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Deaf and hearing impairment

Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. It often comes on gradually as you get older, but it can sometimes happen suddenly.

It's not always easy to tell if you're losing your hearing. Common signs include:

  • difficulty hearing other people clearly, and misunderstanding what they say, especially in noisy places
  • asking people to repeat themselves
  • listening to music or watching television loudly
  • having to concentrate hard to hear what other people are saying, which can be tiring or stressful

The signs can be slightly different if you only have hearing loss in one ear or if a young child has hearing loss.

Hearing loss can have many different causes. For example:

  • sudden hearing loss in one ear may be due to earwax, an ear infection, a perforated (burst) eardrum or Ménière's disease
  • sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from a very loud noise, or taking certain medicines that can affect hearing
  • gradual hearing loss in one ear may be due to something inside the ear, such as fluid (glue ear), a bony growth (otosclerosis) or a build-up of skin cells (cholesteatoma)
  • gradual hearing loss in both ears is usually caused by ageing or exposure to loud noises over many years

Read about hearing loss on the NHS website.

Treatments for hearing loss

Hearing loss sometimes gets better on its own or may be treated with medicine or a simple procedure. For example, earwax can be sucked out, or softened with eardrops.

But other types – such as gradual hearing loss, which often happens as you get older – may be permanent. In these cases, treatment can help make the most of the remaining hearing. This may involve using:

  • hearing aids – several different types are available on the NHS or privately
  • implants – devices that are attached to your skull or placed deep inside your ear, if hearing aids are not suitable
  • different ways of communicating – such as sign language or lip reading

Preventing hearing loss

It's not always possible to prevent hearing loss, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of damaging your hearing.

These include:

  • not having your television, radio or music on too loud
  • using headphones that block out more outside noise, instead of turning up the volume
  • wearing ear protection (such as ear defenders) if you work in a noisy environment, such as a garage workshop or a building site; special vented earplugs that allow some noise in are also available for musicians
  • using ear protection at loud concerts and other events where there are high noise levels
  • not inserting objects into your or your children's ears – this includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues

NHS information about hearing aids

For further information from the NHS about different types of hearing aids and how they might help you, go to the hearing aids and implants page on the NHS website.

National support

Hearing Dogs for the Deaf

Hearing Dogs for the Deaf train dogs to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds they would otherwise miss such as the doorbell, alarm clock and even danger signals like the fire alarm. Being aware of these makes a real difference to people’s lives and, in some cases, can even save them. The charity put a lot of time and thought into matching a hearing dog with a deaf person – ensuring that it is as good a match as possible.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

RNID (Action on Hearing Loss)

RNID Loss is the largest charity for people with hearing loss in the UK. They can support you with information and advice and give you practical solutions to help you live independently. They also have a range of products that you may find useful to assist you in your day-to-day activities.

RNID - National hearing loss charity

Association for All Speech Impaired Children (AFASIC)

AFASIC 'Voice for Life' is a parent led organisation to help children and young people with speech and language impairments and their families. They provide information and training for parents and professionals. They also produce a range of publications.

Members meet in local groups in many areas of the UK.

Afasic – Voice for Life

Local support - Hi Kent

Visit the Hi Kent website to find out how they can support you if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

Last updated: 10/03/2022