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'Disabled' doesn't mean just physically disabled.

We are disabled too!

So the Network's objective of:  

 'To provide for the welfare of disabled people in Fife by ensuring that facilities and services are available to meet their needs' covers people with a hearing and sight loss, as they too are considered to be disabled.

You might not know it but

 The Disability Discrimination Act’s definition of disability is:

‘A physical or mental impairment which has substantial and long term adverse effects on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities’

Or in other words:

  • If you can't hold a conversation someone talking in a normal voice in a moderately noisy environment

  • if you cannot hear and understand another person speaking clearly over a voice telephone

  • if you have been certified as blind or partially sighted by a consultant ophthalmologist

  • if you are registered as blind or partially sighted with a local authority

Then you are disabled as far as the Act is concerned and as far as the Network is concerned.

On October 1st 1999 the statutory rights of disabled persons to have better access to goods and services came into force under Part III of the DisabilityDiscrimination Act 1995.

A service provider now has to ensure that it takes reasonable steps to:

·   Change a practice policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of its services;

·   Provide an auxiliary aid or service if it would facilitate the use of its services by disabled persons;

·   Provide a reasonable alternative method of making its services available to disabled persons where a physical feature makes itimpossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to    make use of those services.Image of a man with magnifing glass readingFor sensory impaired people this means for example:

ü     Loop systems at counters and desks

ü     Clear signage

ü     Alternative formats of information

ü     Sensory Impairment awareness Training for staff

Symptoms of hearing loss

  • Hearing but not understanding

  • Turning up the volume on the TV

  • Must lip read to understand speech

  • Cannot hear environmental sounds such as game calls, traps releasing, crickets, etc.

  • Strained personal relationships, denial

  • Social withdrawal

  • Fatigue and stress

How can you tell if you or someone near you has a hearing loss?

Turning up the television or radio is a very common sign of a hearing loss. The appropriate volume may seem too loud to others.

Focusing on one speaker in a crowded or noisy environment is often especially difficult for a person with a hearing loss.

In a car, the engine, road or wind noise can make it hard to hear a conversation, the radio or important traffic sounds.

People with a hearing loss frequently feel that others mumble or need to repeat what they’ve said. Often, a person will hear, but not understand, what’s being said.

Social occasions are often difficult for a person with hearing loss. Background noise, such as music or group conversations, can become overwhelming, making it impossible to participate in a conversation.

It’s easy to forget how much we rely on our hearing every day. Sirens, automobile horns, and other people are only a few of the things that we need to be able to hear clearly.

In church, theatres, and auditoriums, it can be very difficult to hear a speaker’s voice. Many facilities have assistive listening devices available for those with hearing loss.

Cupping your hand behind your ear can help a little, but it’s no substitute for a properly fitted hearing instrument. And remember - a hearing loss is more noticeable than a hearing aid!

Describing deafness

It is important to realise that being deaf or hard of hearing can mean very different things to different people. Some people will feel more comfortable with particular words to describe their own deafness. They might feel quite strongly about terms they do not like being used. RNID uses the following terms:

  • Deaf people. We use the term deaf people in a general way when we are talking about people with all degrees of deafness.

  • Hard of hearing people. We use this term to describe people with a mild to severe hearing loss. We quite often use it to describe people who have lost their hearing gradually.

  • Deafened people. People who were born hearing and became severely or profoundly deaf after learning to speak are often described as deafened.

  • Deaf blind people. Many deaf blind people have some hearing and vision. Others will be totally deaf and totally blind.

  • The Deaf Community. Many Deaf people whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language (BSL) consider themselves part of the Deaf Community. They may describe themselves as 'Deaf', with a capital D, to emphasise their Deaf identity.

Deafened people

The term 'deafened' describes people who were not prelingually deaf, but have become profoundly deaf in adult life. This often happens suddenly as a result of trauma, infection or ototoxic drugs - drugs that can cause hearing loss.

There are an estimated 123,000 deafened people in the UK aged 16 and over. They often rely heavily on lip reading and written communication. They may require communication support, such as speech-to-text reporters, lip speakers or notetakers, in meetings and other situations where lip reading is difficult.

Deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK

There are estimated to be about 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. The number is rising as the number of people over 60 increases. About 698,000 of these are severely or profoundly deaf. 450,000 severely or profoundly deaf people cannot hear well enough to use a voice telephone, even with equipment to make it louder. People who cannot use voice telephones might use textphones or videophones.

How many people use hearing aids?

About 2 million people in the UK have hearing aids, but only 1.4 million use them regularly. There are at least another three million people who do not have hearing aids but experience significant hearing difficulties in everyday life. They would be likely to benefit from hearing aids.

How many people use British Sign Language (BSL)?

Many people who are born deaf or are deafened early in life use sign language to communicate. It is difficult to say how many people in the UK use BSL as their first or preferred language - current estimates suggest 50,000.  The actaul number of BSL user registered in Fife, is 350.

How many people lip read?Image of a head with hand at ear

It is difficult to say how many people lip read. Everyone lip-reads to some extent, especially in noisy situations. When you speak to someone their facial movements will give you information to help you understand the meaning of what they are saying. If you have a hearing loss, the balance between what you hear and what you see changes. As your hearing gets worse, you will get more information through lip reading. The biggest group of lip readers is hard of hearing people.

How many deaf and hard of hearing people there are in your area


16-60 years

Over 60 years


Mild/moderate deafness




Severe/profound deafness




All degrees of deafness




In Fife, there are about 5,800 people who could register as having a sight loss, but current numbers known to fife society for the blind, are only 2,200

The number of people, who are deaf or hard of hearing in fife, is difficult to calculate, as there is no formal register of people who are deaf.

Although some people with a hearing impairment use social work services, not all deaf people would want or need to use these services.

