Deafness and hearing impairments

There are 11 million people with hearing loss across the UK, that's around one in six of us. By 2035, we estimate there'll be around 15.6 million people with hearing loss across the UK - that's one in five.

Main causes of hearing impairment

Age: Most of us will experience some degree of hearing loss as we get older. There is no cure for age-related hearing loss, but modern hearing aids can help you to communicate more easily and lead a full life including access to communications.

Noise exposure: Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise – for example, in noisy workplaces, or while listening to loud music. It's the second-most common form of the condition after age. You might not notice the effects of noise-induced hearing loss until years after you were first exposed to loud noise. Long exposure to sounds over 80dB can damage your ears. In practical terms, this means that if you can’t talk to people about two metres away without shouting because of background noise, the noise levels could be hazardous.

Disease: ear infections, torn ear drums, measles and meningitis can often cause hearing problems.

Genetics: one in 1,600 of us are born moderately to profoundly deaf because they inherit a mutated gene.

Recognising hearing impairment

  • Other people seem to mumble.
  • People often have to repeat things for you.
  • You have difficulty understanding what is being said in noisy places.
  • It is hard to keep up with group conversation and you get tired because you have to concentrate so much.
  • Other people think your television or music is too loud.

If you're wondering what it’s like to have a hearing impairment, try the Inclusive Design Toolkit.

Evidence suggests that people wait on average 10 years before seeking help for their hearing loss. Hearing aids may be beneficial as they could improve your hearing in a range of everyday situations and make conversations easier. However, hearing aids can't restore your hearing to normal, so it's important to prevent your hearing from being damaged by noise in the first place.

People with hearing impairments can visit their GP and get referred to a hearing specialist in order to be registered as Deaf.

The Action on Hearing Loss has useful information on their website.

GARI - the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative – also has information on their website which may help you find the best device for your own needs, whether sight, hearing or dexterity.

Services we can provide to support you

We offer a range of products to assist our customers with individual needs to communicate easily and effectively. People with hearing impairments may be exempt from rental and installation charges for a small extension bell. Further information is available in our Price Manual.

- Next Generation Text Service

For people who need to make or receive calls in which some or all of the call is made or received in text format, we offer a Next Generation Text Service that enables customers with hearing and/or speech impairments to communicate with others through telephone or textphone equipment or other devices such as PCs and tablets.

A 'relay assistant' acts in the middle to text the speech from the two people on the call. You can even link a 'TextNumber' to your existing phone number to make and receive calls without dialling a prefix.

  • Type & Read is best if you can’t hear and don't use your voice
  • Speak & Read should be used if you can't hear but do use your voice
  • Type & Hear will be most useful if you can hear but don't use your voice
  • Speak & Hear works best if you can hear and want to speak to someone who uses Next Generation Text Relay Service

For full details of the service and how to access it, go to ngts.org.uk or contact the Next Generation Text Service Helpdesk on 0800 7311 888 or if using a textphone or the NGT Lite app on 0800 500 888.

Calls made using the Next Generation Text Service will never be charged more than what you would have been for the same call made without using it. Those calls can also take longer than standard voice calls due to their nature and typing speed and we therefore apply a rebate to the text element of the calls. Further information is available in our Price Manual.

- Emergency SMS

People with hearing and/or speech impairment have the option of contacting the emergency services by text from their mobile. They need to register their mobile phone first with the emergency SMS service by texting the word ‘register’ to 999. Further information is available here.

- Free Priority Fault Repair Service

Sometimes, a telephone or a broadband service becomes a vital lifeline for customers. We offer a free priority fault repair service for customers who have a disability and may be at risk in the unlikely event of a fault occurring on their line.

We’ll prioritise your repair over standard care levels but there may be circumstances beyond our control that mean we can’t. For example, extreme weather conditions like floods or storms can delay or prevent our engineers carrying out repairs to overhead cables or working down manholes.

To find out if you’re eligible for a Free Priority Fault Repair, and to register for the service please contact us on 01482 602555. Alternatively, you can use one of our other contact methods on the contact us page.

- British Sign Language interpreters

People with hearing impairment can contact to us through a British Sign Language interpreter. Further information is available here.

- Third Party Bill Management

Customers who need help to manage their account can nominate a friend or relative to receive copies of bills and correspondence without them becoming liable for the bill. The Authorised User is able to raise a complaint or make a payment on behalf of the customer. Please call us on 01482 602555 to arrange this on your account. Alternatively, you can use one of our other contact methods on the contact us page.