If you are Deaf, Deafened, Hard of Hearing or have a dual sensory loss, we provide information, advice and emotional support to you, your carer and family.
We understand that a hearing loss can affect many areas of your life. You might be finding it difficult to use the phone, hear the television or the doorbell. You may be having problems communicating with family and friends, joining in social events, or you may be struggling at work. Losing your hearing can affect you emotionally, and you may feel frustrated, angry, depressed and isolated.
You can get lots of information, help and support from many organisations that are used to working with people with hearing loss. The information here and on our Adult Social Care Information Sheets page tells you about organisations that can provide you with support. They also list other useful reading which tells you more about getting information, ways of communicating, specialist equipment and support.
The first steps you can take if you have developed a hearing loss
If you notice that your hearing is getting worse, you should first go to your GP who will probably arrange for you to see a specialist at the audiology clinic. The clinic will provide treatment if required, and discuss hearing aids with you, if appropriate.
There are specialist social care workers around the county for people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment. They will be happy to visit you in your own home to share your anxieties and talk about any problems you may be having.
• Give you an opportunity to talk about how you are feeling
• Provide advice and information about local and national services to help you
• Provide aids and equipment to make life easier
• Provide practical and emotional help with your care and support needs
Assessment and equipment
We can assess your needs and show you equipment that may help you.
Specialist workers can give advice and contacts for:
- British Sign Language (BSL)
- Sign Supported English (SSE)
- Finger Spelling Signed English (SE)
- Total Communication (TC)
- Cued Speech Lip Reading
Sign language interpreters are fluent in BSL, SSE and English. This means they can communicate with you and for you.
Information about interpreters is available from our specialist social workers or the Action on Hearing Loss website.
If you want to learn BSL, contact your local college for a prospectus, or search the Somerset Skills and Learning website.
Equipment that we can show you includes:
- Alert phone
- Ringing phone
- Speech television
- Video theatre
- Meeting – loop system
To get a hearing aid, digital hearing aid or cochlear implant, go to your doctor. They will refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant.
There is no cost for your assessment. Other costs depend on what equipment you might need.
There is no charge for lip reading classes in Somerset, but costs for sign language classes may vary depending on the type of sign language you wish to learn.
Organisations that can help
Action on Hearing Loss
This is a large national organisation that provides a wide range of equipment, information about ear conditions, advice on coping with deafness, specialist residential services, communication support and a range of other services.
deafPLUS is a voluntary organisation which provides a range of services to people who are Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing.
Nationally, deafPLUS services include:
- Advocacy, advice and employment support
- Personal support and development
In Somerset, deafPLUS run a Mobile Advisory Service that carries equipment and information, and visits towns and villages throughout the county.
Methods of communication
Under the Equality Act 2010, service providers and businesses should make provision for special communication needs. This includes enabling Deaf and hard of hearing people to access services by textphone, fax, email and SMS text messaging. Service providers should also provide BSL interpreters, lip-speakers, notetakers and speech-to-text operators for all meetings and appointments. This includes health and social care providers, education, benefits agencies, housing associations and businesses. You should request an interpreter when you make an appointment. There are several different ways of communicating if you have a hearing loss.
Lipreading involves watching the mouth movements of the speaker and identifying sounds from lip patterns. It is suitable for people who lose their hearing, but it takes some time to learn and requires a lot of practice. Lipreading groups are available throughout the county as described below.
Lipreading Communication Support Groups
Somerset County Council is working in partnership with deafPLUS to provide Communication Skills groups.
The aim of the groups is to provide an opportunity for people to learn and practise their lipreading skills in a friendly, informal atmosphere, and to share experiences and feelings about living with a hearing loss.
For more information, contact your social worker if you have one, or contact deafPLUS on:
Phone: 01225 446 555 (voice)
Fax: 01225 333505
Lipreading books may be found at your local library. Other books are available from:
British Sign Language (BSL)
This is the language of the Deaf Community which is very different from English. It is used by over 30,000 people in Great Britain, but, like English, has regional dialects. It has its own grammatical system and word order. Most BSL users were born Deaf, or became Deaf at a young age, but anyone can learn it.
Courses in British Sign Language
Most local classes are for beginners or up to Level 1 or Level 2. Contact your local college for more information.
Everyday communication can be one of the most frustrating problems for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. There are methods of communication support to make this easier.
