If you've recently noticed problems with your hearing, the first step is to talk to your GP and explain how these problems are affecting your life.
Your GP can carry out some basic tests and may refer you to an audiology clinic and/or ear nose and throat (ENT) department for a full assessment of your hearing. The staff will offer valuable advice and practical suggestions about dealing with hearing loss and how you may be helped by hearing aids and other devices.
Tell your friends and family about your hearing problems too. Don't apologise (it's not your fault); just let them know how they can help you to understand them more easily.
Your local social services department should have a social worker for deaf people – contact them for help and support.
Don't suffer in silence; there are lots of practical ways to deal with a hearing loss. Call the free Action on Hearing Loss information line on 0808 808 0123 for advice, information and details about sources of local support.
Communicating if you have a hearing problem:
- Tell people that you have problems hearing, ask them to speak clearly and slowly and to make sure they have your attention before they start speaking.
- Move closer and make sure you can see people clearly - watching their facial expressions can really help understanding.
- Try to stay calm - getting anxious or flustered can make things worse.
- Don't feel bad about asking people to repeat what they've said.
- Consider learning to lipread – most of us lipread naturally to some extent, anyway. More information is available on the Action on Hearing Loss website.
Communicating with someone who has a hearing problem:
- Only start talking when you are sure you have the person's attention.
- If possible, reduce any background noise or other distractions.
- Face the light so your face is not in shadow.
- Speak clearly and naturally without raising your voice or over-emphasising words. Use natural lip movements and facial expressions.
- Keep your hands away from your face and stay visible whilst talking.
- Repeat or better still rephrase things if the person is finding it hard to understand what you are saying.
- Be patient and take your time to communicate properly.