Deafness research


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Deafness research

  1. 1. People who aredeafor hard of hearingFacts, figures and waysof communicating
  2. 2. People who are deaf or hard of hearingWe’re RNID, the charityworking to create a worldwhere deafness orhearing loss do not limitor determine opportunity,and where people valuetheir
  3. 3. People who are deaf or hard of hearingThis leaflet tells you about people who are deafor hard of hearing in the UK today.There could be lots of reasons why you want to know more aboutpeople who are deaf or hard of hearing. Maybe a colleague isdeaf. A member of your family, your friend or partner may be hardof hearing. Perhaps you teach students who are deaf. You mayhave clients or customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.Whatever your reason, this leaflet gives a brief introduction todeaf and hard of hearing issues. You should read it if you wantto know about:• how deafness is described and facts and figures• what causes deafness• hearing aids• communicating with people who are deaf or hard of hearing• equipment for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.You can find details of other information you can get from us.Contact the RNID Information Line (see back page) to findout more. 3
  4. 4. People who are deaf or hard of hearingHow do we describe deafness?Being deaf or hard of hearing can mean very different things todifferent people. Some people will feel more comfortable withparticular words to describe their own deafness. They mightfeel strongly about terms they don’t like. At RNID, we use thefollowing terms:• People who are deaf. We use this term in a general way when we are talking about people with all degrees of hearing loss.• People who are hard of hearing. We use this term to describe people with a mild to severe hearing loss. We quite often use it to describe people who have lost their hearing gradually.• People who are deafened. People who were born hearing and became severely or profoundly deaf after learning to speak are often described as deafened.4
  5. 5. People who are deaf or hard of hearing• People who are deafblind. Many people who are deafblind have some hearing and vision. Others will be totally deaf and totally blind.• The deaf community. Many people who are deaf whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language (BSL) consider themselves part of the deaf community. They may describe themselves as ‘Deaf’, with a capital D, to emphasise their cultural identity.Some facts and figuresDeafness and hearing loss may be more common than youthought. For example:• There are an estimated 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing. This figure is rising as the number of people over 60 increases.• In the UK, there are about 20,000 children aged 0-5 years who are moderately to profoundly deaf. Many more have temporary hearing problems in early childhood.• There are an estimated 123,000 people in the UK aged 16 and over who are deafened.• There are about 23,000 people in the UK who are deafblind.• It is difficult to say how many people in the UK use BSL as their first or preferred language – current estimates vary between 50,000 and 70,000.• Most of the 9 million people in the UK who are deaf or hard of hearing developed a hearing loss as they grew older. About 2% of young adults are deaf or hard of hearing. Around the age of 50, the proportion of people who are deaf begins to increase sharply and 55% of people over 60 are deaf or hard of hearing.For more information, see our factsheet Facts and figures ondeafness and tinnitus. 5
  6. 6. People who are deaf or hard of hearingWhat causes deafness?There are many reasons why some people are born deaf or hardof hearing – or lose their hearing later. Sometimes people may losetheir hearing temporarily and it comes back when they receivemedical treatment. For others, deafness and hearing loss arepermanent.Causes of permanent deafness and hearing loss include:• Presbycusis – also known as age-related hearing loss. It is the most common type of deafness and affects many older people• certain diseases such as mumps or meningitis• certain drugs, in particular aspirin in high doses, or antibiotics called aminoglycosides• frequent exposure to loud noise• serious head injury• if a mother has rubella (German measles) while she is pregnant, her baby may be born deaf• if a baby is born prematurely or the mother has a difficult labour• medical conditions such as Ménière’s disease• repeated infections in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) – particularly if they continue for a long time and are not treated.Are there different types of deafness?Yes – there are two main types of deafness:• Conductive deafness – where sound has difficulty passing through the outer or middle ear.• Sensorineural deafness – where the cause of deafness is in the cochlea or hearing nerve.6
  7. 7. People who are deaf or hard of hearingSome people may have the same type and degree of hearing lossin each ear, or it may be different in each ear.A hearing test will identify what type of deafness a person has.For more information, see our leaflet Is your hearing going?Hearing aidsAbout two million people in the UK have hearing aids, but at leastfive million others would benefit from them.Hearing aids make sounds louder and clearer so that users areable to hear them. They are battery-operated and are usually wornin or behind the ear. In the UK, you can get hearing aids free ofcharge on the NHS. Some people choose to buy them privately.For more information, see our leaflet Getting hearing aids. 7
