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Hearing loss

Over the last year during lockdown periods, some of you may have experienced quieter times when outdoors, and may have become more aware of environmental sounds such as birds singing. You may have listened to more music or podcasts. You’ve no doubt chatted on Zoom and been acutely aware that you cannot hear people when you’ve needed to say ‘you’re on mute!’

One of the biggest changes in the last year has been the requirement for us to wear face coverings. With 1 in 7 people experiencing a degree of hearing loss in the UK, for those people, communication through masks and face coverings can be extremely challenging.

'Acquired deafness' is when people lose their hearing during their life, rather than being born with hearing loss or deafness. 

Imagine how you would feel if one day everyone appeared to be ‘on mute’- how would you want people to support you? Hopefully they would slow down; make sure you had access to a clear lip pattern; use gestures; give you something to pre-read to support you; give you time to ask questions; and not speak with their mouth full! Even the best lip-readers still miss up to 40% of what has been said. 

In children, there are lots of common reasons for developing a hearing loss. Lots of children experience a period of ‘glue ear’ perhaps related to colds and general congestion that can sort itself out, but sometimes needs some management to help it resolve more quickly. Very rarely some children or young people may experience normal hearing in the early years but go on to gradually lose some hearing (this is sometimes linked to a pattern in the family). On some occasions hearing is impacted by a serious illness such as Measles or Meningitis (or by the essential treatments required).

There are many deaf role models out there for deaf children and young people to get to know about. Some are their everyday heroes- other students, teachers, sports people. But they are also superheroes! Hawkeye and Echo in the Marvel Avengers have a hearing loss.

Hearing loss is defined as a hidden disability. So whatever you and your family’s experience of hearing loss might be, be aware that Hawkeye might need to lip read you, just as your shop assistant, nursery worker or Covid vaccinator might. Be aware of heroes wearing hearing aids and/or using Sign Language to communicate.

There is a great deal of information about all types of hearing loss at the National Deaf Children's Association and there are lots of ways to help children and everyone affected by a hearing loss. The RNID has lots of useful resources as does the British Deaf Association

If you have persistent concerns about your child’s hearing, speak to your Health Visitor or GP. They may then refer you to Audiology and/or an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist. Visit our Hearing and Balance page for more information on our service.

About the author

Louise Dix is an Advanced Speech and Language Therapist