It is not a well-known fact that hearing impairments affect 1 in 5 people in the UK. It is the second most common disability here, after those who have problems with mobility; and it is more prevalent than conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer put together.
Hi Kent is a charity that helps people in Kent to live well with hearing loss and I had the pleasure of visiting them again recently, at their Maidstone offices. I was there for an update on their work across the county and to learn about the challenges they currently face in delivering such empowering help, to so many people.
The big message they want to convey is that it is much easier to gradually adapt to any changes in hearing, than it is to ignore it for years before doing something about it. People don’t think twice about wearing glasses, but for some reason hearing aids don’t currently enjoy a similar level of acceptance.
Uncorrected hearing makes it hard to communicate easily, which is frustrating for all parties in day to day living. But more seriously, hearing loss can cause people to close themselves off from others. The resulting isolation can then lead to declining mental health and recent studies have also shown links to the onset and progression of dementia.
It can be a very easy thing to correct though, and Hi Kent are there to help at every level of impairment, from mild hearing difficulties to total Deafness.
Information, advice and guidance is available from their very knowledgeable team to point people in the right direction to get the help they need.
Help with administrative issues that people struggle with, due to deafness, is also available and can be provided in British Sign Language.
Hi Kent supports Kent NHS Audiology services by providing maintenance and advice for their hearing aids through a network of drop-in clinics throughout the county, keeping people using their hearing aids well.
Hi Kent’s Assessment and Equipment service is free and can result in long term loans of equipment such as amplified telephones, TV listening gadgets, flashing doorbells and smoke alarms.
Lipreading courses are provided free of charge, online, to help people improve their communication skills and British Sign Language (BSL) courses are also available. Still on the skills front, Hi Kent also teaches Deaf Awareness to organisations, helping them to improve their customers' (and staff) experiences and to understand their communication needs.
The Hi Kent menu of services and support goes much further than this but securing the funding they need to deliver it all requires constant effort from the Hi Kent team. During my visit I was pleased to be asked to help them find new sponsors, such as companies who may be keen to align their corporate social responsibility programmes with the Hi Kent mission. The search is now on and if you know of a company that might be willing to support the wonderful work of this very special charity, through sponsorship in some way, please let me know. I will be more than happy to visit the business, together with management leadership from Hi Kent, to discuss it further.
You can find out much more about Hi Kent here: https://hikent.org.uk/, and Hats Off to everyone involved, you make a difference to thousands of lives – thank you.