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CHAPTER 1: GENERAL INFORMATION

 

Hearing Loss and Deafness

This page covers:

Section 1 - Some information which may help you to understand your own deafness 

Section 2 - Will anything help me to hear better? Will anything help me to manage better?

Click here to go to these sections on another page:

Section 3 - What should I do if I have a hearing loss? Go to your doctor (your GP)

Section 4 - I don’t think that I am deaf. It’s other people who think that I am deaf.

Click on the links in the left hand column to see the other sections

Section 1 - Some information which may help you to understand your own deafness 

 

1.1. High frequency hearing loss (High tone hearing loss)

(High frequency loss means that a person cannot hear all or some of the high frequency sounds. They may not hear them at all or they may not hear them very well. Sometimes this is called a high tone loss. Sometimes people describe this as ‘not being able to hear the high pitch sounds’.)

People with a high frequency hearing loss usually find that they hear people talking but cannot hear some or all of the words. This is often because they are not hearing some of the consonants very well. Or they may not be hearing some of the consonants at all. People with a high frequency hearing loss usually have more problems with the higher frequency consonants such as /s/, /f/, and unvoiced /th/. The consonants /s/, /f/, and unvoiced /th/ are produced by most men, women and child speakers at about 4000 – 6000 Hertz. (Hertz or Hz used to be called cycles per second.)

Some people with a high tone loss may also have more problems hearing women’s voices and children’s voices than men’s because women and children tend to produce less high frequency energy when they speak. 

Some people with high frequency hearing loss may also have difficulty with hearing sounds such as /t/ and /k/.

For possible solutions see the sections on: hearing aids, lipreading, listening practice, technical aids to hearing. Many other sections may also be of use. 

1.2. Low frequency hearing loss (Low tone hearing loss)

(Low frequency loss means that a person cannot hear all or some of the low frequency sounds. They may not hear them at all or they may not hear them very well. Sometimes this is called a low tone loss. Sometimes people describe this as ‘not being able to hear the low pitch sounds’.)

Low frequency hearing loss means that some, or all, of the low frequency sounds are either not heard at all or are only partially heard.

People with a high frequency hearing loss usually find that they hear people talking but cannot hear some or all of the words. This is often because they are not hearing some of the consonants very well. Or they may not be hearing some of the consonants at all. People with a low frequency hearing loss often have more problems with the lower frequency consonants such as /z/, /v/, /j/, voiced /th/, /d/, /n/.  They may have problems hearing men’s voices and also women with low voices.

Hearing aids and watching people (lipreading) will often help the person with a hearing problem to understand more of what people say.

1.3. People who have both high and low frequency losses:

If people have high and low frequency losses then they are likely to have problems hearing both high and low frequency sounds.

Hearing aids and watching people (lipreading) will often help the person with a hearing problem to understand more of what people say.

1.4. Can people find out about what type of deafness they have?

Some hospital audiology staff are happy to tell their patients about hearing loss. For example they will give people a copy of their audiogram and will explain which sounds they may not hear well or may not hear at all. Other hospitals do not tell their patients about their hearing loss and some hospitals will only tell their patients if the patients keep asking.

What some people have said about possible solutions for finding out about their own hearing loss:

“I did not understand what was happening to my hearing and I did not understand why I could hear some words and sentences but not others. So I asked the audiologist for information. They refused to tell me the first time I asked but I kept asking and then I was eventually told I had a high tone loss. The audiologist explained what sounds I might not hear. I am glad I kept asking as I have found it useful to know.” 

“I was given a hearing aid and I find that lipreading has helped me to fill in some of the words I can’t hear.”

“I also read as much as possible about deafness to widen my knowledge about deafness and increase my coping strategies.”

1.5. People are often accused of only hearing when they want to hear:

Usually people have no control over what they can hear and what they cannot hear.

There are dozens of reasons why people hear some things and not other things. The reasons include:

  1. unhelpful  environment (e.g. background noise)
  2. problems with the message (e.g. the sounds in the message are difficult for the person to hear)
  3. difficulties with the speaker (e.g. the speaker was not facing the person)

What some people have said about possible solutions:

Several people have said that they find that it usually helps to explain to the speaker why they didn’t hear. For example, “I couldn’t hear you because of the washing machine noise – please can you repeat”.

Quite a few people also said other that even if the speaker had got really impatient an explanation would usually diffuse the situation especially if they smiled instead of getting angry with the speaker.

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Section 2 - Will anything help me to hear better? Will anything help me to manage better?

 

There are a number of different types of help available.

Some help is available from your GP and some help is available from the hospital (for example, the audiology clinic. The first place to go for help is usually your GP.

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Depending on the source of the problem, the sorts of help you might get from your GP include:

    • visual examination of your ear with an otoscope
    • removal of wax
    • antibiotics
    • referral to a hospital (or audiology clinic)

 

Depending on the source of the problem, the sorts of help you might get from your hospital or audiology clinic include:

  • visual examination of your ear with an otoscope
  • removal of wax
  • antibiotics
  • surgery (e.g. removal of fluid in the middle ear)
  • the fitting of a hearing aid
  • advice on using the hearing aid
  • In some areas hospitals or audiology clinics may provide:

       - advice on conversation strategies (including tips on how to manage in different situations)
       - advice on auditory training and lipreading practice
       - advice on technical aids to hearing (Some hospitals also issue these, but it is rare)


Help is also available in the community. In addition to seeking medical help, you may also wish to seek help from the community; that is, from either social services and/or education.


The help available from education is usually to be found in colleges of further or adult education. The relevant classes have various names. They may be called “Lipreading classes” or “Understanding your deafness” or “Lipreading and communication skills” classes. The help provided may include:

  • lipreading practice
  • listening practice
  • advice on conversation strategies (including tips on how to manage in different situations)
  • advice on technical aids to hearing

The help available from social services may include:

  • advice on technical aids to hearing (Some hospitals also issue these, but it is rare)
  • occasionally social services also provide lipreading and listening practice and advice on conversation strategies

In some areas, you may find classes in libraries, day centres or homes for elderly people. Usually the classes are for adults (from 16 plus).  A warm welcome should be provided for people of all ages and all walks of life.

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