Hearing loss and deafness happen when sound signals don’t reach the brain. This is caused by a problem in the hearing system.
There are two main types of hearing loss. It’s possible to have both types, and this is known as mixed hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss
This is caused by damage to the hair cells inside the inner ear, or damage to the hearing nerve, or both.
It makes it more difficult to hear quiet sounds and reduces the quality of sound that you can hear.
Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent but can often be treated with hearing aids.
Conductive hearing loss
This happens when a blockage, such as ear wax, stops sound passing from your outer ear to your inner ear.
Sounds will become quieter and things might sound muffled. It can be temporary or permanent.
Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by ear problems.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss, hearing aids could help you to hear better and communicate more confidently.
Hearing aids come in different shapes and sizes, but all work in a similar way. They use microphones to pick up noises and adjust the sounds digitally.
Your hearing aids will be specially programmed to match the results of your hearing test.
Hearing aids can:
How to get hearing aids
You have 2 options for getting a full hearing test:
If your hearing test shows that you have hearing loss, the audiologist will explain what type and level of hearing loss you have. They’ll also chat to you about what treatments, including hearing aids, are available.
Hearing tests and any treatments you need, including high-quality hearing aids, are free through the NHS.
Many private hearing care providers offer free hearing tests, but you’ll need to pay for any hearing aids you need if you stay with a private provider.
Hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss. What they do is amplify sounds, so they’re easier to hear.
New users may find that it takes a few weeks to get used to hearing aids. This is typical, although some users acclimate more quickly to amplification.
As you get used to hearing sounds again, it will seem more natural to you.
Check your hearing online
If you think you might have hearing loss, it is possible to check your hearing online. These tests are by no means 100% accurate but can sometimes indicate whether you may have hearing loss.
Types of hearing aids
Behind The Ear (BTE)
This is the most common type of hearing aid.
Receiver in the ear (RITE)
These hearing aids are similar to BTE hearing aids.
The main difference is that with RITE hearing aids, the part of the hearing aid that sits behind the ear is smaller and is connected by a thin wire to a speaker placed inside the opening of the ear.
RITE hearing aids are less visible than BTE hearing aids and are suitable for most people with hearing loss, but they can be fiddlier to use than BTE hearing aids.
In the ear (ITE) hearing aids
In the ear (ITE) hearing aids fill the area just outside the opening of your ear.
They cannot be seen from behind, unlike BTE or RITE hearing aids, but they are visible from the side.
ITE hearing aids are suitable for most people with hearing loss, although they can be trickier to use than BTE or RITE hearing aids.
CROS/BiCROS hearing aids
CROS and BiCROS hearing aids can help if you’ve lost hearing in one ear.
They come as a pair. The hearing aid in the ear with hearing loss picks up sound and sends it to a hearing aid in your good ear. This can be done wirelessly or through a wire around the back of your neck.
But while several modern hearing aids are available on the NHS, these are usually the BTE or, very occasionally, the RITE type. You may need to pay for private treatment if you want one of the other types.
Paying for hearing aids
If you do not mind paying for treatment, you can choose to go to a private hearing aid provider directly.
This may mean you can pick from a wider range of hearing aids, including the smaller, less visible models.
Not all hearing aids are suitable for everyone, but the hearing specialist (audiologist) will tell you which hearing aids are suitable within your budget.
If you choose to pay for private treatment:
Boots are currently offering an interest-free payment plan for hearing aids. More information here.
Most hearing aids can now connect to your mobile phone using Bluetooth connection. However, if you wish to connect your hearing aids to other devices then you need to make sure that your audiologist programmes your hearing aids with additional settings.
Your audiologist may add the following three settings to your hearing aid:
Programme 1: Mic – this means the hearing aids is transmitting audio from the hearing aid microphones.
Programme 2: T-Coil – this is the setting which will connect your hearing aid to nearby loop systems such as a radio aid or your landline phone.
Programme 3: T-Coil and Mic – this will activate the loop setting and your hearing aid mics so you can hear things around you as well as the audio being transmitted from the loop system.
Changing the batteries and tubes
If you have hearing aids with tubes, then you need to have these replaced every six months. You also get free batteries through the NHS. Most NHS audiology departments and private clinics have a postal service for hearing aid batteries and tubing.
Changing the battery
If you are unsure how to change the batteries in your hearing aids then the RNID offer videos you can watch.
Remember to switch your hearing aids off when you take them out. This will help to save the battery and prevent the hearing aid from whistling.
If your hearing loss is quite severe in both ears, and hearing aids aren’t helping, then cochlear implants are an option that could improve your hearing.
What are cochlear implants?
