SUFFERING from hearing loss should not exclude you from taking part in normal daily life. Imagine a world where you go to the cinema or the theatre but you can’t hear what’s going on (or you can hear the people on the next row enjoying their popcorn more than you can the words from the sound system!) – that would clearly be unacceptable in the modern age. Yet, when it comes to attending the local council meeting, then hard-of-hearing local resident Jim Uney has always found that equally frustrating!
Attending and being able to participate in public meetings in the local council chamber on equal terms as others is a democratic right. To observe and to hear proceedings, and to be able to contribute when opportunity arises, is something that most of us take for granted. But for the 2 million people in the UK who have hearing aids, then such a trip can become an ordeal. For hearing aid wearers, an induction loop can make the vital difference between hearing what is being said and feeling left out.
Hedon Town Council has an induction loop system (a special type of sound system that provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by hearing aids. It consists of a microphone(s) to pick up the spoken word; an amplifier which processes the signal which is then sent through a loop cable, a wire placed around the perimeter of a specific area i.e. a meeting room) and while Mr Uney as a hearing-aid user was initially involved in tests on that system, he has never been happy with it. Despite being a keen attendee at the meetings he has often left them frustrated at not being able to hear proceedings properly.
Now, a campaign led by Councillor Sarah Rommell has resulted in the issue of the Town Hall hearing-loop being looked at again by the Council. It now looks increasingly likely that the Hedon Town Council will update the existing system which should make meetings more accessible for the hard-of-hearing. It would also be a better system for use at other public events in the council chamber.
Mr Uney was present at last night’s meeting of the Town Council to listen to the debate about the hearing loop – but had again left the meeting early because he could not hear what was being said. However, on this occasion Councillor Rommell followed Mr Uney out of the chamber and convinced him to stay for the item. The council Property Committee meeting agreed to discuss the item earlier than intended and Mr Uney was allowed to sit at the council table to hear the item discussed at close quarters.
The meeting resolved to take the matter to the Town Council’s next Finance and General Purposes Business Committee to look at the possibility of assigning a budget to the project and also to consult on the plan with conservation and heritage officers (a necessary requirement when making adaptations to the ancient Town Hall building).
Note: Hearing loss is actually a much greater problem than most people realise. Whilst there are approximately 2 million hearing aid users, it is believed that up to 10 million suffer from hearing loss – that is one in six people with the majority of these being people over the age of 60. So general amplification of public meetings is also important. And those taking part should remember to speak in loud clear voices!
A useful source of information on hearing loss in the UK is Hearing Link.
Visit: Hearing Link UK
PS: This Sunday 13th April 2014 we will be publishing a special article written by Mr Jim Uney on another of his pet-hates – ‘unwanted loud music on TV’ which he says victimises hard of hearing people.