Hearing Impairment (Deafness)

Deafness can be described as partial or complete hearing loss. Hearing impairment can be caused by a range of factors such as genetics, infection, damage to the ear or environmental factors such as noise, drugs or age.


  • Some people may be able to hear, but have difficulty picking out sounds in a noisy environment
  • Use of sign language or a hearing aid
  • People with tinnitus may have difficulty sleeping and experience tiredness during the day
  • Communication difficulties. Not all people with a hearing impairment will use sign language, a hearing aid, or be able to lip read
  • May have difficulties with written instructions. For some hearing impaired people, sign language is their first language
  • Hearing impairments as a result of their environment, for example noisy machinery, can affect the range of hearing, such as difficulty in hearing certain pitches in speech.

Potential impact on daily life and employment

  • A sudden or unexpected loss in hearing can have an emotional or negative impact on mental health
  • Workplaces and homes may need aids and adaptations, eg. to fire alarms
  • Frustration in communicating - don’t assume someone with a hearing aid has full hearing
  • Potential vulnerability in some busy environments.

Support in the workplace

  • Make sure all support aids and adaptations are in place
  • Consider the installation of a hearing loop system for employees with a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Portable and permanent systems are available
  • Ensure you understand the best way to re-enforce communications with the individual and check their understanding. Don’t assume that just because you have provided information in writing that it has been understood
  • Give consideration to induction, company handbooks etc. and how the individual can access these. In particular, it is vital they have understood health and safety requirements
  • Written material should be supported with visual media where possible
  • Poor communications can sometimes lead to outbursts of anger – always consider the reasons for any outburst before jumping to conclusions.

One in six Australians are affected by hearing loss. With an ageing population, hearing loss is projected to increase to 1 in every 4 Australians by 2050. 

Source; Audiology Australia

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