Cochlear implants are used to provide a sensation of hearing to people who have severe hearing loss. Whereas hearing aids amplify sounds to make them louder, cochlear implants directly stimulate the auditory nerve (which carries sound from the cochlea to the brain). Cochlear implants have several different parts, some of which are external (i.e. worn on the body) and some are internal (in and behind the ear). The internal part is a receiver with a magnet that is fitted behind the ear under the skin, and electrodes placed directly in the cochlea. The external unit is a microphone and sound receiver which has a transmitter coil. Sound is first picked up by the microphone and processed into electrical signals, that are then passed to the transmitter coil. This sends the signals, via radio wave, through to the implanted receiver, which sends them down the wire to the electrodes in the cochlea. When they receive the signal a small electrical current stimulates the auditory nerve, giving the sensation of hearing.
British Sign Language
British Sign Language is the most common form of sign language in the UK and has been recognised as a language in its own right since 2003. Find out how you can learn to sign.
British Sign Language (BSL) is the language of the Deaf community in Great Britain, which has its own set of social beliefs, behaviours, art, history and values. People in the Deaf community describe themselves as ‘Deaf’ with a capital ‘D’ to express their pride in their Deaf identity.
BSL involves a combination of hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements. It has its own grammar and is structured in a completely different way from English. For many Deaf people, to learn English is to learn a second language. In BSL, one sign can often represent what would be an entire sentence in English. On the other hand, some English words do not have a sign equivalent.
For a Deaf patient that uses BSL, going to see a doctor used to mean relying on lipreading and passing pieces of paper back and forth, which is very difficult and is not an accessible form of communication. How could you explain your symptoms accurately and understand the specifics of the treatment the GP is suggesting if you aren’t using the same language?
Fingerspelling is the BSL alphabet. Certain words – usually names of people and places – are spelled out on fingers. Fingerspelling alone isn’t sign language, but it can help you to communicate with someone who is Deaf.
You can quickly learn the fingerspelling alphabet with our free fingerspelling card. Download your free fingerspelling card
The best way to learn BSL is to take a course taught by a qualified BSL tutor who is fluent in the language. Most BSL tutors are deaf and hold a relevant teaching qualification. As BSL is a 3D language, it’s very difficult to learn from a book, website or video alone, though these can be useful resources if you want to practise at home.
BSL courses are held in colleges, universities, schools, deaf clubs and community centres. Some BSL courses offer a very basic introduction to BSL, but most offer qualifications.
Courses that offer qualifications are usually part-time or evening classes that run from September to June. But you might be able to find an intensive course with daytime or weekend classes. You can find out more about courses offering BSL qualifications in your area by visiting the websites of awarding bodies Signature and the Institute of British Sign Language (iBSL).
Find your local Signature centre
RNID and Signature also offer remote training for businesses.
The British-sign.co.uk offer a beginners online course for only £3. Find out more here.
BSL interpreters enable communication between Deaf sign language users and hearing people. If you need to book an interpreter, check they are registered with either the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) or the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI).
You can book a BSL sign language interpreter through RNID. All our interpreters are registered with NRCPD. Book an interpreter through RNID.
Learn to Fingerspell poster: https://signhealth.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/A4-Fingerspelling-poster-generic.pdf
Download some basic signs:
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
A big part of a hearing dog’s job is to alert their deaf recipient to sounds they would otherwise miss. Simple sounds we take for granted like the doorbell, alarm clock and even danger signals like the fire alarm.
Being aware of these – thanks to a hearing dog – makes a real difference in deaf people’s lives. Watch this video to see some of the sounds our hearing dogs alert to.
For more information or to see if you are eligible for a hearing dog then click here.
Radio aids are able to enhance the performance of your hearing aids. It is a common recommendation for children in schools, students at University and for people in the workplace. Hearing aids amplify all sounds and this makes it hard for people in busy environment such as restaurants, classrooms and offices. The radio aid can allow the user to hear in these environments by allowing the user to decide what to amplify.
The radio aid consists of a transmitter and a receiver. Depending on the type of hearing aid, the receiver may be able to be attached to the hearing aids or a neck loop may be required.
Example Radio Aids
One of the most common Radio aids is supplied by Phonak.
The Roger On can be connected to a computer or used in a range of different ways.
More information can be found here: https://www.phonak.com/uk/en/hearing-aids/accessories/roger-on.html A video demonstrating the range of situations that the radio aid can help with can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfe2ZOU8-QI
Hearing loss at home
Health and Safety
If you rely on a hearing aid to hear during the day, you will probably find that you are unable to hear an ordinary smoke alarm when you take them out at night. That’s why it is important to get a smoke alarm designed for people with hearing difficulties. Some options include a pad that sits under your pillow and vibrates when it goes off, with a flashing light to alert you of a fire. Local fire services can attend your home to carryout a home assessment.
