Community Services/ Hearing Support Update

Our Club Hearing Support Project 6 years on.

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Hearing Support

In 2003 Past President Malcolm Viner was an active member of both the Sailing Club and Rotary. However during that year his hearing loss deteriorated to the point where he felt he could no longer participate on committees and withdrew from all involvement at the Sailing Club and suggested he would likely leave Rotary.

His Brother Past President Gordon approached me, as Chairman of Community Service, expressing his concern as to how Malcolm was isolating himself and how little support there appeared for people with hearing loss. We both agreed that there should be a suitable Rotary project where we could supply some form of support.

With Malcolm as our willing deaf Guiney pig we visited the supplier Connevans who were very helpful and certainly sorted out a number of problems for Malcolm including a personal induction loop and a special phone both of which considerably improved his quality of life. However, they were unable to give us any real guidance for a possible Rotary project.

We came up with the idea of a Hard of Hearing club but Malcolm quickly squashed that saying the last thing he needed was to meet up with a lot of deaf people. We contacted the RNID who were singularly unhelpful; appearing to be only interested in people who were deaf and not those with partial hearing loss.

We then contacted Hearing Concern who living up to their name were much more helpful and with them we did set up a visit of their Hearing Bus which helped a number of local people.

We then ran the first of our Health Promotion Days combining Hearing Loss, Stroke Awareness with a number of other health related projects. This worked well working in cooperation with the local PCT.

Unfortunately our natural changes of committee chairmen and misunderstandings with the PCT led to the eventual demise of this event.

At this time, in early 2004, I made contact with David Mardell a Sailing Club member and the Audiologist at St Mary's School. He also gave lots of advice but was unable to think of any suitable projects, He did, however, suggested that I contact a senior Audiologist at the Conquest one Carol Gupwell.

Carol and I communicated by email, but we did struggle to initially meet up, however, she did proposed that if we really wanted to help then the best thing we could do was to carry out home hearing aid servicing for people who also had mobility problems.

She said she could train us and provide us with the contacts to make the necessary calls. The finalised Rotary volunteer list comprised of John, Alan Roger and me. Training took place in the early part of 2005 we then had to go though the hoop of the Hospitals Voluntary Service Dept; CRBs, IDs,H&S training etc, etc. Volunteering is certainly not made easy!

In December 2005 we were at last unleashed on the unsuspecting public of Hastings and Rother, after a somewhat shaky start when the hospital staff perceived us an additional administrative burden, which was soon resolved by Carol, the scheme took off. Calls are now referred to us all by email and whoever is available picks them up and makes direct contact with the patient to set up an appointment at a time to suit ourselves.

The work we do includes checking the operation of the hearing aid, cleaning them, retubing, supplying and fitting new batteries, giving instruction on fitting and advice on use.

We give email reports on our visits which updated the patient's medical records by the hospital staff and we liaise with them on any perceived problems by calling for new impressions for ear moulds or reassessment of hearing loss.

Malcolm benefited with the additional aids he got at Connevans but he and Gordon left a legacy of a very worth while and much appreciated Community Service Project that has helped hundreds of local people to date.

I have personally made over 400 calls, where all too often we arrive to find a person in considerable distress, unable to hear due to a relatively minor problem with their hearing aid which we normally able to resolve.

The instant difference it makes to them is a wonderful and a very rewarding experience and I am sure we could all give you numerous accounts of visits that really touched us and leaves us with a very warm feeling inside.

Thank you Carol for showing us the way it is a wonderful idea.

Ray Dixon - 18th Aug 2009