It is estimated that in fife, based on a population of 350,000:

·        48,919 people have some form of hearing loss.

·        1,747  people have a profound hearing loss

·        349  people use British Sign Language

·        2,656  people need access to a telephone  not using voice

·        12,579   people use a hearing aid

·        Estimates of Deaf blind people vary , but 314  people in Fife could be Deaf blind

How do most people react to the onset of hearing loss?

With denial.

"I don't have a problem. I hear what I need to hear."

"THEY mumble; they don't teach enunciation like they used to."

"Oh, sure, every once in a while I may have a little trouble understanding, but it's nothing serious."

"If it ever gets bad, I'm going to do something about it."

Some people are stuck in denial the remainder of their lives. Others move on - but not necessarily in a positive manner.

Why Hearing Aids Live In Dresser Drawers

You probably know someone whose hearing aids live in a dresser drawer. You don't want that to happen to you. Here's how to prevent it:

Keep in close contact with the audiologist who fit your hearing aids. He or she must know about every concern you have - and especially about any excessive loudness, or lack of perceived benefit.

Concentrate on the benefits received, not on the problems that persist. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to get them resolved, but it does mean you shouldn't become a Daisy D'Argant.

Use your hearing aids. Use them in quiet. Use them watching television. Use them in noise. Use them when you do not need them. Unless you use them during virtually all your waking hours, your brain never learns to interpret the world through the hearing aids. Infrequent or inconsistent use is a formula for hearing aid failure.

Hearing aids live in the dresser drawer when:

  • the user loses contact with the audiologist -

  • the user discovers that "louder" doesn't fix all communication problems, and makes no further effort to improve communication -

  • the hearing aids are used inconsistently.

Breaking-in Schedule: Your Seven Step Road to Success

Image of 2 people sign lanSome people are able to leap right in with amplification. Others do better with a more gradual break-in period. If you are one of the latter, these practical hints will help you over the hump.



1. For the first few days, wear your hearing aids only as long as you are comfortable with them. If you are fatigued after using them for a few hours, take them off. The next day, use them for an hour longer than you did the day before. Gradually build up to full time use.

2. Start in your own home. Pay attention to normal household sounds. Once catalogued, background noises like the hum of the refrigerator and the clinking of dishes will be less distracting.

Don't let these sounds discourage you. You are relearning. Normal hearing persons hear the same sounds, but push them out of conscious awareness. As you learn to identify various background sounds and become accustomed to them, you will regain the same skill.

3. Listen to a family member or friend talk about familiar topics or read aloud to you. If you have them, turn up your instruments' volume control until the voice is a bit too loud, then turn it back down until it is more comfortable. Remember to keep your eyes on the speaker's face.

4. Have your helper pronounce pairs of words which differ in one sound only. Examples are she/see, ball/fall, or gown/down. The speaker should pronounce these words distinctly, but not so slowly that they sound artificial. Watch your helper's lip movements while you carefully listen for the differences. Then try to discriminate the words by listening alone. (Get as many as you can, but don't expect to catch them all.)

5. Practice with the telephone. Phone weather or time, or a son or daughter. If your hearing aid has a telephone coil, it might work well for you. (Telephone coils are more effective on some phones than on others.) Or you might be able to hear better by placing the receiver end of the telephone next to the hearing aid microphone.

6. After a few days, begin to challenge yourself. Turn the radio or television on, at a background-sound level. Now have someone read to you. Practice concentrating on the reader. (This is a critical skill that you can - and must - relearn.)

7. After a couple of weeks, and once you have become comfortable with normal, at-home background noise, wear your instruments in new situations. Try your hearing aids at church, the supermarket, theatre and other public places. If you have volume controls, or if your hearing aids have a "noisy environment" program, turn them down or switch programs twenty minutes ahead of time, to reduce the impact of noise.


Communication is the cornerstone of good relationships and friendships. If you can't hear, it can affect your friendships and your effectiveness at work and at play.

It is important to remember that people with a hearing loss may 'listen with their eyes' and have natural or learnt lip reading ability.

We believe that good communication can make all the difference and that there are a number of strategies and coping mechanisms that can help to improve conversation in all environments, thus making life easier for all parties.

Here are just a few simple tips to remember when you talk to people with a hearing loss:

  • Make sure the person you are talking to is able to see your face and knows you are speaking to them.

  • Speak clearly (not with exaggerated lip movements).

  • Speak a little more slowly (not excessively slowly).

  • Be patient and allow the listener time to take in your message.

  • Keep it short and to the point.

  • Don't ramble.

  • Don't change the subject abruptly.

  • Keep background noise to a minimum.

  • Write it down if necessary. (At work meetings it may help if a deaf person can have a copy of the agenda or items for discussion.)

  • Don't talk with your hand over your mouth or while chewing or smoking.

  • If you are in a group, speak one at a time.

  • Make the person aware of the subject before you start.

  • Speak up, but do not shout.

  • Use body language and facial expressions.

  • Use plain English, avoid u sing jargon if possible.

  • Stay in the light - this will make lip reading easier. (At a meeting try not to have speakers with their backs to a bright window.)

Now here are some tips for communication with hard of hearing people on the telephone, where face-to-face communication is impossible.

  • Speak clearly.

  • Speak a little more slowly.

  • Be patient, allowing the listener time to take in your message.

  • Identify yourself clearly.

  • Keep it short and to the point.

  • Don't ramble.

  • Rephrase rather than repeat.

  • Keep background noise to a minimum at your end.

  • Summarise.

  • Don't hang up until you are sure you have been understood.

  • Repeat any information such as phone numbers or names and addresses.

  • Follow up by sending written information if necessary.



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Disabilities Fife
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Scottish Charity No: SC 026112