How to get a free home fire safety check
Members of your local fire and rescue service can visit your home for what’s known as a Safe and Well visit.
To book a free visit, contact your local fire and rescue service. You can find your local service on the National Fire Chiefs Council website.
Tell the safety team that you’re deaf or have hearing loss, and whether you use hearing aids or a cochlear implant, so they can recommend the most suitable smoke alarm to meet your needs. If you have severe or profound hearing loss, you may be able to get a smoke alarm free of charge from your fire and rescue service or your local authority. The safety team will be able to advise you on this.
The Emergency SMS service enables you to contact any emergency service – police, fire, ambulance and coastguard, from a mobile phone by sending a text message to 999 or 112. To use this service you need to register here: http://ngts.org.uk/esms_index.php
There are many different products and devices that can alert you to sounds and events in your home, from vibrating alarm clocks, flashing doorbells, specialised baby monitors and more.
999 BSL is a service that connects you to British Sign Language Interpreters remotely through an app or a web-based platform, who then will relay the conversation with the call handler and emergency authorities. This service has been set up so that no deaf person will be excluded when they need to make an emergency call, therefore saving lives.
There are two ways to reach the emergency services through 999 BSL:
There are three very simple steps, you will need to:
More information can be found here.
What? – NHS 111 is a service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation (you’re not dying).
How? – They have a BSL service. The BSL interpreter will call an NHS 111 adviser for you and you can communicate direct with the NHS 111 adviser via the interpreter.
You’ll need a webcam, a modern computer, and a good broadband connection to use this service. Visit NHS 111 BSL interpreter service for more details, including an online user guide.
These days there are a lot of alarm clocks available that help those with hearing difficulties to wake up. Some have vibrating pads that can be placed under your pillow or mattress, and others have variable volumes and pitches so people with less severe hearing loss can still hear them. See more:
If you are hard of hearing, you will probably find it difficult to hear a normal doorbell. In this case you can add loud extensions to your doorbell. If that isn’t sufficient you can buy wireless doorbells and chimes that can be positioned around the house so you are more likely to hear them. You can also get doorbells with lights that flash to alert you that someone is at the door. There are also vibrating pagers available for those with severe hearing loss or deafness.
You can add an extension bell or ringer to your existing doorbell to make it louder. You can also add a flashing light to alert you. This may need to be installed by an electrician.
This is a type of doorbell that has a separate unit that will ring, flash or vibrate when someone pushes the doorbell outside. You can place this unit anywhere in your house.
This is a type of doorbell that tells you someone is at the door by sending a notification to your mobile. You control it through an app on your smartphone or tablet.
This combines all your alerts – e.g. your doorbell and home phone – to notify one or more receiver devices. When you get an alert, the portable receiver lets you know by vibrating, flashing a light or a loud sound.
Prices for these devices range from £15 for simple models to £50 – £60 for more advanced types. You may need to pay for more accessories or for products or doorbells that have extra features.
You may be able to get help paying for technology from:
A baby monitor designed for deaf and hard of hearing people is a great way to get peace of mind. If you have severe hearing loss than you can get baby monitors that have a vibrating pad when your baby cries, while many models also have a video function so you can see your baby on the screen wherever you are in the house. See more:
Telephones – landlines
Hearing aid user
Nearly all handsets are now hearing aid compatible (HAC). You can hear the caller’s voice through your hearing aids. These handsets usually have an amplified ringtone.
If you have Oticon hearing aids then they offer adaptors that will allow you to connect your hearing aids to your existing landline if it is not hearing aid compatible.
More information can be found here.
Non-hearing aid user
There are many phones that you can purchase that come with an amplified ring tone and you can also increase the volume so that the caller’s voice is louder.
Unable to use a telephone?
If you are completely deaf or have severe hearing loss, then you may be unable to use a telephone.
If this applies to you then you could download the Relay app.
The service is free to use, you will just pay your normal call charges if you have them.
For instance, if you needed to call your doctor to make an appointment. You would call the number and a Relay assistant will join the call. You type what you would like to say and the Relay assistant will say it to the person on the other end of the phone. The assistant will then type their reply to you. This service can be downloaded onto your computer, tablet or smartphone.
This is another app designed to facilitate phone calls for hard of hearing individuals by captioning the content of the call in real time. Unlike the Relay UK service, the calls are captioned via a computer voice recognition system rather than a live person in the middle which may be preferable to some.