This is not a language, but is used with sign languages to spell words for which a sign is not known, or for proper nouns, for example, people’s names. There is a special sign for each letter of the alphabet and the signs can be put together to make words. This is known as the Manual Alphabet. It is often helpful for lipreaders to learn finger spelling to clarify words which are difficult to lipread.
Sign supported English (SSE)
This is often mistaken for BSL, but although it uses BSL signs, it also uses English grammar, so you can sign the key words of spoken English. It is often used by hearing people communicating with Deaf people and is widely understood amongst BSL users. Some local classes are Sign Supported English, not British Sign Language. The signs are the same, but the word order is different.
This is only used to teach grammatical spoken English, where a sign is required for every word, or occasionally in formal interpreting situations such as Courts of Law. Basic signs are the same as BSL and SSE.
Note-taking – electronic or manual
Note takers are trained to take notes for deaf people in meetings, on courses or at other events. They will write notes in a way that person’s screen. Individual speakers are identified, and the deaf person can take away a hard copy of the notes at the end.
Speech-to-text operators are able to produce a real time, written record of what is being spoken. They use palantype, or stenograph systems to type every word that is being spoken by the speaker. The spelling is 95 per cent correct and the remaining words are spelt roughly as they sound. Speech-to-text is useful for meetings or conferences. The text can be read from a computer screen or at large events projected onto a big screen. Speech-to-text is suitable for deaf and hard of hearing people who are able to read English at high speed, for long periods of time.
Email and text messaging
Email and SMS text messaging is a very popular method of communication with Deaf and hard of hearing people. These systems have made communication with hearing people much easier.
Some Deaf and hard of hearing people use fax machines to communicate.
This is where particular hand shapes are used with normal speech to denote certain letters. This enables lipreaders to distinguish sounds that have similar lip patterns.
Action on Hearing Loss Communications Service
This service provides sign language interpreters, deafblind interpreters, lip-speakers, speech-to-text reporters and note-takers.
Action on Hearing Loss provides a communications support service, which includes British Sign Language interpreters, electronic note takers, speech-to-text and lip-speakers.
Phone: 0845 685 8003 (voice)
Fax: 02890 327616
Support with using the phone
Text Relay – Next Generation Text Service
The Text Relay service connects people who cannot hear on the phone with other people, using a text-to-voice and voice-to-text service. You can automatically connect to this service by dialling a prefix number before the telephone or textphone number you require.
To use this, you will need a text phone, which is a telephone with a keyboard and display. The Deaf person can speak or type into the phone and the message will go to an operator. The operator then relays the message by typing or speech, to the person you are ringing. The system operates in reverse for people wanting to contact you.
If you use a textphone, dial 18001 in front of the full telephone number of the person you wish to call. People who want to contact you by phone can call you by dialling 18002 in front of your full phone number. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Text Relay service is part of the Next Generation Text Service.
The Next Generation Text Service performs the same functions, using specialist software or an app which can be downloaded on to a smartphone, tablet or computer.
Using the app, you can type to a relay assistant who will speak your words to the person you’re calling. The relay assistant will type their reply so you can read it on your display.
If you can’t hear on the phone – the relay assistants will type what the other person is saying so that you can read their words.
If you can’t speak on the phone – type what you want to say and the relay assistant will speak your words to the other person.
If you still want to use a textphone – the Next Generation Text Service works with textphones in the same way as the old Text Relay.
For more information on how this works, contact the Next Generation Text Service.
c/o Internal Box 14
170-175 Moor Lane
Phone: 0800 731 1888
Textphone or NGT Lite apps: 0800 500 888
There are several pieces of legislation which protect the rights of people with disabilities:
Equality Act 2010
This replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single act to make the law simpler. It sets out the different ways that it is unlawful to treat someone. This can include direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, victimisation and failing to make a reasonable adjustment for a disabled person. The Act covers employment, goods and services provision, and education.
Examples of ‘reasonable adjustments’ and best practice include:
- Providing communication support such as interpreters, note-takers or speech-to-text
- Making printed information easier to understand
- Providing equipment such as loops, textphones, amplified telephones or flashing fire alarms
Examples of discrimination can include:
- Not serving you or offering you a lower standard of service if you are Deaf
- Not making reasonable adjustments for people who cannot hear through intercoms or reception glass
- Refusing to take a Text Relay (Typetalk) call
- Not allowing hearing dogs on transport
Where to go if you feel you have been discriminated against?
