If you, or any of your colleagues, have hearing loss, you may not realise how easy it is to get support – and that funding is available. Marketing Manager Clare Bowdler has developed hearing loss over the last 20 years. A colleague noticed that Clare was finding it difficult to hear in meetings and suggested a workplace assessment. We caught up with Clare to find out how it has transformed her working life.
What challenges did you face at work before the workplace assessment?
I found it difficult to follow discussions in meetings, particularly those involving a large number of people. I was always exhausted afterwards because my brain felt as though it had to work twice as hard to listen and compute what was being said. I also felt out of the loop when people were having conversations in the office. At my desk I was often unaware of colleagues approaching or talking to me from behind, which made me jump!
What happened on the day of the assessment?
I had a two-hour meeting with the assessor. She put me at ease straight away. We talked about my working environment, job role and situations I found challenging. I showed her my desk and explained that I often struggled to hear, particularly on the phone, when there was background noise in the office. I told her that conference calls were near impossible, as I found it tricky to hear and identify speakers. I also described how attending meetings made me feel.
Has the assessment made a positive difference?
Oh my word, it has been a complete surprise! Changing the location of my desk and using assistive equipment has really transformed how I work. I didn’t realise that something as small as a Roger Pen wireless microphone could make such a big difference. I use it in the office, on the phone and in meetings to clarify speech and enhance sounds. I no longer feel mentally exhausted at the end of the day because I don’t have to concentrate so hard to hear what’s being said and who’s saying it.
Would you recommend a workplace assessment to others?
Yes, I wished I’d done it years ago! Having a workplace assessment highlighted that I’d been struggling at work for a long time without realising it. The whole process was quick, easy and enjoyable. It hasn’t changed who I am or altered my ability to do my job but it has made me embrace my hearing loss; I’m proud of it.
I have a piece of equipment (Roger Pen) that helps me at work and at home, similar to those who need glasses to read. Support is available, you’ve just got to speak up and ask. Having hearing loss isn’t a barrier – it’s part of who I am.
Funding is available
A workplace assessment will improve the working environment for employees with hearing loss. The assessor can recommend equipment, support and reasonable adjustments to help them work more easily and effectively. Usually some very simple, low cost changes will make all the difference and funding is available via the government’s Access to Work grant.