There are many causes of deafness. Some people are born deaf due to a hereditary condition, or had congenital problems such as those associated with rubella. Others may become deaf as a result of injury, illness or exposure to excessive noise.
Most commonly, adult hearing loss happens with age or is caused by loud noises.
The type of deafness or hearing loss, and the time in life that it developed, often has an impact on a person’s communication style. Most deaf and hard of hearing people use a variety of communication methods, including sign language, and often several forms simultaneously.
In an environment that takes little or no account of deafness a deaf person can feel isolated, confused and frustrated. Information is likely to be missed or misunderstood – this applies to both verbal and non-verbal sounds. Striving to hear or to lip-read can be challenging and tiring.
The ability to communicate is an essential part of living in human society. Advances in technology have led to an explosion of devices, gadgets and other methods to help people with hearing loss listen to and talk to others.
Older people are often reticent about using a hearing aid, perhaps reluctant to accept the physical effects of ageing, or concerned about the stigma of deafness or the rough deal that deaf people often get from society.
Modern hearing aids are a great improvement on those that were available just a couple of decades ago, but they rarely restore hearing to normal and don’t suit or help everyone. Many people with hearing loss find it useful to develop other means of communication such as a cochlear implant.
The way hearing impairment is treated depends on the type of hearing loss and how severe it is. In cases where there is sensorineural damage, there are several options that may help to improve a person’s ability to hear and communicate. These include:
- digital hearing aids, available through the NHS
- middle ear implants – surgically implanted devices suitable for some people who are unable to use hearing aids
- cochlear implants – small hearing devices that are surgically implanted inside the ear for people who find that hearing aids are not powerful enough
- sign language, such as British Sign Language (BSL)
For people with conductive hearing loss there is often the possibility of improving their hearing with an operation or a device such as a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA). This will often be discussed with an ENT surgeon who will diagnose the cause and offer treatment.
You may also wish to find services for hearing impairment and deafness support.