In a world obsessed with sound, living with hearing loss can often be frustrating. What many people don’t realise, however, is that life can be quite a bit more expensive if you’re Deaf or have a hearing impairment. You might have to pay out for adaptive technology that helps you to keep up with the world, and you could find it harder to get into work.
Despite all of this, there’s lots of support on offer to people who are Deaf or have hearing loss and there are plenty of employers who would be delighted to take on a great employee regardless of their hearing impairment. In this guide, we look at some of the support available to people in the UK who are Deaf or hearing impaired and their employers.
According to figures from the government, there are some 11 million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing. That’s an astounding number, and it just goes to show that this issue affects a broad cross-section of the population.
Sadly, Deaf people are more likely to contend with poor mental health and may struggle to find employment. It’s only natural for anybody with hearing loss to feel down about their condition, but it often helps to know just how many other people are facing the same challenges.
Whilst our focus is primarily on the financial support available to the Deaf and hard of hearing, it’s equally important to understand the medical factors behind these conditions. For more information about Deafness and hearing loss, visit the NHS guide to the topic at www.nhs.uk/conditions/hearing-loss.
Many local councils provide specialist support for those with hearing loss, and can help them to find ways to make life easier. It might be that they can put you in touch with local support groups, or even advise you on employment issues. The process is likely to start with a specialist assessment conducted by a health professional, and for more information you can find the contact details for your local council here.
For information about British Sign Language (BSL) and the many courses on offer to help the Deaf and hearing impaired communicate more easily, visit www.british-sign.co.uk.
Whether you have difficulty with your hearing or not, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about costs when you’re trying to look after yourself. To find out whether you qualify for free appointments with an audiologist, visit the NHS health costs page here.
If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you won’t have to pay for prescriptions regardless of your age or circumstances.
In England, prescriptions are only free if at least one of the following criteria applies to you:
you are under 16;
you're between 16 - 18 and in full-time education;
aged 60 or over;
you receive certain means-tested benefits;
you have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate; or
have a continuing physical disability that prevents you from going out without help from another person and have a valid medical exemption certificate.
Unfortunately, being registered as Deaf or having a hearing impairment does not mean that you are automatically entitled to free prescriptions, however you should be if you meet any of the above criteria.
For more information about free prescriptions, visit the NHS website. You can also call the NHS Help with Health Costs helpline on 0300 330 1343. Further guidance is available on the Disability Rights UK website.
Hearing aids are some of the most useful devices that are available to people who are hard of hearing. Whilst they won’t make your hearing perfect, they can make sounds louder and clearer. For more information about the benefits of hearing aids, why not read the helpful guide prepared by Action on Hearing Loss available here.
Hearing aids are available on the NHS and are provided for free as a long-term loan. This service also ensures that users of hearing aids can access free batteries and repairs to ensure that they continue benefiting from hearing support. For more information about NHS hearing aids, visit the website here.
There are also various private providers offering hearing aids, and the price you pay can vary from a few hundred pounds into the thousands. Some of the most popular providers include:
There are also various funds and grants available to people in the UK who need help with the costs of hearing aids. These include:
The Access to Work grant which is intended to help individuals that are Deaf or hard of hearing to find and flourish in employment – which also provides a British Sign Language video relay service via the following link;
The Disabled Students’ Allowance, paid out to students with long-term health conditions (including hearing loss) in addition to their regular student finance;
The Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB), which allows individuals to access funding to pay for supportive equipment if they have suffered from hearing loss as a result of their job.
There are also hearing aid grants on offer for children, and it is well worth visiting The National Deaf Children’s Society website for more information.
For times when support isn’t available from elsewhere, there are a great many charities and other organisations that provide financial help to the Deaf and hard of hearing. As ever, whether or not you qualify will depend on your specific circumstances.
Turn2us is a free service that aims to help connect people with grants that could be of benefit to them. With an extensive database of grants and funds, you may find financial support that suits your situation. To search or for more information, visit their website or call 0808 802 2000.
You can also search for relevant grants on the Disability Grants website, where grants for the Deaf and hearing impaired are categorised by location and area of need.
Examples of the grants available include:
The Ovingdean Hall Foundation – which offers grants to support the education of deaf young people in the UK.
The Society for the Education of the Deaf – which provides educational grants for deaf individuals living in Scotland.
The Peter Greenwood Memorial Trust for Deaf People – which offers grants to hearing-impaired students for the purchase of books and equipment.
B&CE’s Charitable Trust – which awards financial assistance grants to those who have worked in the construction industry.
Elizabeth Finn Fund – which provides one-off and recurring grants for those who have faced a life changing event leading to reduced income or increased living costs.
There’s no escaping taxes, but you may qualify for extra support if you’re Deaf or have a hearing impairment. As part of their work with HMRC, the Royal Association for Deaf People has created a one-stop-shop resource for all things tax to make information and advice more accessible for Deaf people in the UK.
For information, guidance, helpful insights and even the opportunity to book a webcam appointment to discuss matters with a tax adviser in British Sign Language (BSL), visit www.royaldeaftax.org.uk.
place to make sure that they can afford specialist equipment if and when they need it. Such items might include a hearing aid or even a hearing loop.
VAT relief is available to help with the purchase of items that are specifically designed or adapted for the personal use of an individual who is Deaf or hard of hearing. For more information, visit the iHear website, or read the government’s own guide to the topic here.
