Why are we not being heard?

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THE chief executive of a leading charity has labelled provision in Eastbourne for those with a hearing disability as “inadequate”.

Hearing Link UK has launched its “Let’s Loop Eastbourne” initiative - an ambitious campaign to establish the town as the most hearing-friendly place in the UK.

However Lorraine Gailey, the charity’s chief executive, is critical of the number of hearing loop systems installed in commercial and public buildings in the town which are not working.

“I am not being indignant or damning, in fact I am frustrated that businesses and organisations have put money into hearing loops which are not working,” she said. “It would take very little work to put this right.

“I don’t blame the businesses, in fact the fault lies with the lack of feedback they have been receiving that that systems are not working.”

Using a team volunteers, Hearing Link UK recently carried out an audit in Eastbourne of a number of facilities including supermarkets, chemists, banks, post offices, churches, libraries, cinemas, the Sovereign Centre, railway station, village halls, hotels, the DGH as well as the Eastbourne Crematorium. The audit did not make pretty reading.

“Hearing loop facilities in Eastbourne are not better and not worse than anywhere else in the UK, but they are not good,” said Lorraine Gailey. “The level of provision is fairly inadequate and the level of understanding about hearing loops is pretty low. People are not keen to talk about their hearing issues, they are not highlighting the problems.”

The Hearing Link UK chief executive reckons that between 80 to 90 per cent of commercial premises and public buildings in Eastbourne have hearing loop systems. Expert Andrew Thomas from Contacta, specialists in hearing loop systems, agrees that figure for larger national organisations, but believes a lot of smaller, independent shops don’t have the facilities bringing the figure closer to 70 and 80 per cent..

Both agree that between ten and 20 per cent of those hearing systems are effective – the rest are not working, incorrectly specified, poorly maintained or fitted in the wrong place with a lack of signage.

“That is extremely disappointing,” said Andrew Thomas. “Especially in a place like Eastbourne which has a high number of people with hearing aids who would value a working loop system.”

With two million people in the UK relying on hearing aids or Cochlear implants, Hearing UK believe that all of these people could potentially benefit from hearing loops.

“Our ultimate goal is to get a much better quality experience for anyone who lives in or visits Eastbourne with a much better loop system in place,” added Lorraine Gailey.

“By the end of the year I would like to see 75 per cent of those systems in place in Eastbourne working.

“It is a realistic goal.”

l Living in a world of

isolation – page 55