Sign language and hearing aids

Hi all, I was wondering if anyone has any advice about learning British Sign Language and knows any good online resources or courses? I really want to learn as I find it much easier to communicate visually than with speech. I'm going to a Makaton course soon and want to progress to BSL, but not sure how to go about starting without enrolling on a course for that too. I was also wondering if hearing aids can be tailored to those on the spectrum. I found a discussion online about someone who had some fitted which act as an anti-hearing aid to help their autism, to help block out certain frequencies of sound, but I haven't been able to find anything more about this. Thanks

  • A Google search finds a few online or downloadable BSL courses, but none that I could see were free (starting at about £25), and of course, there's no way to know how good any of them are. However, I did notice that around me, there are several organisations which support deaf and hearing-impaired people and their relatives, so maybe you could get advice from a similar support group about what they've found most effective (and maybe even find a few people to practice with - there's no better way to learn a language than by actually communicating with it!)

    Hearing aids technology is something I've taken a little interest in myself I lately. I mentioned to you before about the coder I met who's working on the software for them, and I've learned a lot from him about the capabilities of modern aids. As you say, the more advanced ones can filter by frequency; and they can also use frequency-dependent compression (a form of automatic volume control), filter sounds by the direction that they're coming from, and compensate for (or simulate) the dulling of sounds as they pass around your head. Unlike the older ones, where the microphone was in the control box, the better ones have tiny microphones in the ear-buds, which makes them much more capable of being adapted to real listening environments and the information that the brain really needs. In at least some cases, the settings for all of these things can be changed from a PC or mobile phone, and presets can be stored and recalled for different situations. I must admit, though, I haven't dared look into how much such devices cost!

    From what  you've described I suspect, as I do of myself, that you may have an auditory processing condition - i.e. a problem with perceptual recognition in the brain without any problems with the ears themselves (certainly not present in my case; even at nearly 50; I can hear ultrasonic sounds that most people can't). It is often characterised by difficulty listening in noisy environments, slow interpretation of speech, difficulty remembering spoken instructions, and so on. To me it always seems like I hear too much, not too little. Unfortunately, it seems to often get missed by standard audiology tests (usually done under ideal tests conditions), and I haven't been able to find any research about whether sound-processing technology helps with it - though my personal opinion is that it very likely would in many cases.

    The usual route would be to ask your GP for a referal to an audiologist, with a specific requirement to test for Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). However, I suspect that rather like autism, a lot of GPs would know very little about it, and I can well imagine the same kind of comments that people who suspect autism might get ("well, you understood the question I just asked, so how could you possibly have that?" kind of thing).

  • I learnt a fair bit joining a friend at the local 'deaf club' though it could get quite noisy depending how busy it is. Lot of banging and scraping chairs they couldn't hear of course. There are quite a few free tutorials on youtube though.