Initially, you should raise your complaint with the organisation concerned, using their Complaints Procedure. If you would like support to make your complaint, there are some organisations locally that can help you.
General helpline: 0845 643 4709 (voice)
Fax: 01823 324128
Information and advice
Phone: 0845 643 4621
Phone: 0845 643 4701
Citizens’ Advice Bureaux (CAB)
There are Citizens’ Advice Bureaux in many towns in Somerset. They provide a range of services which include debt management, benefits advice and advice on legal matters.
CAB main offices:
5 King Street
Phone: 01373 465496 (voice)
Fax: 01373 452289
Phone: 01278 455236 (voice)
Fax: 01278 426677
Lower Ground Floor
Phone: 01935 421167 (voice)
Fax: 01935 410561
Phone: 01749 675677 (voice)
Fax: 01749 675631
West Somerset CAB
The Lane Centre
Market House Lane
Phone: 01643 704624 (voice)
There are several organisations who can provide you with information and support, to help you keep the job you already have, or to help you find work.
Jobcentre Plus – Health and Employment Service
In each Jobcentre Plus, there are Health and Disability Employment Advisors who can help you if you are seeking work, or are unemployed. They can advise about the Access to work service, which enables deaf and hard of hearing people to compete on equal terms in the workplace, and provides funding and equipment to help people with hearing loss remain in work.
Contact your local Jobcentre Plus:
Phone: 0345 604 3719 (voice)
Textphone: 0345 6055 255
Hanover House, Northgate, Bridgwater, TA6 3HG
9 Kingsway, Frome, BA11 1QW
The Avenue, Minehead, TA24 5SH
Brendon House, Taunton, TA1 3NY
29-31 Hendford, Yeovil, BA20 1SP
Chamberlain Street, Wells, BA5 2PJ
This is a national charity that provides training and work opportunities for disabled people in the UK.
Phone: 0300 303 3111
Textphone: 08457 6977288
Fax: 01225 716301
Leisure, holidays and travel
Help at the cinema
Many cinemas provide subtitled performances. You can ask at your local cinema, or contact the organisation.
56 Bramblewood Close
Phone: 0845 056 9824
Mobile or text: 07931 341 377
There is also a concessionary card for people with disabilities which offers discount on cinema admission. For more information contact:
Phone: 023 9224 8545
Textphone: 18001 023 9224 8545
This organisation promotes subtitled DVDs and encourages studios to release more DVDs with subtitles www.dvd-subtitles.com
DVDs in libraries
Local libraries have a small collection of subtitled videos. You can request and borrow these from any library, free of charge, if you are Deaf or hard of hearing. There is also a much larger selection of DVD films that have a subtitles option.
For more information on library services contact:
SMS text: 07781 482858
The BBC broadcasts two different types of TV programmes with signing in British Sign Language – BSL sign-interpreted versions of mainstream BBC programmes in the Sign Zone, and programmes created specifically for sign-language users, such as See Hear, the magazine programme for the Deaf Community.
Popular TV programmes are signed and broadcast on BBC1 late in the evenings. Details are given in general TV listings.
Programmes in BSL broadcast on the Community Channel, Freeview 87, between 6am and 9am.
Sky Channel 539, 24 hours a day
Virgin Channel TV233, 24 hours a day
Help at the theatre – Stagetext
Some theatre performances are subtitled.
For more information contact:
Phone: 020 737 0540
Fax: 020 7247 5622
There is some help for Deaf people with travelling. This section tells you about help you can get when you travel by bus, rail, air and sea. There is also information about holidays.
The Disabled Person’s Railcard gives some reduction on the cost of fares for people who are registered as Deaf with Somerset County Council. You can get an information leaflet giving more details about the railcard from your local railway station or from National Rail direct.
Disabled Person’s Railcard Office
PO Box 6613
Phone: 0345 605 0525
Textphone: 0345 601 0132
You can download an application form from: www.disabledperson-railcard.co.uk
It is possible to ask for assistance when you are travelling by train. Each train company makes its own arrangements, but you will need to book this at least 24 hours in advice. Information about how to contact the train companies is available from your local station, or from:
Phone: 08457 484950
Textphone: 0845 6050600
The Somerset Travelpass allows free travel on all local buses and some express services in Somerset.
