One of the great strengths of social media is how events such as #deafday2019 which appears to be based in London today can emerge in other localities. A quick check on the internet and it appears that later in the year is World Deaf Day which either occurs on the last Sunday of the month or on the following Monday. So along with todays celebration in London we can also celebrate the importance of understanding deafness on 29th or 30th September. I spent some of last week working on several projects that involve providing effective hearing loops in locations such as a Church in Kent and a School being built in Hailsham. There are many reasons why people need to focus on BSL and lip reading and ensuring that videos and even live events include subtitling. However as someone who works in the audio visual industry and for a company that specialises in hearing loops we would love to see that included. The reality is that in the UK around 12m people have hearing loss and only about 2m people have hearing aids. The use of hearing loops and similar technology is primarily designed for people with hearing aids although there are ways of adapting the same technology for people with poor hearing who don’t have a hearing aid. The big challenge is that our industry and the wider electrical industry have for many years not done a good job when it comes to fitting hearing loops. The consequence of this is that many people with hearing aids have a very low opinion of hearing loops and so there is a major need for our industry and electrical companies to be challenged to do better jobs and at the same time for the expectations to be raised amongst those who could benefit from such technology.
A few years ago a group of our engineers flew out to Bucharest to fit some hearing loops in a Hotel that was being used by Sense for a conference. After the team had carried out the work overnight before the conference began, they spent some time talking to the delegates and were told very clearly that many of the people did not believe hearing loops were credible. While they waited for the plane to fly them back they persuaded a few of the delegates to give their loops a try and the response was significant. As soon as some of the delegates set their hearing aids to the T settings and listened to the sound being broadcast over the loop system they said that they had never had such a good experience before.
The irony is that in a great many settings hearing loops are fitted in spaces that are poorly designed for them, or using equipment that is frankly very poor quality or has been poorly fitted and in all of those cases, the cost is just as high as in settings where the building and loop equipment and fitters are all doing a competent job. However the same sign is displayed in each case and so understandably many people have a low expectation when they see the sign. It would be fantastic if over the next five months between now and the world deaf day, we could begin to see a change on all levels, with the Architects, Electrical Consultants and Installers all persuaded to ensure they are working to a competent standard. This would then give the 2m people who rely on hearing aids now and more in the future a bit more benefit!