According to national research by Action on Hearing Loss and others, one in six of the general population has some degree of hearing loss. In the population over 50 years of age that rises to 2 in 5, and by age 70 that’s 7 in 10. By this count, around thirty-two thousand people in Bury have a hearing loss and/or tinnitus. Hearing loss and tinnitus can reduce people’s quality of life and, without intervention, can result in increasing social isolation, depression and cognitive decline.
With these facts in mind, Bury U3A hosted a study day for members who have difficulty with hearing or live with someone affected by hearing loss. Forty-one members attended.
Bury U3A’s Accessibility Group organised the day. One challenge was to provide an environment in which hearing loss would be less of a problem than at most conferences. A venue with a good hearing loop was, of course, the first priority. Other measures were put in place designed to prioritise visual information over speech. The venue proved ideal for the purpose and, at lunch, members evidently appreciated the chance to chat informally with members who shared their experiences of hearing loss.
In line with U3A’s tagline “Learn, Laugh, Live”, the day started with three informative talks about hearing and hearing aids given by audiologists from Bury’s Primary Care Team: Specialised Audiologist Darren Gledhill and Highly Specialised Audiologist Jane Robertson. In the afternoon members heard from Bury’s Inclusion Officer, Lenke Csaba-Ashton about the additional assistance available to help people to make the most of their aids and residual hearing. The final section of the day was about tactics people with hearing loss can use to help boost their own communicative skills, including lipreading. The day ended with a question and answer session.
The evaluation exercise suggested that the day was much appreciated by those who attended: one member said that she had been wearing hearing aids for 50 years but still learned things she had never heard before!
U3APlus is available to help, support and advise U3As to ensure that all their members can access the informal learning and the many activities in their U3As, regardless of impairment or disability.