RogerVoice operates over an internet connection so an active Wi-Fi or 3g/4g data service is required on your phone to make & receive phone calls. The service is free to use between users of the app which is great if you can get your family/contacts to install the app on their phones, however, calls to standard phones (ie those not using the app) will require the purchase of a call plan. These advanced plans also give access to a “Roger Number” which can be given out in place of your normal number to ensure that all calls go through the RogerVoice app.
Captioning is becoming a more accessible form of support for those with hearing loss. AI technology is now able to convert the spoken word into text displayed to the person with hearing loss.
This is becoming more prominent in technology and is now available on applications such as: Microsoft Teams and Zoom. However, the accuracy of the technology is still unreliable due to strong accents.
While primarily intended for meeting transcription or note taking, Otter Voice will also work very well as a personal speech to text app. While an account is required to use the app, the basic plan comes with 600 minutes free per month. Each individual chat session is limited to 40 minutes of transcription but one can simply start a new recording session as one reaches the limit. By default, the recording interface is not ideal for reading as someone is speaking to you as the text size is quite small. However in the top right corner of the display is an icon with two diagonal expanding arrows – tapping this will put the app into a dedicated text display mode wherein the size of the text can be increased or decreased as desired. One should be aware that the conversations are saved in the app both as a transcription as well as a sound recording, so it may be worth remembering to delete those afterwards as needed.
This is a speech-to-text app with some sophisticated features beyond what most other apps provide, in particular the group conversation ability. In this mode, all those involved in a conversation can add Ava to their own phones, join the Ava conversation group and speak. The text of what they say will show up on the screens of everyone involved along with their name. Ava also works in simple single display mode too much like the apps mentioned earlier. Ava does require payment for the use of the service past a certain number of minutes used each month although only the person “hosting” the conversation needs to pay – the others can join free of charge.
A speech to text accessibility app from Google, produced in collaboration with Gallaudet University. The app is provided free of charge and boasts impressive recognition abilities with a customisable user interface giving the option to set the displayed text size and background colour. The ability to use external wireless microphones such as those found on Bluetooth headsets is also provided in the app settings once the device is paired up; this would allow the speaker to sit at a distance from you while you read the display on your phone. The service requires an active internet connection in order to function.
Please note: This app is only available for Android devices; you can find out more at https://www.android.com/accessibility/live-transcribe/
The apps in this section are geared towards using your phone for sound amplification and clarity. They are not replacements for hearing aids and are designed to be used with earphones or headphones. Could be handy in a pinch if you run out of batteries in your hearing aids!
Easy to use interface and provides a pleasant amplification and clarity.
This is not an app that can be installed on your phone or tablet, but rather is a website that one can visit in Google Chrome web browser and immediately start using without any need for installation or set up. We have found accuracy to be very good provided that the speaker talks clearly and at a reasonable pace.
The downside to the service is that it will not currently work in mobile or tablet browsers and must be used with the desktop version of Google Chrome. However, the service does not require powerful computer hardware to function and any cheap/small laptop or Chromebook will work great. We have also had success with inexpensive Windows tablets with Google Chrome too.
Use of the website & service is completely free and is useable in a number of scenarios beyond one-on-one conversation – visit the website for more information.
A paid for software that can provide live captioning. Boasts a higher degree of accuracy.
If you are eligible for the DSA or Access to Work. You may be able to get funding for Caption.Ed.
There are different types of communication professionals, including:
If you need communication support, employers and public service providers should arrange it for you. This can be for situations such as:
If you are deafblind (have both sight loss and hearing loss), you can also get communication support to help you with your daily routine.
By law, your employer must pay for communication support you need to work.
The government’s Access to Work scheme can help your employer to cover the cost of any communication support and specialist equipment that you need to do your job.
You can also apply to the Access to Work scheme if you need communication support while looking for work, for example, at a job interview.
When using public services
Public service providers have a responsibility to pay for communication support if you need it.
Find out more about your rights when using public services.
Schools or colleges are responsible for communication support until you finish further education.
But if you’re in higher education (post-18 learning), you’ll need to apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) to help cover the cost of any communication support you need.
Find out more about Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs).
Working with Hearing Loss
If you’re deaf or have hearing loss, your employer has a duty to make adjustments so you’re not put at a disadvantage.
You could also be eligible for an Access to Work grant to help pay for practical support and specialist equipment.
Visualise Training and Consultancy can conduct a hearing loss workplace assessment to identify your needs.
Reasonable adjustments could include:
Hearing Loss Therapy
If you’re struggling because of your hearing loss, hearing aids, tinnitus, hyperacusis or balance problems, your audiologist may discuss referring you to a hearing therapist.
