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National charity responds to coronavirus pandemic by launching new BSL Information Service and emergency appeal

27 April 2020

With mounting pressure on services across the country, Action on Hearing Loss has redirected its attention and is focusing work on developing the best digital services for the deaf and hearing loss community during this pandemic.

The charity has set up a British Sign Language (BSL) Information Service to support Deaf people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as well as launching an Covid-19 Emergency Appeal that will help provide hospitals with vital equipment to enable patients and staff who have hearing loss to communicate easily and remove an additional layer of fear and distress, during this already frightening time.

There are 12 million people in the UK with hearing loss, including an estimated 900,000 with severe or profound hearing loss. We know that it is older people who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill due to coronavirus. With more than 70% of people over the age of 70 living with hearing loss, this group is needing more support now than ever.

The new BSL Information service has been created to provide information and support in a BSL format. With around 50,000 people in the UK whose primary language is BSL, it is vital that these users receive critical, accurate and the most up-to-date information and support on coronavirus. Anyone can get in touch to arrange an appointment for a signed video call with the charity’s trained Information Officers.

The BSL officers will be able to give information and support on topics such as, technology and assistive devices, hearing loss, tinnitus and deafness, welfare benefits, your rights, support in your area and the work of Action on Hearing Loss. This service is running alongside its already established information and support phone line. The charity hopes that this will help bridge the gap of those needing information and support quickly in a format that is best for them.

Action on Hearing has also launched Covid-19 Emergency Appeal where funds raised will provide hospitals with vital equipment for those with hearing loss. Currently the charity is working on a pilot scheme with three hospitals, Central Middlesex Hospital, Northwick Park Hospital and Ealing Hospital for this equipment. The appeal is hoping to raise £50k to purchase 300 personal listening devices to help people in hospital with hearing loss, who are suffering from coronavirus, to communicate with staff and in turn help medical staff who may also have hearing loss communicate with patients. 

Mark Atkinson, CEO at Action on Hearing Loss said; “As the world has changed, we have had to adapt and make sure we support those that are deaf or with hearing loss in the best way possible during this crisis. We know many services across the UK are stretched at the moment so we felt it was a necessity to provide this new BSL information service to help those in need. We hope that people contact us with their concerns so that we can help them in the best way that suits them and their needs.

He added; “This pandemic has been an isolating time for many but with added struggles with communication, it risks making the deaf and hearing loss community even more isolated and heighten an already scary time. We want to help the NHS as much as possible and feel that we need to make sure that they have the right equipment to best help their patients. With our appeal we are hoping to fund £50,000 for 300 personal listening devices so that a patient who is deaf or has hearing loss can understand what is happening and their communication needs are met. As well as helping staff with hearing loss be able to communicate with their colleagues.”

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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.