It is estimated that around 466 million people around the globe are living with some degree of hearing impairment. That’s around 5% of the world’s population, and these statistics suggest that you are close to somebody living with the condition – whether it’s a friend, a family member or a work colleague.
Even if hearing loss has not yet touched your life, it’s a safe assumption that it will do so sooner or later; it’s estimated that this statistic will increase over the next fifteen to twenty years. Thankfully, help is at hand. A number of charitable bodies on both sides of the Atlantic and are doing fantastic work to assist those living with deafness to enjoy a quality of life unencumbered by disability.
Hearing Impairment in Children
34 million children throughout the world are believed to be living with hearing impairment. Half of these children will have been born deaf, with the other half losing their hearing from an accident or an illness such as Rubella.
Naturally, this can impact directly on children’s ability to learn; speaking and listening are at the cornerstone of early education. If you are concerned about the hearing of a child, there are a number of sources that can provide guidance and support.
- Hear-It offer some audio tests that will offer an insight into how it feels to live with hearing loss for a child, as well as plenty of advice, as do the American Academy of Otolaryngology. If you are unsure as to when it best to book in a child for a hearing test, the CDC has a vast array of advice and suggestions. You may be able to arrange a test to be conducted online or over the phone, but nothing will ever compare to the attentions of a qualified pediatrician.
- Registered UK charity Cochlear reveal the warning signs of deafness in children and the impact it will have, in addition to offering advice on the next steps that should be taken.
- Scope offers plenty of advice on how to help a deaf child to reach their full potential.
- The National Deaf Children’s Society also has a wealth of information, including tips for schools to assist deaf children, in addition to acting as a pivotal support source. Whilst this society are based in the UK, there is a US-based counterpart in the form of the American Society for Deaf Children, which again offers a vast range of advice of actions that can be undertaken.
Hearing Impairment in the Elderly
Naturally it’s not just the young that struggle with hearing impairment – deafness is often associated with the elderly population as our senses begin to fade as we grow older.
The UK and USA both have a number of charitable bodies and organizations dedicated to assisting the elderly with hearing loss. With almost half of all adults over the age of 50 experiencing some degree of hearing loss, these resources deserve our support.
- The Hearing Loss Association of America provide a state-by-state breakdown of who any older American living with hearing loss can approach for advice and assistance.
- Action on Hearing Loss, formerly known as the Royal Institute for the Deaf, offer advice to employees and visitors to residential care homes.
- Age UK, the Royal Voluntary Serviceand the National Institute on Aging offer insights into the warning signs of hearing loss, and what action should be taken in such an event.
- The NHS can offer insight into how to get a hearing aid should this assistance be required.
While the use of subtitles and closed captions are becoming increasingly prevalent to assist anybody living with a hearing impairment and viewing a screen, sign language remains a hugely popular method of communication among the deaf community.
Sign language was acknowledged as an official language in the UK as of 2013, and American Sign Language is accepted as a foreign language credit by many major American educational establishments. There are a number of resources online for anybody looking to learn more about this critical form of interaction.
- The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association provides huge amounts of insight into how those on the other side of the pond living with an audible disability can communicate.
- The British Sign Language Dictionaryis a must-bookmark for anybody in regular contact with a member of the deaf community in the UK. If you interact with deaf friends, family and colleagues in the USA, consult the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ insights into American Sign Language.
- It may also be advisable for anybody that regularly interacts with the deaf to master the fingerspelling alphabet.
- Signature is a body that offers support to hearing impaired and their loved ones, including qualifications in sign language.
- The Institute of British Sign Language is an invaluable source of information for those based in British English-speaking nations.
- Deafsign is a further one-stop location for all matters relating to sign language and communication with the hearing impaired.
Employment Support for the Hearing Impaired
The rights if any employee to be treated fairly and without discrimination by protected by the Equality Act of 2010 in the UK and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the USA, ensuring that hearing impairment should not prevent anybody struggling with full or partial deafness to find and retain a job.