Hearing therapists can support you with:
Some hearing therapists can also offer support with balance rehabilitation and exercises to help. Others can help you with tinnitus, including providing advice on therapies, useful products and counselling.
How to see a hearing therapist
Your GP, audiologist or ear, nose and threat (ENT) doctor will usually refer you to hearing therapy if they feel it would be beneficial for you, or if you’d like to be referred for additional support with your hearing loss, tinnitus and balance problems.
Hearing therapy in audiology services
Not every audiology service has a hearing therapist, so you may have to travel. In some areas, hearing therapy is offered by an audiologist. Tinnitus and balance rehabilitation can also be provided by audiologists who have a special interest and training in these areas.
SignHealth Crisis Text Service
If you are deaf and experiencing a crisis, text DEAF to 85258 for free and immediate support.
Contact our therapy team
Text 07966 976747
Call 014 9468 7606
SignHealth Psychological Therapy Service
Therapy is for if you are feeling low, anxious or worried. Maybe you are having trouble sleeping, or you can’t concentrate, or are unable to enjoy activities that you used to love. GPs often prescribe therapy for these feelings and symptoms because therapy is the most effective treatment.
There are different types of psychological therapies and we can discuss together which one suits you best with your specific needs and situation in mind.
SignHealth’s Psychological Therapy service was previously known as ‘BSL Healthy Minds’.
This is a free service.
All our therapists are either Deaf or hearing and fluent in British Sign Language (BSL) and some can also support deaf people who do not sign.
You can refer yourself: https://gateway.mayden.co.uk/referral-v2/fc684e57-b052-4fec-99ac-5c46ce74a33a
Your GP can refer you: https://gateway.mayden.co.uk/referral-v2/50e63843-e7f5-4d70-9fe5-52453b9cb16b
Hearing Link Services organise LinkUps, free support groups that have been designed by people with lived experience of hearing loss, for others with hearing loss and their families and friends.
To find out more about the type of LinkUps we offer, please take a look at our LinkUp Groups and LinkUp Online pages.
To add your name to the waiting list please complete our short form and we will be in touch soon. If you would like to know more before starting the application process, please contact our Helpdesk or email email@example.com
Connecting your hearing aids to your phone
If your hearing devices aren’t listed in Settings > Accessibility > Hearing Devices, you need to pair them with iPhone.
Pairing can take as long as 60 seconds—don’t try to stream audio or otherwise use the hearing devices until pairing is finished. When pairing is finished, you hear a series of beeps and a tone, and a checkmark appears next to the hearing devices in the Devices list.
You need to pair your devices only once (and your audiologist might do it for you). After that, your hearing devices automatically reconnect to iPhone whenever they turn on.
Connect hearing aids to your device
This option is available on devices using Android 10.0 or later.
You can pair hearing aids with your Android device.
If you have Oticon hearing aids, you can download the Oticon app to control your hearing aids.
The Oticon ON app provides discreet remote control of your hearing aids, letting you adjust volume, change listening programs, or even help you find your hearing aids if you lose them.
Connecting your hearing aids to the computer
Some Phonak hearing aids can connect to a computer using Bluetooth connections. However, this connection will only work with FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype. It cannot be used to listen to videos, music or other streaming multimedia.
Using a USB Adaptor, as well as helping you in busy situations such as meetings, restaurants and offices, the radio aid can connect to your computer and send the audio from the computer directly into your hearing aids.
If you are an office worker that uses a computer to make telephone calls, then you can wear a headset around your neck so that the caller can hear you through the headset microphone. Then their voice is transmitted into your hearing aids. Removing the need to wear a headset which can cause pain and discomfort for hearing aid wearers.
Visit the Connevans website for more insight into radio aids.
If you have Oticon hearing aids then you can use the ConnectClip. You can use the Oticon ConnectClip to turn your hearing aids into wireless headphones and stream sound from your computer or tablet into your ears With ConnectClip, your hearing aids become high-quality, stereo earphones and ConnectClip becomes your microphone.
If your computer or tablet does not have Bluetooth technology, you can use a USB dongle to connect your computer to ConnectClip
Tinnitus is the term for the sensation of hearing a sound in the absence of any external sound. Symptoms of tinnitus are you may hear different types of sound, for example, ringing, whooshing or humming or buzzing in the ear. These can be continuous or they can come and go. The tinnitus might seem like it’s in one ear or both, in the middle of the head or even be difficult to pinpoint. Some people may think the noise is coming from outside and hunt for it until they discover it’s actually inside them!
