Deafness expert talks to soroptimists

AN EXPERT on the issues of deafness was the guest speaker at a meeting of Eastbourne Soroptimists Club – including women from Wealden District.

Rebecca McMurray, events and community fundraising executive for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) was guest speaker at the soroptimists meeting at the Red Lion, Willingdon on March 28.

She explained that nine million people, one in seven of the population, suffered from a hearing problem in Britain and experienced many problems as a result. There were a further four million who suffered hearing loss without it being recognised so a campaign was needed to encourage them to come forward for help.

For the over-60s, half suffered from a hearing problem and this number was increasing because people’s hearing is now being damaged, for example by loud music and over-use of mobile phones. She said that the RNID is 100 years old in June and offers a range of support for hearing impaired people from running care homes, a bio-medical research programme and campaigning for improvements to make life easier.

She explained that for those with a hearing problem it was like being in a foreign country, trying to understand what was happening around you when people were speaking a language you could not understand. Their outreach schemes, including one in Sussex, aimed to help people live independent lives, offering Help-lines with trained staff to give advice, specialist care and supported homes, help with communication including interpreters and drop-in centres for hearing aid maintenance.

One campaign found that only 17 per cent of induction loops required by law were working properly at shops via a survey in Eastbourne.

They were also campaigning to get Lip Reading classes classified as an educational activity rather than leisure so they would not be so costly. Their research programme included investigating life-saving drugs which unfortunately damaged hearing to see if there were alternatives; growing stem cells to regenerate the cochlear to restore hearing for around 630,000 people and improvements to hearing aids. Currently each year £14 per person was spent nationally on sight research, but only £1.34 per person on hearing problems.