Living with hearing loss

Hearing loss of any form can have a significant impact on a person's life, and it is not unusual for people with hearing difficulties to become withdrawn, isolated and depressed as communication becomes more difficult.

Losing some or all of your hearing can lead to some people feeling excluded from the everyday world - music, traffic noises, conversations etc. - which creates a feeling of always being on the 'outside', and in many cases creating a sense of not being safe in your surroundings.

As we regularly deal people who have developed hearing loss through industrial deafness, we've put the below guide together to help you as your hearing changes. The guide is aimed at people with hearing loss, but we have also designed it to be useful for friends, family and colleagues of those with hearing loss.


1. Noticing hearing loss

2. Just diagnosed with hearing loss

3. Taking action - hearing aids and other treatments

4. Other hearing loss products and technology

5. Communication skills and techniques

6. Employment

7. Benefits and grants

Noticing hearing loss

When you notice you are losing your hearing, it can be quite a shock as you realise you won't be able to communicate with others in the same way as before. You may also begin to find it difficult to do things that you previously took for granted.

This can be a very distressing time, and you will no doubt have a lot of questions about what you can do, and what the future may hold for you. You will also likely have feelings of vulnerability, while some suffer symptoms like tiredness, headaches, stress and even depression.

Common signs of hearing loss

  • Struggling to hear other people clearly, or regularly not understanding what is being said (particularly in group conversations)
  • Regularly asking people to repeat themselves during conversations
  • Needing the TV/radio volume on louder than other people need it
  • Having difficulty hearing the phone or door bell ringing
  • Sometimes struggling to tell where a noise is coming from
  • Often feeling stressed or tired (due to the extra effort and concentration when you listen)
  • Having a buzzing or whistling sound in one or both ears (this could be a sign of tinnitus, which is also linked to hearing loss)


There are two main types of hearing loss:

Sensorinueral hearing loss - this is cause by damage to the hairs within the inner ears, or to the auditory nerve (the nerve that takes sound signals from the ear to the brain). This type of hearing loss often occurs through age, but can also be caused by an illness such as meningitis.

Conductive hearing loss - this is when sounds are unable to pass from the outer ear to the inner ear. Usually this is because of a blockage somewhere (i.e. earwax or an ear infection) and can be treated fairly easily. However this type of hearing loss can sometimes prove permanent due to an injury.

Whatever type of hearing loss you have, it is important to remember there is a lot of help out there for you. If you have noticed your hearing is getting worse, then the first step is to visit your GP for a diagnosis...

Just diagnosed with hearing loss

Research has shown that it often takes a long time for an individual to take action after noticing hearing loss, with many people waiting as long as ten years to seek help.

However, there is a lot of medical research that it is better to take action as early as possible. If you have noticed a deterioration in your hearing, then you should make an appointment to visit your GP as soon as possible. Your GP can then arrange for you to have a more thorough hearing test with an audiologist - a specialist healthcare professional who can diagnose and manage hearing problems, as well as providing hearing aids.

If you are not sure yet about visiting the GP, then there are also hearing tests you can do online which can help you determine your level of hearing. Although online tests should not be seen as a replacement to a full hearing test, they can offer some reassurance before you arrange a test with a professional audiologist.

Where to find help...

For more information on what audiologists do, how they can help and how you can find one, visit the official British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists:

Online hearing tests


Taking action - hearing aids and other treatments

If you are struggling to communicate due to hearing loss, you can find that your quality of life becomes affected.

Hearing aids and other forms of treatment/management are available to help you regain your confidence.

