficultly hearing on the telephone and 10 per cent said it was colleagues’ comments about having to repeat themselves that brought their hearing loss to light.

Combatting silence

In terms of coping mechanisms, almost half of respondents ask workplace peers to speak louder and to say things again. Three in ten said they chose meeting positions wisely and a fifth relied on lip reading to see them through their working day.

And unfortunately, it’s the most ordinary office situations that cause the most difficulties. Over half of the respondents cited general background noise and colleagues not talking clearly as the two most challenging listening scenarios.

Main concerns for not tackling their deterioration in hearing – by taking a test and investing in hearing technology – were rooted in wanting to look and feel younger and more proficient. Four in ten respondents said they wouldn’t wear a hearing aid because it would make them look and feel old. A fifth had concerns that colleagues would perceive them negatively.

Audio or visual

This comes as a stark contrast to attitudes to eyesight, with 88 per cent of respondents wearing glasses or contact lenses to help achieve peak professional performance.

Of these, eight in ten adhered to the recommended bi-annual eye tests. It’s a far cry from their attitudes to hearing tests with only seven per cent having had one, as recommended, every three years. 55 per cent of respondents had never had their ears checked.

In terms of reasons for working, seven in ten of the over 55s polled said they have to as they need the money. Four in ten work to both keep themselves busy and because they still enjoy it.

Working to feel younger was the reason given by a fifth of respondents. For one in ten it’s because they have dependents to support. A similar number say they have to because they don’t have a pension plan in place.

Eight in ten of those questioned felt they had fulfilled their career ambitions and are happy to continue in the role they have. However an ever-ambitious one in ten remain motivated to secure further promotions and continue to climb the career ladder.

Over half of those polled hope to retire by the time they’re 70. One in ten said they want to work beyond this age – twice the number who hope to retire before they’re 60.

Harley Street audiologist and Starkey partner Jonathan Ormerod comments, ‘Even a slight hearing loss can cause problems for an employee in the workplace. Apart from the possibilities of embarrassment over miss-hearing conversations, concerns over missing key instructions can cause worry or be potentially dangerous. Today’s hearing instruments are very discreet and can interact with other devices such as smart phones. Taking positive action to address hearing problems can have a huge impact on an individual’s performance.’

A Starkey spokesperson says, ‘Over 5 million people in Britain – or one in six of the employed population – experience hearing loss at work. Statistics show the professional lives of almost half (2.25million) could be improved just by wearing hearing technology – but only one in five does.

‘We know that many people are taking temporary short term steps to overcome hearing obstacles at work, but those who have noticed a decline are encouraged to have it checked out. Hearing well is vital to our health and wellbeing and today’s technology is so sophisticated, discreet – not to mention compatible with so many of our other devices – that there’s really no need not to hear perfectly well at work.’

To test your hearing click here. Starkey Hearing Technologies will donate £5 to the Seashell Trust charity for every online test undertaken before midnight on 9th July 2017.

Hear the difference that wearing an aid can make when in a meeting with this sound demo here.

Famous figures who didn’t let hearing loss hinder their career

1. Bill Clinton, US politician and 42nd President of the United States
2. Will.i.am, entertainer, creative innovator and seven-time Grammy Award winner
3. Halle Berry, actress
4. Pete Townsend, musician, best known as lead guitarist, backing vocalist, and main songwriter for The Who
5. Robert Redford, actor, director, producer, businessman and environmentalist
6. Phil Collins, singer-songwriter
7. Rita Simons, actress who played Roxy in EastEnders
8. Anne Diamond, journalist and broadcaster
9. Rob Lowe, actor
10. Jodie Foster, actress and filmmaker
11. Ludwig Van Beethoven, one of the most famous and influential composers of all time
12. Thomas Edison, described as America’s greatest inventor, he developed lightbulb and motion picture camera
13. Richard Wilson, actor, theatre director and broadcaster most famous for playing Victor Meldrew in BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave

Top ten workplace worries for those with hearing loss

1. Background noise
2. Colleagues mumbling or talking too fast and not being able to lip-read
3. Not being able to hear on the phone
4. Poor meeting positioning
5. Missing out on important information as colleagues can’t get your attention
6. Colleagues forgetting about hearing difficulties
7. High ceilings
8. Wooden floors
9. Hot desking and frequently changing colleagues
10. Open-plan offices, which make it hard to visually follow conversations

Further reading on hearing loss

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the Smallbusiness.co.uk and Growthbusiness.co.uk titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the Express.co.uk.

Related Topics

Employee wellbeing