Getting it right for hearing
Getting it right for hearing

Well-being and productivity of office-based staff is being negatively affected by a range of hidden issues connected with the way that people hear. These are the findings of a comprehensive survey carried out by Ideas for Ears in collaboration with NHS Forth Valley Healthy Working Lives.

The findings have implications for the way that organisations manage workplace culture, buildings and facilities and IT and telecoms.

The survey looked at the experiences of office-based employees of Forth Valley organisations, exploring their experiences when performing standard activities.

It found that hearing-related issues were being experienced by staff in a variety of contexts, from unwanted noise at work stations to difficulties in hearing on the telephone or at face to face meetings and events.

Whilst the survey indicates that there are challenges for people of all hearing abilities, it suggests that the impact is most acute on those who have hearing loss.

The survey also suggests that large numbers of office employees have hearing loss and that mostly their hearing impairment is hidden from the sight of line managers.

The survey findings were broadly replicated by a similar survey undertaken by Ideas for Ears within the UK offices of a leading multi-national company. Key findings of both surveys are noted below for comparison.

The survey findings

The key themes and the main findings emerging from the survey are as follows:

Levels of noise in office environments: 86.24% of respondents reported feeling frustrated or that their concentration was affected sometimes, often or always by noise levels in their office

For the multi-national company, 77.24% of respondents reported feeling frustrated or that their concentration was affected sometimes, often or always.

Negative impact on effectiveness: 74.18% of respondents reported a negative impact from noise or the way they hear in meetings, at conferences or on the phone.

For the multi-national company, 60.83% of respondents reported a negative impact from noise or the way they hear in meetings, at conferences or on the phone.

Telecoms sound quality: 20.88% of respondents reported poor or variable sound quality on the landline; 37.9% reported this for mobiles.

For the multi-national company, 17.09% of respondents reported poor or variable sound quality on the landline; 25.23% reported this for mobiles.

Quality of hearing at meetings and training events and conferences: 70.03% of respondents reported sometimes or regularly have difficulties in hearing in meetings; 63.71% said they sometimes or regularly have difficulties in hearing at training events or conferences

For the multi-national company, 35.86% of respondents reported sometimes or regularly have difficulties in hearing in meetings; 53.47% said they sometimes or regularly have difficulties in hearing at training events or conferences.

High rate of employees with hearing loss:  29.34% of survey respondents said they had hearing loss, three times higher than the 9.7% that has been accepted as the estimate for the UK working age population

For the multi-national company, 20.7% of the survey sample identified as having hearing loss.

Acute impact on employees with hearing loss: 81.16% of respondents said they ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that they would be happier if situations that are difficult for them were made easier. 77.61% would be more relaxed and 75.38% would be more focused.

For the multi-national company, 72.62% would be happier; 60% would be more relaxed and 61.73% would be more focused.

Awareness of hearing needs:  50.42% of respondents were not aware of any colleagues having hearing loss; 74.9% were not aware of customers or other stakeholders having hearing loss

For the multi-national company, 81.07% of respondents were not aware of any colleagues having hearing loss; 92.99% were not aware of customers or other stakeholders having hearing loss.

Reluctance to make hearing needs known:  74% of those with hearing loss said they had not discussed the issue with their line manager

For the multi-national company, 65.88% said they had not discussed the issue with their line manager.

More detailed information about the findings are available by request. 

About the survey

The Forth Valley survey took place during August and September 2015. It was completed by 259 employees and of this, 29.34% identified as having some degree of hearing loss.

The survey for the multi-national company was distributed to 1100 office-based employees across six UK sites and received a response rate of 40% (439 respondents). Of this, 20% (91 respondents) identified as having some degree of hearing loss.

Outcomes from survey

Ideas for Ears is supporting organisations to identify areas of weakness within their own offices and to make adjustments that improve well-being and productivity of staff, especially those who have hearing loss.

Ideas for Ears is also supporting organisations in achieving equality and safety compliancy and with checks and maintenance to induction hearing loops and other specialist equipment.

To request support in identifying and resolving issues in your organisation, drop a note to Ideas for Ears.

 

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