  8. 8. People who are deaf or hard of hearingWhat are the different ways that deaf peoplecommunicate?People who are deaf or hard of hearing choose to communicate indifferent ways, depending on their level of deafness.• Some people with a mild hearing loss might use hearing aids or find lipreading helpful.• People with a moderate hearing loss will have difficulty hearing what is said without hearing aids, particularly somewhere noisy.• People who are severely deaf may have difficulty following what is being said even with hearing aids. Many lipread and some use sign language or need other communication support.• Some, but not all, people who are profoundly deaf may find that hearing aids are of little benefit to them. British Sign Language (BSL) may be their first or preferred language.For more information, see our leaflet Communication supportservices.LipreadingEveryone lipreads to some extent, especially in noisy situations.When you speak to someone, their facial movements will give youinformation to help you understand the meaning of what they aresaying. Many people who are hard of hearing use lipreading too.If you are talking to someone who relies on lipreading, rememberthat it requires a lot of skill and concentration and can sometimesbe tiring. Many words look similar on the lips. Some sounds arepronounced at the back of the throat and have no visible lip shape.Go to to finda local class or contact our Information Line (see back page).If there is no class in your area, ask your local adult educationcentre or college to provide one.For more information, see our leaflet Watch this face.8
  9. 9. People who are deaf or hard of hearingSign languageBritish Sign Language (BSL) is the most widely used methodof signed communication in the UK. Some people use SignSupported English (SSE). SSE is not a language in its own right,but a kind of English with signs.BSL develops naturally, as do spoken languages. It uses a rangeof communicative methods – hand shapes and movements, facialexpressions, and shoulder movements. BSL is structured differentlyto English and, like any language, has its own grammar.For more information, see our leaflet Sign language or contact theRNID Information Line (see back page).FingerspellingPeople who use BSL also use fingerspelling. Certain words, usuallynames of people and places, are spelled out on fingers. Forexample, each finger represents one of the five vowels: a,e,i,o andu. Fingerspelling alone is not sign language but it can be veryuseful when communicating with BSL users who are deaf.Contact the RNID Information Line for one of our fingerspellingcards (see back page). 9
  10. 10. People who are deaf or hard of hearingWhat equipment is available for people who aredeaf or hard of hearing?A range of equipment is available for use in the home, car,workplace and when socialising. It includes:• equipment to alert someone to different sounds, such as an alarm clock, doorbell or smoke alarm• equipment to help someone use the telephone better• listening equipment – to help someone have a conversation, watch television or hear music.For more information, see our leaflet Products to make life easier.10
  11. 11. People who are deaf or hard of hearingWhere can I get further information?You might find some of our other factsheets or leaflets useful:• Is your hearing going? (leaflet) What to do about it – and how we can help.• Getting hearing aids (leaflet) What to expect at a hearing test and how hearing aids work.• Communication tips card A double-sided card with tips on one side if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, and tips on the other side if you’re hearing and speaking to someone who’s deaf.• Watch this face (leaflet) How lipreading can help if you are deaf or hard of hearing.• Sign language (leaflet) What British sign language is, and how to learn it.• Fingerspelling alphabet (bookmark, card or poster)• Products to make life easier (leaflet) Equipment to make life easier if you are deaf or hard of hearing.• Solutions Our catalogue of products for people who are deaf or hard of hearing or who want to protect their hearing.• Communication support services (leaflet) Information on the range of communication support services available for people who are deaf.• Facts and figures on deafness and tinnitus (factsheet)Please contact the Information Line (seeback page) for free copies of these. Andlet us know if you would like any of them– or this leaflet – in Braille, large print oraudio format. 11
  12. 12. We’re RNID, the charityworking to create a worldwhere deafness or hearingloss do not limit or determineopportunity, and wherepeople value their hearing.There are a number of waysto support us. To find out more:Go lineTelephone 0808 808 0123Textphone 0808 808 9000SMS 0780 0000 360(costs vary depending on your network)Or write to Featherstone StreetLondon EC1Y 8SLFax 020 7296 81993486/0509 Photography Stuart Freedman, Philip MeechThe Royal National Institute for Deaf People. Registered office 19-23 FeatherstoneStreet, London EC1Y 8SL. A company limited by guarantee registered in England andWales number 454169. Registered charity numbers 207720 (England and Wales) andSC038926 (Scotland).