Hearing aids are available in all different shapes and sizes, but they all work in similar ways. They feature a built-in microphone that picks up sounds and process it electronically. These signals are then passed on to a receiver that amplifies the sound so that the wearer can hear them. Why you need hearing aids Wearing hearing aids will make it easier to hear everyday sounds and enable you to better follow conversations. You will also be able to hear the TV and radio again. Also, if you suffer from tinnitus then you may find that wearing hearing aids limits the disturbance of tinnitus. In short hearing aids can:
  • make sounds louder
  • make conversations easier
  • help you hear on the phone
  • some can reduce certain background noises, though you may still find it difficult to follow what people are saying in noisy places
Learn more: Different types of hearing aids - Action on Hearing Loss Where to get hearing aids - Amplifon How much do hearing aids cost? - Boots
If your hearing loss is quite severe in both ears, and hearing aids aren't helping, then cochlear implants are an option that could improve your hearing. What are cochlear implants? Cochlear implants are used to provide a sensation of hearing to people who have severe hearing loss. Whereas hearing aids amplify sounds to make them louder, cochlear implants directly stimulate the auditory nerve (which carries sound from the cochlea to the brain). Cochlear implants have several different parts, some of which are external (i.e. worn on the body) and some are internal (in and behind the ear). The internal part is a receiver with a magnet that is fitted behind the ear under the skin, and electrodes placed directly in the cochlea. The external unit is a microphone and sound receiver which has a transmitter coil. Sound is first picked up by the microphone and processed into electrical signals, that are then passed to the transmitter coil. This sends the signals, via radio wave, through to the implanted receiver, which sends them down the wire to the electrodes in the cochlea. When they receive the signal a small electrial current stimulates the auditory nerve, giving the sensation of hearing.  
If your hearing nerve is damaged and unable to send signals to the brain, then hearing aids or cochlear implants won't be able to help you. However, an auditory brainstem implant (ABI) may be beneficial. What is an auditory brainstem implant? Auditory brainstem implants (ABIs) are a relatively new development in the treatment of hearing loss, and work by completely bypassing the ear and auditory nerve and directly stimulating the auditory brainstem instead. ABIs are used for adults who have been diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 11 (which causes tumours to grow on the hearing nerves), or who have suffered damage to their hearing nerve. Learn more: Auditory brainstem implants - NICE guidelines
If you need some extra help and support with coping with your hearing loss, then hearing therapy is available to aid you in dealing with the psychological effects associated with losing your hearing. Hearing therapists can help you with:
  • counselling to help with the psychological and emotional effects of hearing loss
  • advising on practical solutions to help you in your work and social life, including any products that can help
  • referring you to other support services, such as social services
  • providing details of local support groups and lipreading classes that may be beneficial
Whatever form of hearing loss treatment or assistance you need, you are likely to find that learning to lip read will be a massive help. Lipreading classes are taught by qualified teachers, who help you learn to lipread in an informal and laid back atmosphere - so you can go at your own pace. You will learn the different shapes of the mouth and lips that make certain sounds so you can identify them, as well as how to fill in gaps of speech that you struggle to hear. Learn more: Join a lipreading class in your area - ATLA Learn to lipread online - Lipreading Practice

Other hearing loss products and treatments

Whether you are faced with tinnitus, hearing loss or deafness, choosing the right products and technology can help you to stay independent and continue to enjoy your quality of life.

While hearing aids can often help you hear sounds, there are other products you can use to make a difference to your lifestyle - when you're at home, at work, socialising or out running errands.

Products to help with hearing loss

If you have a form of hearing loss or deafness, then it is common to feel an increased sense of vulnerability as you become less 'aware' of the world around you. Thankfully, there are several products and devices you can use to help you stay safe.

Smoke alarm

If you rely on a hearing aid to hear during the day, you will probably find that you are unable to hear an ordinary smoke alarm when you take them out at night. That's why it is important to get a smoke alarm desgined for people with hearing difficulties. Some options include a pad that sits under your pillow and vibrates when it goes off, with a flashing light to alert you of a fire. See more:   

Emergency SMS service

The Emergency SMS service enables you to contact any emergency service - police, fire, ambulance and coastguard, from a mobile phone by sending a text message to 999 or 112. To use this service you need to register here:
There are many different products and devices that can alert you to sounds and events in your home, from vibrating alarm clocks, flashing doorbells, specialised baby monitors and more.

