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can have a significant impact on a person's life, and it is not unusual for people with hearing difficulties to become withdrawn, isolated and depressed as communication becomes more difficult.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
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: https://www.bshaa.com/
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.
- 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
- 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
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
Smoke alarmIf 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 serviceThe 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: http://ngts.org.uk/esms_index.php
Alarm clocksThese 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:
DoorbellsIf 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 monitorsA 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:
TV and radioMany 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:
Products to help with profound deafness
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.
- 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
- Work meetings
- Conferences, workshops or seminars
- Job interviews
- Training courses
- University lectures
- Medical consultations
- Parents evenings
- Bank meetings
- Police interviews
- Court hearings
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.
- 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
- 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