Tinnitus is very common and is reported in all age groups, even young children. About 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives but the number of people who live with persistent tinnitus is approximately 13% (over 1 in 8). Tinnitus is more common in people who have hearing loss or other ear problems, but it can also be found in people with normal hearing.
The experience of tinnitus is different for different people. Most people find that they are able to continue their normal day-to-day activities. However, a small percentage of people with tinnitus report it as severely affecting them.
Whilst we do not know the exact answer to what causes tinnitus, we know that it is not a disease or an illness. It is generally agreed that tinnitus results from some type of change, either mental or physical, not necessarily related to hearing.
When we hear, sound travels into the ear and then the hearing nerves take the signals to the brain. The brain is then responsible for putting it all together and making sense of the sound. Because the ears don’t know what’s important and what’s not, they send a lot of information to the brain. This is too much information for us to process, so the brain filters out a lot of unnecessary ‘activity’ and background sound, such as clocks ticking or traffic noise.
If there is a change in the system, for example, a hearing loss or ear infection, the amount of information being sent to the brain changes. The brain then responds to this change in levels by trying to get more information from the ear, and the extra information you may get is the sound we call tinnitus. The tinnitus is therefore actually brain activity and not the ear itself! It is generally accepted that it isn’t only a change in the ear that can result in tinnitus, but it could be due to a change in our stress levels, for example, with tinnitus being noticed after periods of significant stress, a change in life circumstances or general wellbeing.
People often say that they are aware of noises in the ears when they have a cold, an ear infection or wax blocking the ear. Sometimes people become aware of tinnitus following a really stressful event and once they’re aware of it, seem to notice it more and more, but this usually fades once these things have passed. However, some people continue to notice the tinnitus, for example after an infection has cleared up.
Visiting your GP
Most people who experience tinnitus initially consult their GP.
Prior to visiting your GP, it may be useful to write down your worries, fears and concerns and any questions that you may have.
The majority of GPs will take a history, examine the ears with an otoscope (a magnified light source), remove wax, treat any underlying infections, and provide advice and reassurance. Some may perform other investigations such as a blood pressure check. Some will refer on to support groups and give information leaflets or suggest that you contact the British Tinnitus Association. A few may prescribe medication.
If your tinnitus is distressing, unilateral (in one ear only), pulsatile (in time with your heartbeat or other rhythms) or if you have other symptoms such as hearing loss, it is usual to be referred to a tinnitus clinic within a hospital ENT or Audiology Department. Some hospital departments or private tinnitus clinics may accept self-referrals.
In the absence of a cure, many people with tinnitus are told that there is no treatment available and they should “learn to live with it.” The BTA believes this is not acceptable or true. Don’t be afraid to ask your GP for a referral if none is forthcoming or if you have more questions about your tinnitus.
The British Tinnitus Association provides the following information on things that can help with Tinnitus:
Things that can help
Talking to someone
People around you may not understand what tinnitus is and how it might affect you, so might not be able to give you the type of support you need. It can be really helpful to talk to someone who has experience of tinnitus.
Meeting people who have been through the same things you are going through right now can be very helpful. There are Tinnitus Support Groups around the country. Not only can you pick up tips from others, but you can gain (and give) support simply by sharing your story with people who understand because they’ve been there themselves.
The BTA offers a confidential tinnitus helpline. You can call us for support, and we may also be able to point you in the right direction for local support groups.
It is quite common to feel anxious and afraid when you first experience tinnitus. By relaxing more, you may be able to feel less stressed and so notice your tinnitus less. Learning to relax is probably one of the most useful things you can do to help yourself.
A really easy way to relax is to find somewhere peaceful and just slow your breathing down (feel free to have some sound on in the background). You can take a few slow deep breaths and pay full attention to the feeling of the breath entering your body, filling your lungs and leaving your body. When we use deep breathing to relax, we feel calmer and more able to manage the tinnitus, and often don’t notice it as much!
Using a hearing aid
Loss of hearing is often an unnoticeable and gradual process, and many people are surprised when they are told that they have a hearing loss. If you have hearing loss, using hearing aids can be helpful for tinnitus because they are restoring what you can’t otherwise hear.
Some hearing aids can offer therapy sounds personalised to your individual needs and preferences. Hearing aid brands such as: Oticon, Bernafon and Starkey.
Tinnitus is usually more noticeable in a quiet environment. It’s a bit like candles on a birthday cake – in the lights, the candles aren’t very bright but if you turn the lights off, the candles seem much brighter. With tinnitus, when there is other sound, it doesn’t seem that loud, but when you turn all the other sound off, the tinnitus seems much more noticeable.
