Chloe Wingate is senior creative copywriter and digital marketing specialist and the first member of the team to be profiled in our new series shining a spotlight on the people who make TOMD tick. To coincide with Deaf Awareness Week 2023, Chloe has shared some insights into her experiences of hearing loss in the workplace.
A versatile and experienced writer, Chloe has worked on a wide variety of projects in her time at TOMD – from marketing plans and strategy documents, to blogs, social media posts and video scripts. She is trained in on-page SEO and works closely across teams to optimise client websites and produce SEO-friendly content. She also runs digital advertising campaigns for clients on platforms like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.
In December 2022, Chloe was promoted to Senior Marketing and Content Specialist in recognition of her invaluable contributions. Since then, she has been more deeply involved in large-scale projects from both a strategic and creative point of view. Her face-to-face client contact has also increased; for example, she has recently been involved in two big website projects and the onboarding of a new retainer client.
Reflecting on her time so far at TOMD, Chloe said, “I feel like I’ve landed on my feet! I’ve not always found social interaction and making friends easy, but working here has improved my confidence so much. Everybody is friendly, welcoming and willing to help you out to get you where you want to be. And I’ve had so much support to progress in my role and reach a point where I really feel like I’ve achieved something to be proud of.”
Access to Communication
In Deaf Awareness Week, which runs from 1-7 May 2023, Chloe is eager to share her own personal experience of how her hearing loss has affected her work. The theme this year is ‘Access to Communication’, with the Deafness Resource Centre urging “greater awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by the D/deaf community in accessing communication.”
In her time at TOMD, Chloe has encountered communication barriers. She comments, “I’d say the main challenges are tiredness and focus (or lack thereof). You have to concentrate much more on what people are saying – my mind is constantly contextualising and working to fill in words I’ve missed, trying out possibilities and discarding them until I arrive at the most likely scenario.
“It’s easier communicating with colleagues. I’ve been here for four-and-a-half years and they know how to communicate effectively. For example, I don’t hear people behind me very well and so they know not to approach me from behind because I will jump! They’re also fine with repeating things if I haven’t heard.
“Clients can be more difficult, for example because you’re on a Zoom/Teams call and the sound quality isn’t great, or I’m sat in a place at a meeting where I can’t see everyone. I don’t sign or have any speech impairment, so it’s very difficult for people to tell I might be struggling. I have to concentrate harder, which can be tiring.”
How employers can support employees with hearing loss
As a specialist communications firm, we’re used to listening to people and thinking carefully about how to get a message across effectively. Chloe thinks a similar approach is needed when it comes to disability.
“I think, like with any disability, the key is simply listening to employees with hearing loss when they tell you what they need and making adjustments to support them, whether that’s investing in assistive technology, ensuring they don’t have to answer the phone if they’re not comfortable doing so (unless there is assistive tech in place) or ensuring they are positioned in the best place to lipread. The best employers understand that deafness extends to more than just hearing loss; it can affect self-confidence, focus, social interaction, energy levels and more.”
Chloe thinks a lot of work still needs to be done to improve deaf awareness in professional settings. Frustratingly, stigma and confusion remain, with common misconceptions such as:
- Hearing aids are like glasses and restore hearing 100%
- People with hearing loss are stupid/lack intelligence
- Only elderly people have hearing loss
- Providing adjustments for people with hearing loss is expensive and a burden
- All deaf/people with hearing loss have speech impairment/sign
“It’s important too to understand the secondary impacts of living with hearing loss,” Chloe says. “It’s not just missing what people say, it’s feeling lonely and isolated; social anxiety; poor self-esteem/low confidence; mental health problems like depression; concentration fatigue; clumsiness/coordination difficulties, and relationship difficulties.
“Understanding what deafness/hearing loss entails in a wider sense is key to helping employees with hearing loss to feel included, valued and to generally ensure they can do their best work.”
“It’s OK to talk about a disability or something you’re struggling with. People won’t think you’re a nuisance or an attention seeker.”Chloe, our senior copywriter
Thank you, Chloe, for your insightful and inspiring responses.