It is possible for people with certain conditions (including some serious hearing impairments) to qualify for the disability reduction scheme which provides for a reduction in Council Tax. To qualify, your home will need to contain some specified adaptations or dedicated rooms or equipment that help you or a loved one to cope with their condition.
To access this subsidy, you’ll need to contact your local council for more information. You can find out who to contact by using the following local council finder tool.
If you are medically diagnosed with a hearing impairment, there are a range of benefits that you may be entitled to claim. Which of these apply will very much depend on your individual circumstances.
If you have passed retirement age, you may be eligible to claim Attendance Allowance to help pay for the extra costs associated with your hearing impairment, or even Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) if you became ill or disabled as a result of an accident at work.
For those who are yet to reach retirement age, it may be possible to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) which has replaced the Disability Living Allowance. Those who qualify could get between £23.60 and £151.40 per week to help with the extra costs brought about by a long-term health condition or disability. Employment Support Allowance also performs a similar function and could help you with living costs if you’re unable to work, or even support to help get you back into employment.
Finally, you may also be entitled to various ancillary benefits which include Housing Benefit or even a Vehicle Tax Exemption. For more information about the benefits potentially available to those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, visit the WhenTheyGetOlder website.
It’s not always easy to get around if you can’t quite hear what’s going on nearby, and there are a number of schemes that recognise how difficult travel can be for the Deaf and hard of hearing.
If you’ve got a hearing impairment that makes it more difficult to travel, you could benefit from the Motability scheme which provides an easy way for people with disabilities to exchange their Motability allowance for car, scooter, or powered wheelchair leasing. Under this scheme, people who are Deaf or have a severe hearing impairment can lease a vehicle that suits their needs.
In addition to the vehicle, the scheme covers the cost of insurance, breakdown cover and vehicle tax. For more information, go to www.motability.co.uk.
If you’re registered as Deaf or hearing impaired, you may be eligible for the blue badge scheme which allows drivers to park in spaces that are reserved for people with disabilities. These specially marked spaces are usually closer to buildings, facilities, and town centres, making it easier to get around.
Although it may be difficult to qualify for the blue badge scheme by virtue of being hearing impaired alone, it may be possible if you can show that your condition affects your ability to get around easily. To find out more, visit the following websites depending on where you live:
England: www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge, or call 0343 100 1000
Scotland: https://www.mygov.scot/, or call 0303 100 1001
Wales: www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge, or call 0343 100 1008
There are various schemes that exist to help people with long-term health conditions (including hearing loss) to get around easily.
These include the Disabled Person’s Railcard, which could give you up to a third off of train fares for you and an accompanying adult each year. Whilst there is a small upfront cost for the card, it could pay dividends if you use public transport regularly. For more information, visit the railcard website at disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk, call 0345 605 0525, or textphone 0345 601 0132. For similar support in Northern Ireland, visit translink.co.uk or call 028 9066 6630.
You may also qualify for free or discounted travel on localised public transport services, depending on the extent of your hearing loss. For more information, contact your local authority which can be found using the following local council finder tool.
There are a whole range of ways to make computers, tablets and smartphones more accessible for people with hearing impairments. From text services and induction loops to assistive listening devices, life could be made easier by taking advantage of technology.
For more information, read the comprehensive guide available at Abilitynet.
The Birkdale Trust also provide grants to help cover the costs of education for children and young people with hearing impairments, and this money could be used to help pay for computer software and other adaptations.
Staying safe is a priority for all people, but even more so for those with hearing impairments. A significant number of local fire services provide free home fire safety checks, helping citizens to make their homes safer and even to fit smoke alarms and vibrating pads that help the deaf and hard of hearing to know when something isn’t right.
Relay UK (formerly known as Next Generation Text) is a service which helps the hard of hearing to communicate with anybody over the phone using the national relay service. For more information visit their website at www.relayuk.bt.com.
Being Deaf or hard of hearing doesn’t have to compromise your independence, but you might need a little help from certain technologies to continue living life to the full. For a comprehensive guide to the kinds of technology and assistive devices available in the UK, visit the Action on Hearing Loss website.
For career guidance, CV help, job searching and much more, the Royal Association for Deaf People could help you to find a role that suits you.
If you’re an employer, it’s your obligation to make reasonable adjustments for a Deaf or hearing impaired member of staff under the Equality Act 2010 and UK employment law. Beyond this, failing to employ or retain an individual on account of their hearing impairment could see your business losing out on a real asset to the team.
The UK government provides financial support to help those with disabilities and long-term health conditions to remain in work. This is known as Access to Work which takes the form of a grant to pay for things like equipment, adaptations and other such support to ensure that an employee can work effectively. Small organisations are unlikely to be required to make any contribution but larger firms may be asked to contribute some costs.
Depending on your employee’s level of hearing loss, you may need to make some adjustments to ensure that they can work comfortably and effectively. These could include providing:
More written information (e.g. notes and copies of presentations prior to a meeting);
A Hearing loop; or
A sign Language interpreter, Lip speaker.
The government has also launched a scheme called ‘Disability Confident’ which aims to encourage employers to think positively about disability and the employment. This might include posting job listings on specialist accessible job boards such as Evenbreak or making it clear in advertisements that your organisation will welcome candidates with hearing impairments.
We hope that this resource guide proves helpful to people living with hearing impairments across the UK. Hearing loss is a common problem but that doesn’t mean it has to have a negative impact on your quality of life, and there is lots of support available if you know where to look.
Let us know if any of the links above no longer work, if there are new resources to include, or if you or your business offer support to people with hearing impairments anywhere in the UK.