You are eligible for a Somerset travel pass if:
- You are a Somerset resident and are of pensionable age
- You are under 60 and are profoundly or severely Deaf
- You are unable to drive on medical grounds
If you are only able to use public transport with the help of a carer, you may be eligible for a Companion Travelpass. This would entitle your companion to free travel. The pass is valid between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays, and all day at weekends and on public holidays.
E mail: email@example.com
SMS text: 07781 482858
When you book a flight, always tell your airline, travel agent, or tour operator if you are Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing, and require assistance. You should always request this at least 48 hours before you fly. If you need assistance at the airport, you can arrange for someone to help you through check-in, baggage check and custom controls. You can ask a member of staff to inform you personally at the time of boarding announcements. Most airports have induction loop facilities and Textphones. Staff at Information Desks should be able to assist you. There are also TV monitors which display visual information.
On board the plane, you should inform cabin staff that you are unable to hear, so they can inform you of any important announcements. Safety information videos should be subtitled and you may also be able to pick up public announcements through induction loops on the plane.
Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) has produced a factsheet entitled ‘Flying and the Ear’ which contains useful information about the effect of air travel on your ears.
Travelling by sea
Before booking your journey, check with the ferry company, cruise operator or travel agent that they will be able to assist with any requirements you have. Your travel agent should have a copy of the Association of British Travel Agents Checklist for Travellers with Disabilities.
This questionnaire will check the suitability of the accommodation, transport and facilities at your destination.
Travelling with an assistance dog
If you have an assistance dog, it can only travel under the Pet Passport Scheme. For more information contact:
Helpline: 0370 241 1710
Several specialist organisations offer holidays for Deaf and hard of hearing people in this country and abroad.
This organisation provides travel and holidays for people who are Deaf.
40 Magdalen Avenue
National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS)
This organisation runs events and activities for young people, families and professionals throughout the UK. To find out more contact:
Phone: 020 7490 8656
Minicom: 020 7490 8656
Fax: 020 7251 5020
Religious services and support for British Sign Language users
The Chaplain among the Deaf is:
9, Chestnut Close
Phone/fax: 01458 851401
The work of the Chaplain is:
- To promote Christian gospel among profoundly Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people through worship
- To offer personal pastoral care and support to deaf people in need or in distress
Services for Deaf people using British Sign Language
Services in British Sign Language (with voice-over) are held every month, in the churches named below:
Service held on the second Sunday of the month at 3pm
St. Mark’s Centre
Service held on the third Sunday of the month at 3pm
Service held on the fourth Saturday of month at 3pm
Contact the Chaplain among the Deaf (details above) for more information.
Children and education
There is help and information available to support you and your child through the education system.
Hearing Support Team
The Hearing Support Team is part of Somerset County Council’s Education Service. The team works with schools, families, pre-school practitioners, voluntary organisations and other services to support children and young people who have a hearing impairment that affects their education, and help them to develop their full potential.
The team consists of various specialists, including specially qualified teachers, teaching assistants, Higher Level teaching assistants and educational audiologists. The team provides teaching, support, advice and training that is tailored to each individual child.
What they do
They work with children and families in their homes and early years’ settings from initial diagnosis to 16 (or 19 if they are in full time local education).
They provide teaching, support, advice and training tailored to each child and situation. This means that a priority is given to early Deafness and hearing loss – intervention, access to the curriculum and the development of language and literacy. The key focus is on partnership with the young person, their family, their school and other agencies to achieve the best educational outcomes for the learner.
Hearing Support Team
Sensory Physical and Medical Support Service
The Holway Centre,
Phone: 01823 334475
National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS)
This organisation runs events and activities for young people, families and professionals throughout the UK. There is an active local group. To find out more:
Phone: 020 7490 8656
Minicom: 020 7490 8656
Fax: 020 7251 5020
Hearing therapists provide a range of services for people with mild to profound hearing loss, hearing over-sensitivity, tinnitus, hearing aid users, cochlear implant patients and people with learning disabilities. Hearing therapists are based in audiology clinics.
Hearing therapists can provide rehabilitation for people newly diagnosed with hearing loss. This can include
- Explanation of the reasons behind hearing difficulties
- Support and help for people with a sudden and acquired hearing loss
- Support with every day problems resulting from hearing loss
- Advice on management of tinnitus, Meniere’s Disease, Obscure Auditory Dysfunction (OAD), vertigo
- Support and help before and after cochlear implants
- Work with people who have a combined sight and hearing loss
- Information about equipment
If you would like to see a Hearing Therapist, ask your GP for more information.
