Hearing loss – a diversity issue in the biotech industry

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Andrea Quinn, Employment Programme Lead, RNID shares the findings from the Hearing Loss at Work: Employer Insights report and how they align with the recommendations from the BIA's Diversity and Inclusion in UK Biotech report.

Having multi-faceted support in place is key to instigating meaningful change in the lives of staff with hearing loss and making your workplace inclusive.

Earlier this year, based on insight gathering from senior leaders across industries including retail, banking and manufacturing, via a series of roundtable sessions, and a survey of operational and recruiting managers we launched the Hearing Loss at Work: Employer Insights report. The report provided recommendations on how employers can address workplace barriers for staff who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus and by doing so, improve their experience in the workplace.

The employers who took part in our insight-gathering represented a range of industries and sectors, and many of the themes reflected experiences that appeared to be common regardless of industry, such as:

While understanding these more universal employment challenges is helpful in enabling us to focus on information gaps, and creating resources that meet those needs, it is also helpful to consider the unique barriers and circumstances of each industry.

During our insight-gathering activities, we heard from employers for whom noise at work is a concern, while for others, an ageing workforce has encouraged them to think more about hearing loss at work.

The biotech industry is a uniquely dynamic working environment, with a focus on new developments and cutting-edge research. This kind of environment presents its own specific sets of challenges for staff with hearing loss, including the need to adapt to the use of new technologies (and ensure compatibility with assistive technology for hearing loss, for example). Additionally, lab-based working environments can bring challenges for staff with hearing loss; use of PPE, for example, can present a communication barrier to those who lipread and hearing aid users, who may struggle with interference from the loops of face coverings.          

Interestingly, BIA’s Diversity in Biotech findings and recommendations closely mirrored those of our Hearing Loss at Work: Employer Insights report, with a focus on the importance of gathering accurate data across Diversity, Equity and Inclusion areas, providing opportunities to model best practice and making straightforward improvements to recruitment processes. A particularly notable insight from the report was around self-reporting of disability across different leadership levels. 76% of c-suite leaders reported having no disability at all, versus 55% of Individual Contributors. Organisations we spoke to told us that visible and vocal senior leaders who share their experiences of hearing loss or disability generally can help to foster a more open culture and enable others to come forward with their experiences.

It’s clear that multi-faceted support is key not only in the biotech industry but in all workplaces, to instigate meaningful change in the lives of staff with hearing loss and we would encourage organisations to act on these recommendations.

For further information and support to make your workplace inclusive for people who are deaf, or have hearing loss or tinnitus get in touch with our experts at RNID.

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