Alarm clocks

These days there are a lot of alarm clocks available that help those with hearing difficulties to wake up. Some have vibrating pads that can be placed under your pillow or mattress, and others have variable volumes and pitches so people with less severe hearing loss can still hear them. See more:  


If you are hard of hearing, you will probably find it difficult to hear a normal doorbell. In this case you can add loud extensions to your doorbell. If that isn't sufficient you can buy wireless doorbells and chimes that can be positioned around the house so you are more likely to hear them. You can also get doorbells with lights that flash to alert you that someone is at the door. There are also vibrating pagers available for those with severe hearing loss or deafness. See more:  

Baby monitors

A banby monitor designed for deaf and hard of hearing people is a great way to get peace of mind. If you have severe hearing loss than you can get baby monitors that have a vibrating pad when your baby cries, while many models also have a video function so you can see your baby on the screen wherever you are in the house. See more:
For those who rely on hearing aids, listening to the radio or watching TV can be difficult. That's why using assistive devices to enhance and support audio is important.

TV and radio

Many people with hearing loss tend to turn the volume up on the TV or radio, which can disturb your family and sometimes even the neighbours. Wireless headphones can be used so you can control the volume that you hear without affecting anyone else. Wireless TV listeners work in a similar way, using earbuds to give you high volume. If you wear a hearing aid that features a hearing loop (T) setting you can also look into the different systems with neckloop receivers. See more:  
There are products you can use to make the calls you receive on your home phone louder - which can be very useful for people with hearing loss. A telephone amplifier can be used to make your corded telephone louder. This connects to your phone to make the caller's voice louder. For both corded and cordless telephones there are amps available that fit over the telephone handset/earpiece using a strap. If you struggle to hear your phone ring, then you can also buy an extension ringer that can be placed around the house where you are more likely to hear it e.g. in the living room, kitchen or bathroom. An alternative is to buy an amplified telephone, which are specially designed to have extra features for people with hearing difficulties e.g. volume settings and tone control.
Whatever form of hearing loss treatment or assistance you need, you are likely to find that learning to lip read will be a massive help. Lipreading classes are taught by qualified teachers, who help you learn to lipread in an informal and laid back atmosphere - so you can go at your own pace. You will learn the different shapes of the mouth and lips that make certain sounds so you can identify them, as well as how to fill in gaps of speech that you struggle to hear. Learn more: Join a lipreading class in your area - ATLA Learn to lipread online - Lipreading Practice

Products to help with profound deafness

Sometimes called a minicom, textphones enable you to communicate over the phone via text. This suits those with deafness or hearing loss that makes using a phone difficult. Textphones enable two-way conversation, so you type your message on the keyboard and can read responses on the display screen. Just like a standard telephone, the textphone plugs into the phone socket on the wall. In order to call another textphone user, you simply dial 180015 and then their full telephone number. When they accept the call, the messages they type will appear on your screen and vice versa. When textphones ring to signal an incoming call, they also have a flashing light to notify you. Text Relay Another option when using a textphone is to use the Text Relay service. When you make a call to a hearing person, the relay assistant will re-speak your text message. They will also type what the hearing person is saying so it will appear on the screen of your textphone. To use Text Relay you need to dial 18001 and then the full telephone number you wish to contact. A hearing person can call a textphone via Text Relay by dialling 18002 first. Learn more:
It is important that everyone is able to contact the emergency services if needed, and those living with deafness are no exception. In order to be able to contact the emergency services you need to register with the emergency SMS service so you can text 999 or 112 and have your text be converted by a text relay assistant. Register your mobile phone:
When you become hard of hearing, you quickly realise how many little things you used to take for granted. From an alarm clock to wake you up to the noise your washing machine makes to alert you it's finished its cycle. These days there is a wealth of vibrating and flashing products to help you. There are a lot of products such as alarm clocks and smoke alarms that come with a vibrating pad. This is usually a circular device that you can put under your pillow (on your bed or chair) which will notify you when the alarm goes off. You can also get products that have a flashing light to notify you, which is more suited to things like a doorbell.

Communication skills and techniques

If you have a form of hearing loss, you will likely find that communication is more difficult. This can lead to you feeling more isolated and distanced from your family and friends, and some can find it difficult to communicate with colleagues and health professionals etc.

Here we will look at some tips to help you communicate well, whether you have hearing loss or wish to communicate better with some with hearing difficulties.

Are you deaf aware?

Being 'deaf aware' is an important first step to make sure you don't unknowingly exclude people with hearing difficulties and make their day-to-day like more difficult.

Thankfully, it's not difficult to improve your deaf awareness and improve your general communication skills.