In addition to this legal legislature, there are also a number of resources that offer support to employees that struggle with their hearing.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau have plenty of tips on how British citizens find work as a hearing impaired person, and what rights you will be entitled to once you have done so. These laws vary from state-to-state in the USA, but the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, will be able to offer some insight into nationwide legal practices for employers.
- Clarion UK is a British charity dedicated to assisting the deaf in the workplace, offering advice and support to both employees and employers.
- Deaf Unity is a charity that specializes in support for the deaf, including employment rights. They even have their own job search portal for anybody seeking work within the UK.
- Even Break (UK) and Deaf Employment & Business Solutions (USA) work tirelessly with employers and employees with a variety of disabilities, including deafness, to ensure that hearing impairment is no impediment to finding work.
It’s no secret that those living with visual impairment can enjoy the company and assistance of a guide dog, but are you aware that the deaf can also seek the help of a hearing dog?
Canines have a sense of hearing up to twice as strong as an adult, making hearing dogs hugely beneficial to anybody struggling with deafness or any other form of hearing impairment.
- Canines for Disabled Kids is a Massachusetts-based charity that specialises in pairing trained assistance dogs with young people that need their help – including those that live with hearing loss
- Hearing Dogs for Deaf People have been training support animals to act as assistance animals for the hearing impaired for over 35 years – even if you do not require their services, you can always sponsor a puppy to help somebody who does.
Charities Offering Home Support the Hearing Impaired
Whilst it is still possible to enjoy a high quality of life while living with hearing impairment, there will still be an adjustment required if deafness is caused suddenly by an illness, or if the individual lives alone.
- Deaf, Inc. offer help and support to the hearing impaired all over America, and part of their many and varied services are to promote independent living for those that have experienced hearing loss.
- Community Support Services for the Deaf, Inc. is an aptly-named organization in the States that does everything they can to make life easier for the hearing impaired citizens of the USA.
- Helping Hands is a nursing and care company that offers live-in or visiting support from a team of empathetic, trained nurses that will be able to assist ant deaf person from the comfort of their own home.
- Supported living and housing is a service offered by Action on Hearing Loss.
In addition to the many and varied services listed above, both the UK and USA have a number of charities that specialize in assisting the deaf and hearing impaired. These include:
- The British Deaf Association and their American equivalents the National Association of the Deaf and the Hearing Loss Association of America; all of whom offer help and information on all matters connected to hearing impairment.
- CODA which stands Children of Deaf Adults, offers help to young people without hearing impairment being raised by deaf parents or guardians.
- Signhealth campaign tirelessly for the rights of the deaf, often working alongside the NHS in the UK.
- Deafblind work with people of all ages that suffer visual impairment in addition to hearing loss.
A number of different locations and websites have been sourced throughout this article. Please see below for a list that provides ease of reference.
Action on Hearing Loss – actiononhearingloss.org.uk
Age UK – ageuk.org.uk
American Academy of Otolaryngology – www.entnet.org
American Society of Deaf Children – www.deafchildren.org
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association – www.asha.org
British Deaf Association – bda.org.uk
British Sign – british-sign.co.uk
Canines for Disabled Kids – www.caninesforkids.org
Center for Disease Control – www.cdc.gov
Clarion UK – clarion-uk.com
Cochlear – cochlear.com
CODA – codaukireland.co.uk
Community Support Services for the Deaf, Inc. – www.cssdinc.org
Deaf Employment and Business Services – www.debsllc.org
Deafblind UK – deafblind.org.uk
Deafsign – deafsign.com
Deaf, Inc. – www.deafinconline.org
Deaf Unity – deafunity.org
Even Break – evenbreak.co.uk
Hear-It – hear-it.org
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People – hearingdogs.org.uk
Helping Hands – helpinghandshomecare.co.uk
Hearing Loss Association of America – www.hearingloss.org
Institute of British Sign Language – ibsl.org.uk
National Association of the Deaf – www.nad.org
National Deaf Children’s Society – ndcs.org.uk
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders – www.nidcd.nih.gov
NHS – nhs.uk
Scope – scope.org.uk
Signature – signature.org.uk
Signhealth – signhealth.org.uk