Living with Hearing Loss – our volunteer, John, tells his story

I have suffered from some hearing loss since childhood. I inherited it from my father, who himself inherited it from his mother. I remember her as profoundly deaf and using an ear trumpet; my father, interestingly, became an ENT surgeon and was very involved with local services for the deaf. As a boy I had a perforated eardrum in the right ear, which further contributed to my loss of hearing.

Since arriving in Brighton eight years ago my hearing has deteriorated further. I find most conversations with another person possible, particularly if I turn my better ear to the speaker. I find meetings very difficult to manage and am mostly unable to follow what is being said, let alone to contribute. Public places, such as restaurants and social occasions are particularly difficult, as sound reverberates throughout the space and is unintelligible.

I decided to seek help and was referred to the audiology department at the County Hospital. I found the hospital staff very helpful. I was prescribed with an aid which fitted over the back of the ear with an ear mould inserted in the ear. It had a setting for tapping into the loop systems, which are fitted in many public buildings. I found the aid improved my hearing, though it was rather fiddly to operate. Another significant help was on our telephone, where I was able to press a key on the hand-set for amplification.

NHS hearing aids are limited to what the service can afford. Commercial firms have seen that there is a market for more expensive aids, which is shown by the prominence and frequency of advertisements for them. I was recommended by a friend for a particular commercial version and bought a model, which fitted in the ear and gave improved hearing. It was expensive, though, over £3,000, but that included annual review and fixing any problems I experienced. It came with a hand-set, which was supposed to connect with loop systems; I found that it did not work properly and abandoned it. I had a further recommendation for another private model, which was again expensive and did not prove satisfactory; I returned it for a refund after two months.

The following are some suggestions I would make to help those with hearing loss:

  1. For restaurants and pubs to provide small secluded spaces, in which people with hearing loss can hear better (I think that it would be worth doing for them, because of the surprisingly large percentage of the population with some hearing loss).
  2. For more public places to have a loop system and to have it clearly indicated with instruction on how to access it.
  3. For the NHS to provide a leaflet, if one does not exist, with information on the various forms of help which those with hearing loss can access.

Local support for people living with hearing loss is available from the following:

Brighton and Hove City Council – they can provide specialist information, support, advice, equipment and adaptations if you’re eligible. To find out if you are eligible you will first need an assessment. Following an assessment, you may be eligible for equipment that has been specially designed for partially or completely deaf people, for example:

  •  flashing doorbells
  •  headphones to hear the television
  •  vibrating smoke alerts
  •  telephone adaptations.

Action on hearing loss – experts in helping people with hearing loss, their friends and families.

Audiology services at the Royal Sussex County Hospital (Sussex House, Abbey Road). Contact or phone 0300 303 8360 and press option 1 for audiology and hearing aids.