One in five workers feel they have been held back in the workplace – due to hearing difficulties
Workers were left stunned after taking part in a surprising experiment – designed to replicate what it’s like to deal with hearing difficulties in the office. The participants were fitted with specially-moulded hearing plugs that partially blocked their ability to hear, before being put in everyday office situations to see how it impacted their ability to interact with others.
With the plugs blocking their ears, they were tested to see just how much they could make out of what was being said to them in office conversations.
The experiment was carried out as part of Hidden Hearing’s Love Your Ears campaign, to raise awareness of hearing issues in the workplace.
Medical broadcaster and GP, Dr Hilary Jones, was on set to witness the filmed social experiment in action.
He said: “Not being able to hear well in the office can dramatically impact the way you interact with others.
“It can affect your confidence and increase a sense of anxiety, that then prevents you from going for that promotion and developing your career.
“This experiment showed how affected workers not only miss important details, but their emotional health and behaviour can be negatively impacted, too.
“Missing out on parts of the conversation made the volunteers feel insecure – and they were surprised to notice that, as a result, they started to withdraw from taking part in conversations that were happening around them.”
The test comes as research found one in five workers struggle to hear everything said in important meetings, and even believe their hearing problems have held them back at work.
A study of 2,000 employees found another 34 percent admitted they sometimes find it hard to make out what their colleagues are saying in meetings – thanks to background noise (38 percent), and people mumbling (36 percent) or speaking in a quiet voice (33 percent).
But just 41 percent would be prepared to flag their difficulties during the meeting – with 40 percent of those keeping it to themselves out of worry that people would think they weren’t listening.
And 37 percent don’t want to seem rude, while 29 percent would simply be too embarrassed to ask someone to repeat themselves.
Struggling to keep up with conversations in work meetings made 28 percent feel confused, with others admitting to feeling concerned (23 percent), worried (20 percent), shy (16 percent), and even annoyed (17 percent).
It also emerged that, despite 21 percent of those polled fearing their hearing difficulties have held them back at work, only 35 percent have had things checked by a hearing or medical professional.
And 22 percent said they either already have, or think they may have, hearing loss.
Dr Hilary said: “Hearing loss is much more common in the UK workforce than many people may realise.
“It affects 40 percent of people aged over 50, and incidence among younger adults in their 30s and 40s is on the rise – one in eight people of working age have hearing loss.
“Far too many people are struggling to hear conversations at work, and don’t talk openly about it. This can have serious implications for workplace stress, staff wellbeing, and productivity.
“It can also have an impact on earnings and careers, as people with hearing loss have been found to be paid less on average than the general population, and retire earlier than need be.”
Of those polled, via OnePoll, 15 percent admit to having had difficulty hearing a direct instruction from a manager.
And only 16 percent claim they never have to ask someone to speak louder, or repeat themselves, while at work.
Meanwhile, 61 percent worry about their hearing at least some of the time, while 10 percent are very much concerned.
And three in ten feel they work in an environment where health issues like hearing aren’t actively supported.
Dr Hilary said small steps can improve hearing in the workplace, and is backing a seven-step action plan recommended in a new “Better Hearing at Work” guide for employers and employees, published in support of the Love Your Ears campaign.
He said: “If you notice a change in your hearing, please don’t ignore it. Get your hearing tested, and talk about it at work.”
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