Hearing impairment

Hearing impairment or deafness

Action on Hearing Loss estimates that more than 10 million (about one in six people) in the UK have some degree of hearing impairment or deafness.

Hearing impairment and associated conditions

Some people with hearing impairment may have associated conditions, while others may not. These can include:

Hearing impairment specialist organisations

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) 
Largest UK charity supporting people with hearing loss and tinnitus.

British Deaf Association
Run by and for hearing impaired people. Also provides information on British Sign Language.

DeafBlind UK
Collection of information and resources for deaf and hearing impaired people

Deaf Sign
Resource for issues related to deafness and sign language.

Deafax Trust
New technologies for deaf people to improve literacy skills and self-confidence.

Advice, support and guidance for deaf and visually impaired people.

Social enterprise company run by Deaf people for Deaf and Hearing people.

Disability and deaf awareness training.

National Deaf Children's Society
Support and information for families of deaf children.

Sense - The National Deafblind and Rubella Association
National voluntary organisation working with and supporting people who are deafblind or have associated impairments.

How hearing impairment can affect a child's learning

  • difficulty following instructions through not hearing all the words clearly.
  • tiredness – the effort of having to listen carefully can lead to poor concentration and frustration.
  • difficulty with social interaction, especially in noisy environments.
  • self-confidence in speaking and being understood.
  • issues owing to patchy learning if hearing issues were not resolved when the child started school.
  • undiagnosed Colour Vision Deficiencies (colour blindness).

How you can support a child with a hearing impairment

  • Always make sure the child is in the optimal place to be able to hear. Make sure the child is able to face anyone who is speaking to them, in good light. Ensure the teacher does not stand silhouetted with light behind them, as the child will not be able to lip read.
  • Back everything up with visual clues, reducing important points to a minimum of words so that meaning is clear.
  • Plan the introduction of new vocabulary so that it is relevant to context and spoken clearly. Get the child to repeat back new words so you know they have heard correctly.
  • Support social interaction between children and encourage turn taking.
  • Work closely with a teacher of hearing impaired children, or an audiologist. If one ear is better than the other, establish which, and find out which frequencies are more of a problem.
  • Ensure the noise level in the classroom does not get too high, as the child will not be able to discriminate sounds.
  • Play games that require careful listening in a quiet environment.
  • Concentrate on very clear consonants and clear mouth movement. See if speaking more loudly is necessary, but be subtle as to avoid the child feeling embarrassed.
  • Use sign language to support the child if they are used to this. (Makaton supports speech, by signing key words. British Sign Language is a language in its own right that takes the place of speech).
  • Allow the child time to process what they have heard and to respond. 

Read National Deaf Children's Society guides for parents and teachers.

Ask an Audiologist

If you have any questions about the ears, hearing, hearing tests, types and causes of hearing loss, hearing aids, cochlear implants, supporting children in their hearing and listening development, or transition from children's to adult's audiology services, please ask our community advisor.