Tinnitus can affect people of any age, and it is sometimes, but not always, associated with hearing loss. Tinnitus, or head noises, can be described as noises heard by the individual in the absence of any real external noise. A wide range of noises are heard, such as rushing water, whistles, ringing, hissing, buzzing and grinding. It can happen occasionally, or it can be something that people live with all the time.
Tinnitus is not a disease or illness, and the causes are still not fully understood. Activity in the hearing system creates the noises, which the brain then notices and responds to. Mild tinnitus is common, but severe tinnitus can affect your quality of life. Severe tinnitus can make you feel frustrated and stressed, especially as it can affect sleep. Anxiety over the tinnitus can make the physical symptoms worse, and a vicious circle can develop.
There is no specific cure for tinnitus, but you should go to your GP who will probably refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Consultant, or Hearing Therapist. Very occasionally, tinnitus can be a symptom of other diseases, so it is advisable to have it checked.
There are many strategies you can learn to help you cope with tinnitus. Some of these include:
- Relaxation techniques
- Keeping occupied
- Masking the tinnitus using other sounds
- Cognitive behaviour therapy
More help and advice
You can get more help and advice from your local hearing therapist or from the following voluntary organisations.
Action on Hearing Loss
Phone: 0808 808 6666 (voice)
Text: 0808 808 9000
Fax: 020 7296 8199
SMS: 0780 000 0360
British Tinnitus Association
Ground Floor Unit 5
Freephone Enquiry Line: 0800 018 0527
Fax: 0114 258 2279
Minicom: 0114 258 5694
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that gives the sensation of hearing if you are profoundly deaf. You will need an operation to put it in place.
There are tests that can show if an implant could help you, but it is difficult to predict how successful the implant will be before the operation. Some people will always need to lipread as well as listen. Others will learn to understand speech without lipreading.
Cochlear implants are not suitable for all profoundly deaf people. They may be suitable if you become profoundly deaf after you have learnt to speak. Your hearing nerve must function well, even though your cochlea is damaged. Some people may get on better with high-powered hearing aids, instead of a cochlear implant.
How to get a cochlear implant
If you want to be considered for a cochlear implant, talk to your GP, who can refer you to a hospital Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) consultant. The consultant can then refer you to a specialist centre for a cochlear implant assessment if it is right for you. At the clinic, you will be told what the operation involves, what the risks are, and about aftercare.
Organisations and support groups
There are several organisations that can support people who have cochlear implants.
British Cochlear Implant Group
This organisation represents all the cochlear implant centres and other specialist medical practitioners throughout the UK.
This is a national charity supporting people with cochlear implants, their families and supporting professionals.
Phone: 0115 942 1985
Fax: 0115 942 9054
National Cochlear Implant Users Association (NCIUA)
NCIUA is a forum for cochlear implant users and their families.
National Cochlear Implant Users Association
70 Sycamore Road
Phone: 01494 723 962
Textphone: 01494 723 962
Cochlear Implants for Teenz
Mental health services
If you are Deaf and have mental health issues, there are some services to help you, and your carer, if you have one.
Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
This organisation provides mental health services in Somerset. Psychiatrists, nurses and social care staff work together to support people with mental health problems. They have a specialist social worker who can advise on mental health problems for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
For more information, contact:
Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
2nd Floor, Mallard Court
Bridgwater, TA6 4RN
There is a national specialist mental health service. The service is based in London, but covers the whole country. There are Deaf staff, and hearing staff who use BSL.
South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust
Springfield University Hospital
Building 15, 2nd Floor
61 Glenburnie Road
London SW17 7DW
Phone: 020 3513 4646 (voice)
SMS text: 07766 257846
Fax: 0203 513 5629
Mental Health services for young deaf people
Deaf Children, Young People and Family Service – South West
This service provides mental health support for Deaf and hearing impaired children and young people with emotional and behavioural problems across the South West.
CAMHS South West
Phone: 01823 368373 (voice)
Fax: 01823 368552
SMS Text: 07798 667960
Counselling service for deaf people – SignHealth
This national organisation provides counselling for Deaf people who use British Sign Language.
5 Baring Road
Phone: 01494 687600 (voice)
SMS text: 07966976749