A lot of people have found that using background sound helps them – this can be a radio, music, or using natural sounds. People are really good at figuring out ways of making things better for themselves and you might already be aware that you generally don’t notice the tinnitus as much when there is background noise. By using sound at other times, you’re just using other ways of doing what you already know to be helpful.
Addressing sleep problems
People who live with tinnitus might have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. In order to sleep well, our bodies and our minds need to be relaxed. Worrying about the tinnitus or worrying about how much sleep you’re getting (or missing out on), is unhelpful and will only make it more difficult to sleep.
Most people with tinnitus sleep well and their tinnitus is no different from those who do not sleep well. People who have tinnitus and sleep poorly tend to worry more at night than people with tinnitus who sleep well. Working through problems during waking hours is better than in the middle of the night when you have nothing else to occupy you.
It helps to make use of relaxation techniques to prepare the body for sleep. Once your body and mind are relaxed, sleep will come a bit easier.
Having some soft sound in the bedroom can help some people with tinnitus sleep better. The type of sound you use is up to you – as long as it is pleasant or neutral.
If you are referred to a specialist tinnitus clinic, and your tinnitus is particularly troublesome, you will be introduced to more formal or structured ways of managing tinnitus. Most centres use a combination of approaches. You may come across some terms before, or hear them when you get there, and it helps to have some understanding of what these terms are.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This is one psychological approach that can be useful in managing tinnitus. The idea is that when you became aware of your tinnitus, you responded to it negatively. For example, you may have thought there was something seriously wrong with your hearing (a belief) and this led to you being anxious (an emotion), and you then tried to feel better, for example by avoiding silence (a behaviour). Some beliefs and behaviours are helpful and that’s great – keep doing them! But some beliefs and/or behaviours are unhelpful and CBT helps you to recognise them, and then you work together with the clinician (usually a psychologist, audiologist or hearing therapist) to find different ways of responding to the tinnitus so it becomes less bothersome.
This is the awareness that arises out of paying attention in a particular way. Mindfulness training teaches us to pay attention to our present experience with kindness and compassion.
If we stop resisting and allow the unpleasant sensation, this alters our awareness to include more sensations. We start to notice that sensations become less dominant once our attention moves away from them and focuses on a different part of the body. All of this can change in a moment, simply by changing our awareness.
If we use mindfulness effectively, we can create some space from the tinnitus and in that space, we can decide how we’re going to respond to it. It’s a wonderful way of achieving ‘peace and quiet’.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
This is a very structured approach to managing tinnitus. Basically, TRT assumes that the tinnitus has been prioritised as an important signal.
TRT uses sounds at a particular level to try to reduce the priority of the tinnitus so that you no longer hear it. It is based on the idea that we can get used to sounds, e.g. the sound of the fridge or air conditioner, so we can also get used to this sound of tinnitus. The process of getting used to the tinnitus sound is called habituation.
TRT uses sound generators and counselling to attempt to retrain how the brain processes sound so that you habituate to the tinnitus. Most people working in the tinnitus field will use elements of TRT but the strict method is not frequently used because there is limited evidence for its effectiveness.
Take care of your hearing
Frequent, prolonged exposure to loud noise increases the risk of getting tinnitus, or of making it worse, so take care to avoid very loud sounds, or protect your ears against them. Wear proper ear protectors (not cotton wool) when hammering metal, using power tools or when you are near any noisy motors.
Ear protection is also important if you watch live music or play in a band or orchestra. Ear protection should not be used if ordinary, everyday sounds are uncomfortable (this may be hyperacusis or oversensitivity to sound). If earplugs are worn for blocking out such sounds, it can actually make hyperacusis worse.
The British Tinnitus Association (BTA)
The BTA Tinnitus Support Team can answer your questions on any tinnitus related topics:
Telephone: 0800 018 0527
Text/SMS: 07537 416841
We also offer a free tinnitus e-learning programme, Take on Tinnitus. http://www.takeontinnitus.co.uk/
Tinnitus Sound Relaxers
Tinnitus sound relaxers can help relieve the symptoms of tinnitus through relaxation or distraction. They all offer a range of sounds to create a soothing sound environment. Distracting yourself with these calming sounds helps block out the irritating noises of tinnitus.
Pillow speakers for Sleep or Tinnitus therapy
There are a range of pillow speakers include low profile pillow speakers which can be used with your own favourite pillow as well as including large or very small pillows with the speakers sewn in. All the products are supplied with a 3.5mm plug for use in headphone sockets.
Tinnitus Support Groups
The majority of the support groups are managed by the BTA For a list of online support groups click here: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/online-support-groups
Or to find your local support group click here: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/find-a-support-group
Signal is a charity working with people who are Deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus in the UK and internationally. They offer a Tinnitus support programme.
