A scheme that trains volunteers to carry out repairs on hearing aids has won the FaithAction Faith and Health Award 2018.
‘Hear Here! – Hearing Champions’ is a partnership between four hospital audiology departments and churches in the Surrey and NE Hampshire area. Local NHS audiology staff train church volunteers in understanding hearing impairment and basic hearing aid maintenance. Supplied with batteries and tubes, these champions then offer drop-in ‘clinics’ in their local communities.
Over 7,400 people have attended sessions since the scheme’s launch in 2013, with over 220 volunteers trained so far. Every month there are over 70 events taking place – on church premises, in care homes and even at local pharmacies and hairdressers.
Most sessions run in a café style, providing tea and a chat alongside the repairs. The trained volunteers can offer further support, perhaps signposting people to services like a sight & hearing bus or lipreading classes, or simply pointing them to social activities they might enjoy.
For those attending – who are often vulnerable and isolated – sessions provide easy access to support for which they would otherwise have to travel to the hospital, sometimes over long distances on public transport. They’re then able to use their hearing aids more often, meaning they are better able take part in everyday life. And of course the clinic itself provides a valuable opportunity for social interaction – some attendees come back just for the companionship, even when they don’t need repairs.
For audiology teams, the scheme has reduced the number of attendees at repair clinics, which frees up time for them to deal with patients with more complex issues. At one of the hospitals, the rough estimate is that the project has saved the equivalent of approximately 12 repair and maintenance clinics over the past year.
Hear Here! is helping to take the pressure off the NHS, bringing the community together and supporting people from churches to take an active role in their communities – including those who were not previously volunteering.
Chosen for its cross-sector impact and community-driven approach, Hear Here! is the winner of the inaugural Faith and Health Award. FaithAction launched the award to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS and to shine a light on the role that faith-based organisations are playing in supporting health and wellbeing in their communities.
Daniel Singleton, Director of FaithAction, said,
“Hear Here! is such a simple idea, and one that we think could be easily replicated by other faith and community organisations. And yet this simple thing is changing people’s lives for the better, which is why we think it’s such a worthy winner of this award.”
Tracey Wade, Sensory Inclusion Adviser at the Diocese of Guildford and Hear Here! coordinator, said,
“Without aftercare for hearing aids, this wonderful tool that can help people stay engaged with life is useless. Some people are also struggling with the emotional side of hearing loss – for people to stay truly well, they often need extra support, and that doesn’t have to come from the hospital. Hear Here! shows how a partnership with other organisations like churches can work in practice to improve wellbeing.”
This is only the beginning for Hear Here! Later in 2018 the project will start lip-reading training within parishes as a further way of helping people with hearing loss to stay connected to those around them.
Find out more about the Faith and Health Award and more about Hearing Champions.