Hearing Aids

Every hard of hearing person knows the anxieties arising from hearing loss. I was born with a 30 per cent hearing deficit in my right ear but I have been fortunate in that there has been no deterioration in the condition and it has therefore been of little impediment to my life.

Today with the technological developments which are now with us in all areas of the medical world it is disappointing to learn that the hard of hearing are not best served away from their own homes.

Travelling can often be a nightmare with background noise in railway stations and airport gate areas making it very difficult for announcements to be heard clearly by people with hearing difficulties.

Yet such problems can be resolved by buildings installing induction loop systems. In my constituency one of the prime examples of an induction T-Loop system is in Westminster Abbey which hosts huge numbers of visitors annually.

“The whole of the church is served by a hearing loop. Users should turn their hearing aid to the setting marked T.” This was the first sentence of Westminster Abbey’s Program for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Queen’s coronation in 2003. And all visitors are now clearly advised at the entrance that such an aid to hearing within the environs of the Abbey is available.

It seems to me that if iconic buildings like Westminster Abbey, not renowned for its acoustics, can make the effort to install the T-Loop, then there should be political and financial encouragement for more UK retailers and smaller booths such as ticket windows to make the effort as well. More than 4 million people (including approximately 23,000 deaf children under the age of fifteen) wear hearing aids and all of them have telecoils which enable the user to switch to the T position.

All that needs to be done is for places to be fitted with the T-Loop and people would be able to change the setting on their hearing aid and hear more clearly in noisy environments. Many theatres and concert halls are losing money by not attracting hard of hearing people into their audiences. If they installed the T-Loop many more people would take the trouble to attend events at such auditoriums.

London taxi drivers have learnt the value of having a T-Loop system installed in their cabs. It makes life much easier for passengers to give instructions to the driver or to simply have a chat.

There is obviously a financial outlay in T-looping large buildings but nowhere near the costs associated with that involved in aiding wheelchair bound visitors. It costs roughly £100 to loop a home television room, so the cost for small ticket booths and other small retail outlets is probably smaller still. Much has been and is being spent on ensuring that all buildings are open for wheelchair access and it is time to consider a similar investment program for installing induction loop systems through the country.

Progressive loss of hearing is likely to become a greater health problem. Overall ambient noise levels are increasing especially in built-up areas. The constancy of such high sound levels is leading to a worsening in many people’s hearing at an earlier age. Likewise people are living longer and hearing is one of many senses that deteriorates with age. Patients need to be helped with good quality hearing aids and as soon as possible once loss is detected to reduce such deterioration. One in seven of our population has hearing loss today and trends point to substantial increases in the years ahead.

Whilst every effort should be made to prevent such high levels in the future and reduce deterioration in our population I believe we can make a real difference to those affected today by installing induction loop systems in all our public buildings.