The RNID can offer support for people in the South-East of the UK: https://rnid.org.uk/information-and-support/local-support-services/get-help-with-tinnitus/
|Relax Melodies||Android, iOS|
|Relax Noise 3||Android|
|Tinnitus Balance App||Android, iOS|
|Tinnitus: The Cure||Android|
|White Noise||Android, iOS|
|ReSound Relief||Android, iOS|
|Beltone Tinnitus Calmer||Android, iOS|
|Tinnitus Therapy||Android, iOS|
|Oticon Tinnitus Sound||Android, iOS|
|Track Your Tinnitus||Android, iOS|
|Hear & Tinnitus||Android, iOS|
Cochlear Implant HELP
Cochlear Implant Help is designed to give information and advice to people with a Cochlear implant, no matter how far they are in the journey, rom people just starting out, to experienced users. The site gives advice and support to all.
One of the leading suppliers of hearing related technology.
Resources for parents with deaf and hard of hearing children.
Information and advice for people wishing to explore hypnotherapy as an option for their tinnitus.
The National Deaf Children’s Society
The Buzz aims to reduce social isolation and improve emotional well-being by giving deaf children and young people the opportunity to meet other young people, share their lives and illustrate what they can achieve. The site, which is split into two age groups (8- to 11-year-olds and 12- to 18-year-olds) offers a safe online space which is moderated to protect those accessing the site. Young people can find out details of events across the UK, inspirational stories about deaf role models and important information and advice on topics such as bullying and sexual health.
Access London Theatre
The Access London Theatre brochure features audio-described, captioned, signed and relaxed performance listings for theatres across London and is available in print, Braille and CD.
Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults (ATLA)
The aim of ATLA is to create a world where lipreading classes are available to anyone who needs them.
Bid Services is a charity working with children and adults with hearing loss, sight loss or both. They provide a range of services including specialist equipment support, employment support and social work. To check which services are available in your area, please visit their website for further information.
Deaf and Equal
Deaf and Equal is particularly aimed at sectors that have a poor reputation for discriminating against Deaf people by either refusing access or refusing to provide information in an accessible format.
DeafblindUK supports people with combined sight and hearing loss to live the lives they want.
Gloucestershire Deaf Association
Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA) delivers specialist services and community activities for D/deaf and hard of hearing adults and children in Gloucestershire.
Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group
Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group holds regular meetings allowing members to meet others facing the same challenges as well as providing events and activities geared towards learning to overcome the difficulties presented by hearing loss.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People train hearing dogs to alert deaf people to select household sounds and danger signals in the home, work place and in public buildings – providing a life-changing level of independence, confidence and security.
Hearing Loss and Deafness Alliance
Hearing Link is an active member of the Alliance on Hearing Loss – a coalition of charities and professional representative groups working together to prevent and reduce the impact of hearing loss and tinnitus. The Alliance promotes the inclusion and participation of people who are deaf and hard of hearing in society. Download the declaration and quality statement for hearing services.
National Association of Deafened People (NADP)
The NADP provides information and support for deafened people who have lost all or most of their useful hearing, and for their families and friends, to help enable them to regain their independence and enjoy the best quality of life. The NADP is run by and for deafened people.
Open Ears is a non-denominational Christian charity for people who have various degrees of impaired hearing, mainly (but not exclusively) those who communicate orally, assisted by hearing aids or cochlear implants and lip-reading.
RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf People) is a charity working to make life fully inclusive for deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus. (Previously known as Action on Hearing Loss).
Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD)
RAD strives to meet the individual needs of Deaf children and adults and deafblind people through the provision of services and the use of RAD Centres for Deaf People.
Sense is a national charity that supports and campaigns for adults and children who are deafblind. Services include: one-to-one support to help people live independently, communicator guides, housing, holidays and employment opportunities.
Soundz Off brings together, in one place, a list of organisations, support services, forums, social media links, general information and lots more for people in the UK who are hard of hearing or d/Deaf.
Stagetext makes theatre and culture accessible to deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people.
UK Council on Deafness
UKCoD is the umbrella body for voluntary organisations working with deaf people in the UK.
UK Hearing Conservation Association
UKHCA is raising awareness to the dangers of damaging noise, primarily in the workplace, and offers ways for the individual as well as the employer to safeguard themselves. The membership of the organisation includes hearing aid manufacturers, PPE providers, HSE organisations and audiologists.
Your local cinema subtitles
Subtitled film listings for all four countries of the UK.
If you’re employed, our workplace assessment service can really help you to retain and develop your career. Find out more at https://visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/workplace-assessments/hearing-loss