If you want to improve your communication with those who have hearing loss, start by following the below tips:

  • Always ensure you have their attention before you begin speaking
  • Choose places for conversations with lipreading in mind (i.e. good lighting) and with little or no background noise
  • always directly face the person to make lipreading easier, and speak clearly and use plain language
  • Regularly check whether they understand what you are saying at natural points in the conversation
  • Don't be tempted to speak too loudly, as this can actually be uncomfortable for someone using a hearing aid

Different ways to communicate

There are many different forms of communicating with hearing loss - some are more suited to different forms of hearing loss and others are more favoured simply out of preference.

Below we have listed the most common forms of communication for those living with hearing loss.

British Sign Language - or BSL - is a form of communication that involves hand shapes, hand movement, lip patterns and facial expressions. It has its own grammar, which is structured in a different way to the spoken English language. BSL is only commonly used in the UK. In Northern Ireland BSL is used alongside Irish Sign Language (ISL). There are at least 24,000 people in the UK who use BSL as their main form of communication, and many more learn British Sign Language as a second language. Often this is because they have a relative, friend or colleague who is deaf, or because they want to start a career that involves working with people who are deaf. Find out more and learn BSL for free:
As an introduction to British Sign Language, and an easier form of communication to learn, fingerspelling is a very useful thing to learn. Fingerspelling is the basic BSL alphabet, and can be used to spell out certain words. On its own it is not as extensive as sign language, but it can be used in an emergency or as a substitute while you are learning BSL. See the full fingerspelling alphabet:
Learning to lipread is a specialist skill, but it is possible for people with hearing loss to benefit from using a lipspeaker. A lipspeaker can help people with hearing loss to lipread by:
  • Repeating silently what a speaker has said, producing the shape of the words more clearly and using facial expressions to convey more meaning
  • Reducing fast speech without losing the essence of what has been said
  • Using their voice as well when needed, to support people who want to use a combination of listening as well as lipreading
  • Fingerspelling any words that are hard to lipread
Lipspeakers can be useful in the following situations:
  • Work meetings
  • Conferences, workshops or seminars
  • Job interviews
  • Training courses
  • University lectures
  • Medical consultations
  • Parents evenings
  • Bank meetings
  • Police interviews
  • Court hearings
Find out more and book a lipspeaker:

Benefits and grants

For anyone who has just been diagnosed with hearing problems and is starting to come to terms with the affect it can have on your life, the important thing to remember is that there is help available.

As well as the advice and support you will receive, there are also several financial benefits and grants you can apply for to help you.

Below we've identified some of the ways you can receive financial help if you are deaf or suffer from hearing loss.

Whatever the level of your hearing loss, assistive products can help you adapt your day to day life and limit the effect of losing your hearing. There are a lot of great products that can help, as we've covered above in more detail, but they all cost money. Thankfully, you may be able to access help from your local council's sensory services team - who can either provide equipment or can help you pay for it. To apply for this you will need to be referred by your hearing specialist, which will also specify what equipment you might need. When it comes to products that can help you at work, the Government run an Access to Work scheme that may be able to provide products for work or for job interviews. Find out more: Also, if you are in Further Education (i.e. over 18 years old in full-time education) then you may also be able to get help from the Disabled Students Allowances'. Find out more:
Depending on your level of hearing loss and how it affects your daily life, you may be entitled to discounted travel on public transport. For more information on this you will need to contact your local council. On top of this, if you are registered deaf or use hearing aids then you and a travel companion could be entitled to a third off of rail travel in the UK by qualifying for a Disabled Person's Railcard. It costs £20 for the card for a year, which gives you and an adult travel companion a third off all fares. Find out more:  
If you spend 35 or more hours per week caring for someone, then you could be eligible for Carers Allowance if they receive certain benefits. Carers Allowance is for anyone over 16 who cares full-time for someone in receipt of any of the following benefits:
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Constant Attendance Allowance at the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
To be eligible for Carers Allowance, you must fit the following criteria:
  • Aged 16 or over
  • Spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone
  • Have been resident in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the last three years
  • Not in full-time education, or studying for 21 hours a week or more
  • You earn no more than £110 a week after taxes, care costs while you’re at work and 50% of what you pay into your pension
  • You’re not subject to immigration control
Find out more and apply for Carers Allowance: