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Main causes of hearing impairment


Most of us will experience some degree of hearing loss as we get older. There is no cure for age-related hearing loss, but modern hearing aids can help you to communicate more easily and lead a full life including access to communications.

Noise exposure

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise – for example, in noisy workplaces, or while listening to loud music. It's the second-most common form of the condition after age. You might not notice the effects of noise-induced hearing loss until years after you were first exposed to loud noise. Long exposure to sounds over 80dB can damage your ears. In practical terms, this means that if you can’t talk to people about two metres away without shouting because of background noise, the noise levels could be hazardous.


Ear infections, torn ear drums, measles and meningitis can often cause hearing problems.


One in 1,600 of us are born moderately to profoundly deaf because they inherit a mutated gene.

Recognising hearing impairment

  • Other people seem to mumble.
  • People often have to repeat things for you.
  • You have difficulty understanding what is being said in noisy places.
  • It is hard to keep up with group conversation and you get tired because you have to concentrate so much.
  • Other people think your television or music is too loud.

If you're wondering what it’s like to have a hearing impairment, try the Inclusive Design Toolkit.

Evidence suggests that people wait on average 10 years before seeking help for their hearing loss. Hearing aids may be beneficial as they could improve your hearing in a range of everyday situations and make conversations easier. However, hearing aids can't restore your hearing to normal, so it's important to prevent your hearing from being damaged by noise in the first place.

People with hearing impairments can visit their GP and get referred to a hearing specialist in order to be registered as Deaf.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has useful information on their website.

GARI - the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative – also has information on their website which may help you find the best device for your own needs, whether sight, hearing or dexterity.

Services we can provide to support you

  • 999 BSL

    999 BSL is a service that connects British Sign Language users to an interpreter through an app or a website. The interpreter then relays the conversation with the call handler and emergency authorities. This service has been set up so that no deaf person will be excluded when they need to make an emergency call, therefore saving lives. 

    The service is free of charge and the data you use to make a call to the 999 BSL service from the 999 BSL apps (on iOS or Android), or via the website will not be charged to you.  From 17 June 2022, the service can be accessed at

    For more information on this service, please download the 999 BSL FAQ document.

  • Extension bell
    People who are hard of hearing may be exempt from rental and installation charges for a small extension bell which offers additional ringing. They may need to have specific types of connections in their home to be able to use these products. More information is available in our price manual.

  • Next Generation Text Service

    For people who need to make or receive calls in which some or all of the call is made or received in text format, we offer a Next Generation Text Service that enables customers with hearing and/or speech impairments to communicate with others through telephone or textphone equipment or other devices such as PCs and tablets.

    A 'relay assistant' acts in the middle to text the speech from the two people on the call. You can even link a 'TextNumber' to your existing phone number to make and receive calls without dialling a prefix.

    • Type & Read is best if you can’t hear and don't use your voice
    • Speak & Read should be used if you can't hear but do use your voice
    • Type & Hear will be most useful if you can hear but don't use your voice
    • Speak & Hear works best if you can hear and want to speak to someone who uses Next Generation Text Relay Service

    For full details of the service and how to access it, go to or contact the Next Generation Text Service Helpdesk on 0800 7311 888 or if using a textphone or the NGT Lite app on 0800 500 888.

    Calls made using the Next Generation Text Service will never be charged more than what you would have been for the same call made without using it. Those calls can also take longer than standard voice calls due to their nature and typing speed and we therefore apply a rebate to the text element of the calls. Further information is available in our price manual.

  • Emergency SMS
    People with hearing and/or speech impairment have the option of contacting the emergency services by text from their mobile. They need to register their mobile phone first with the emergency SMS service by texting the word ‘register’ to 999. Further information is available here.

  • Free Priority Fault Repair Service

    Sometimes, a telephone or a broadband service becomes a vital lifeline for customers. We offer a free priority fault repair service for customers who have a disability and may be at risk in the unlikely event of a fault occurring on their line.

    We’ll prioritise your repair over standard care levels but there may be circumstances beyond our control that mean we can’t. For example, extreme weather conditions like floods or storms can delay or prevent our engineers carrying out repairs to overhead cables or working down manholes.

    To find out if you’re eligible for a Free Priority Fault Repair, and to register for the service please contact us on 01482 602555. Alternatively, you can use one of our other contact methods on the contact us page.

  • British Sign Language interpreters
    People with hearing impairment can contact to us through a British Sign Language interpreter. Further information is available here.

  • Third Party Bill Management
    Customers who need help to manage their account can nominate a friend or relative to receive copies of bills and correspondence without them becoming liable for the bill. The Authorised User is able to raise a complaint or make a payment on behalf of the customer. Please call us on 01482 602555 to arrange this on your account. Alternatively, you can use one of our other contact methods on the contact us page.

Find out more about how we support our vulnerable customers