Deaf Awareness Week 7th to 13th May 2012
Posted on 4th May 2012 by Sue Titterington
Cumbrian hearing charities and NHS Audiology Services are joining together to raise awareness during Deaf Awareness week which runs from 7th to 13th May.
They hope to raise awareness and understanding of the issues faced by those with hearing loss and to ensure that no one in Cumbria struggles with hearing loss when help is available. There are many services throughout the county offering assistance to those who are hearing impaired or deaf. One in seven of the UK population has some form of hearing loss. Often people wait several years before seeking help when they start to have problems with their hearing and this can lead to communication difficulties, frustration and isolation. Both voluntary and statutory services urge individuals who are struggling to seek help now.
Hugh Stirling, 53, first realised that he had hearing loss 5 years ago. He says, “I was only 48 when I first realised I needed a hearing aid; this was through a free test offered by a private company. I wanted an ‘in the ear’ aid, because I wanted it to be invisible. I tried it for a week or so but found it too difficult to get used to and eventually I gave up.
About 1 year later I went to my GP and asked to be referred for a hearing test at the NHS Audiology Department. They confirmed I had high frequency hearing loss in both ears and that I needed a hearing aid. The trouble was I still did not want to wear my hearing aid as it made me feel old and lacking in some way. I have worn glasses since I was 5 years old, why should wearing a hearing aid be so different?
Putting in a hearing aid for the first time is difficult; often it does not go in correctly. To begin with you will get some feedback noise; some noises, like your own voice, rustling paper or people talking at the same time, can cause problems. As I wore my hearing aid more, many of the initial problems diminished. I have found that with the help of my hearing aid I no longer mishear words, can follow TV programmes better and have a better relationship with my friends and family as I can be included in conversations and they find it less frustrating than having to repeat everything. I want to say to other people, ‘don’t let poor hearing ruin your life as it can lead to isolation, family arguments, misunderstandings, depression, withdrawal and unresolved anger.’ Take action today.”
Hugh now works on Caritas Care’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ project, aiming to help others who are struggling with hearing loss. He explains, “Our aim is to get those hearing aids out of the drawer and into your ear. Part of my job is to help people who are finding it difficult to wear their hearing aid; mostly we work with people who have an NHS aid but we will help anyone.
The service is free and we have helped about 8,000 people in the last two years. Our Project runs monthly drop-ins in 17 locations throughout the county and we have a drop-in centre in Cecil St, Carlisle. Anyone can call in for advice and help with equipment, amplified phones, loop systems, NHS batteries and re-tubes. We are also happy to visit people in their home if they are unable to get to us.”
Mike Lennon is the lead Audiologist at the Cumberland Infirmary. He states, “Over 10 million people in Britain are estimated to have some form of hearing loss. Over 70% of people over 70 years of age experience some degree of deafness. Even at 50 years of age approximately 40% of people have problems with their hearing.
Despite these figures only about 2 million people have hearing aids with evidence suggesting that only 1.4 million actually use the aids. A further 4 million individuals could benefit from hearing aids. In other words 2 out of 3 people who could benefit from aids in the UK do not access NHS Audiology and independent sector dispensing services.
The Audiology Service in North Cumbria provides free hearing aids, batteries and after care to any patient referred by their GP. The waiting time for new referrals is usually less than a month. The service works in partnership with Siemens to offer a range of state of the art digital hearing aids. These are customised to deal with each individual’s hearing loss.”
Peter Shaw is the Chief Executive of Cumbria DeafVision. He explains, “There is a general lack of consideration for deaf people’s communication needs. Some deaf people find themselves visiting their GP more often than usual due to leaving the surgery unsure of what the doctor recommended. Deaf people can find it difficult to make appointments themselves, often asking relatives and friends – denying them privacy and dignity.
It is estimated that there are 125,000 British Sign Language (BSL) users in the UK according to recent GP Patient Survey and an estimated 20,000 children. BSL is the language that is the first or preferred language of some deaf people. Many people who are not deaf also use BSL, as hearing relatives of deaf people, sign language interpreters or as a result of other contact with the British deaf community.
British Sign Language/English interpreters are available to provide professional communication service to ensure two-way meaningful and effective communication. The interpreters are trained to high BSL standards, as well as to abide by professional conduct standards including confidentiality and impartiality. The NHS Trusts in Cumbria will cover the cost of hiring the interpreters at no cost to patients. British Sign Language and Deaf Awareness skills can be learnt via short and longer courses, run by Cumbria DeafVision.”
One in seven of the UK population has some form of hearing loss.
Bridging the Gap (a project of Caritas Care)
For local project information and to speak to project Team Leader call Hugh Stirling on 01228 562691 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may wish to visit our website at www.caritascare.org.uk
Bridging the Gap, launched over 11 years ago, is a free service which provides outreach drop in services and home visiting services throughout Cumbria and North Lancashire for vulnerable older people with hearing loss. The project, funded by the Big Lottery, provides NHS hearing aid batteries, a re-tubing service, simple tips about how to get the most from a hearing aid, hearing equipment demonstrations including loop systems, telephones and doorbells.
The project also provides lip reading classes and self help groups to enable older people with acquired hearing loss to improve their communication skills in Carlisle, Kendal and Workington. The service aims to promote increased freedom and choice for isolated people to enjoy more confidence and self esteem to participate in normal everyday activities as part of the community.
The HEAR Centre on Cecil Street in Carlisle is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am to 12.30pm and Thursday 10am to 3pm. Outreach drop-in surgeries are held each month in Askam, Barrow/ Walney Island, Coniston, Glenridding, Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Milnthorpe, Millom, Cockermouth, Egremont, Keswick, Maryport, Whitehaven, Wigton, Workington, Appleby, Brampton, Alston and Kirkby Stephen.
NHS Audiology Services
The Cumbrian Audiology service is based at the Cumberland Infirmary and provides clinics in Whitehaven, Workington and Keswick. Hearing aid users have open access to the service 5 days a week with appointments available on request for more complex problems. It also works closely with Caritas Care which provides batteries and repairs from a further 18 community sites. Individuals should visit their GP if they wish to be referred for a hearing test.
Courses and sign language interpreting services are provided by Cumbria DeafVision. They can be contacted on 01228 606434.
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