Silence is far from golden for thousands of ageing employees across Greater Manchester who struggle at work rather than admit they have a problem with their hearing.
New research has revealed that half of the country’s workers aged over 55 have noticed their hearing has deteriorated and say it is affecting their ability to do their job properly. Four in ten said that their confidence had dropped as a result. Feeling less productive and marginalised amongst colleagues were other key anxieties.
Commissioned by Stockport-based 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.
To hide their deteriorating hearing from colleagues, four in ten of respondents said they would avoid using the telephone. A quarter try to get out of meetings and a similar number said they’d shun socialising with colleagues to keep their secret safe. And for over half of respondents, concern that their employer would not be supportive was another reason to keep the secret to themselves. 54 per cent said they would be unlikely to confide in colleagues.
For seven out of ten polled, having to ask colleagues to repeat themselves was one of the first signs that their hearing wasn’t what it used to be. 45 per cent realised by having to concentrate much harder to follow conversations, whilst four in ten had to increase the volume of laptops and phones. Difficultly hearing on the telephone was the first sign for a quarter of those polled.
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. Six out of ten cited colleagues talking too fast as the most challenging listening scenario. For almost half of the respondents, general background noise proved to be problematic.
Main concerns for not tackling the deterioration in hearing – by taking a test and investing in hearing technology – were rooted in wanting to look and feel younger and most proficient. Three in ten respondents said they have concerns about how hearing aids look and three in ten wouldn’t wear one because they thi nk it would make them look old. A quarter were put off by thinking they’d look old.
This comes as a stark contrast to attitudes to eyesight, with 86 per cent of respondents wearing glasses or contact lenses for peak professional performance. Of these, eight in ten adhered to the recommended bi-annual eye tests. This is a far cry from their attitudes to hearing tests, with only nine per cent having had a test, as recommended, every three years.
Starkey Hearing Technologies’ Neil Pottinger said: “Over 5 million Brits – or one in six of the employed population – experience hearing loss at work. Statistics show the professional lives of almost half 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.”