Fighting against the impact of hearing loss

Fighting against the impact of hearing loss

Cambridgeshire Hearing Help focus group

Cambridgeshire Hearing Help focus group

Local charity Cambridgeshire Hearing Help has a very small employed staff, but a large group of more than 100 skilled volunteers who provide a unique service to people of all ages with deafness or hearing loss across the county. They help individuals to communicate and enjoy life by providing community-based hearing aid maintenance sessions, home visits, visits to residential homes, equipment demonstrations, etc.

To extend their service and maintain quality, the charity wanted to build and train a cohort of senior volunteers who could take on local leadership roles around the county. They applied to the Evelyn Trust for funding to build that network of community volunteer leaders. These ‘senior’ volunteers have a role in recruiting, training and supporting the next generation of volunteers in their local patch. Most of the volunteers have some level of hearing loss which helps them to empathise with service users and makes them more knowledgeable.

“We’re enormously grateful to the Evelyn Trust for supporting us to build capacity and capability in our group of dedicated volunteers. Since the project started last April, we have had tremendous success and exceeded our target for volunteer leader recruitment. We are also on track to exceed our target of 800 contacts with housebound people over 18 months; plus, in the first six months of the project, we hit our target for contacts in residential homes,” explains Richard Howitt, CEO of Cambridgeshire Hearing Help.

“Our award from the trust also enabled us to secure match funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, which means we should be able to run the project over a three year period, rather than the original plan of 18 months.”

Using feedback from focus groups, the charity’s project co-ordinator is now working on a simple, accessible handbook for the project which will help future volunteers. The team is also developing methodologies for training volunteers which they plan to share across social care teams in Cambridgeshire and with hearing loss charities further afield. The charity has also piloted training for staff at care homes and in care agencies. This pilot is currently at the evaluation stage with a future roll out in planning.

As Richard points out, support to combat hearing loss has been shown by research to have the power to reduce isolation and loneliness and improve sociability in older people. There are of course also proven links between hearing loss and the development of dementia, which is a significant burden for individuals, families, carers and health services.

“At Cambridgeshire Hearing Help, we’re clear that what we do to maintain hearing aid equipment and encourage its use is preventative because unmanaged hearing loss is linked to poor physical and mental health. There’s evidence that individuals with severe hearing loss are at five times the risk of developing dementia, depression and other mental health issues.”

For more details on the important work of Cambridgeshire Hearing Help in communities, residential homes and Littlehey Prison, visit the Cambridgeshire Hearing Help website


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