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25,000 people in rural communities now more confident tackling hearing loss

27 February 2020

Almost 25,000 older people in rural communities across Northern Ireland are now more informed and empowered on how to tackle hearing loss thanks to an information outreach service provided by Action on Hearing Loss.

The charity celebrated the success of its Hear to Inform and Connect project, which is due to finish at the end of March 2020, at an event on Wednesday 26th February at Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre in Dungannon.

The project was funded by The National Lottery Community Fund to provide information and basic hearing checks to isolated communities, people from ethnic minority communities and people living in care homes. The project engaged with many people who had never received information on hearing loss before, who are often farthest away from support.

Since the project began in 2017, Information Officers have visited a large number of small rural community groups in townlands and villages across the Western and Northern areas of Northern Ireland. They delivered more than 240 talks to local health, social care, and voluntary organisations, to help them make their services more accessible to older people with hearing loss. Volunteers ran pop up information stands in libraries, health centres and GP surgeries across Northern Ireland, providing more than 3000 hearing checks and signposting people to local support.

Organisations that have benefitted from hearing health training and advice about accessibility include Mid-Ulster Council, with Deputy Chair Councillor Clement Cuthbertson speaking at the event. 29 staff from the Council received hearing health awareness training from Information Officer Barry Grimes, and key premises are now more accessible since the installation of more induction loop systems.

Gerald, 63, from Newtownstewart, contacted Action on Hearing Loss after his sister picked up a leaflet at a local information stand. He said:

“Before my hearing deteriorated I loved music and enjoying myself, but I found that I was turning away from that altogether; I didn’t want to go out. I had to learn to read peoples lips, when I was in groups and on TV. It was very very stressful and gradually in time I began to isolate myself. I found it very hard to have conversations with people because I wasn’t hearing what they were saying to me properly, the sound was there but it wasn’t as clear. I felt like I was going into the dark ages.”

Gerald was visited by an Information Officer from Action on Hearing Loss, who encouraged him to visit his GP. The charity also recommended a personal listening device to use while he waited for an audiology appointment, which was “a massive step forward”. As a result of the intervention Gerald was referred to audiology and fitted with two hearing aids. He said:

“Because of support from Action on Hearing Loss I’ve learned about a lot of help that I didn’t know was out there. It’s opened up a whole new world to me. I’m hearing many wonderful sounds that I wasn’t hearing before. I can sit down now and put the TV on and hear things. I’m not stressed anymore; I’m able to have a conversation with my sisters, my neighbours and my friends. I feel more comfortable and happier – I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Action on Hearing Loss hopes to continue to expand their face to face information provision, even after the project ends.

Claire Lavery, Northern Ireland Director, said: “300,000 people in Northern Ireland have hearing loss, which can lead to social isolation, loneliness, and an increased likelihood of developing mental health problems and dementia.

Although we have always offered information about hearing loss, deafness and tinnitus, this project has enabled us to expand our face to face services, particularly in the North West, and reach thousands of older people who are isolated because of their hearing loss.

Thanks to the dedication of our staff and our volunteers, many people are now better informed, more confident, and have taken steps to manage their hearing loss; whether to see their GP, visit a local hearing aid user support session, or access our specialist tinnitus support service.”

To contact Action on Hearing Loss Northern Ireland, please call 028 9023 9619 or email information.nireland@rnid.org.uk

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Notes to editors

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people living with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.