Our history - Action On Hearing Loss: RNID
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Our history

How it all started

Please install the Flash Plugin In 1911 Leo Bonn, inspired by his personal experience of deafness, founded the organisation that would become RNID. From the start, his aims were ambitious: to support and care for people with hearing loss, to educate those at risk of damaging their hearing, and to raise awareness of how isolating hearing loss can be.

As we enter our second century, we still urgently need to reach those with hearing loss, those at risk of losing their hearing, and those who do not realise how isolating hearing loss can be.

Our new name makes our intention clear. As Action on Hearing Loss, we’re working for a world where hearing loss doesn’t limit or label people, where tinnitus is silenced and where people value and look after their hearing.

Key dates in our history

  • 9 June 1911 Leo Bonn, a deaf merchant banker, creates The National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf in London.
  • 1929 We open our first residential home, initially for elderly deaf women, in Barrowford, Lancashire.
  • 1939-45 During the war we send out hearing aids to deaf prisoners of war. These could be converted into miniature radio receivers for espionage purposes.
  • 1948 Thanks to our lobbying, the new National Health Service provides free hearing aids and batteries UK-wide for the first time
  • 1958 The Duke of Edinburgh becomes our patron.
  • 1960 We launch the Picture Screening Test, a short hearing test designed for children – a forerunner of today’s telephone Hearing Check.
  • 1974 We begin long-term support for research into tinnitus.
  • 1983 We campaign for widespread rubella vaccinations among young women to prevent deafness and other disabilities in babies.
  • 1990 Our Tinnitus Helpline launches in Nottingham, handling over 2,000 calls in first six months.
  • 1991 We launch the telephone relay service Typetalk, with a £4m donation from BT.
  • 1999 We start funding biomedical research into hearing loss.
  • 2000 Hearing screening for newborn babies is introduced following our campaign with the National Deaf Children's Society.
  • 2000 We start working with the NHS to deliver modern digital hearing aids as standard.
  • 2001 We persuade the government to increase subtitling requirements on terrestrial TV from 50% to 80%.
  • 2003 We launch our Don’t Lose the Music campaign to persuade people to protect their hearing while enjoying music.
  • 2005 Our telephone Hearing Check takes its first calls.
  • 9 June 2011 Our 100th birthday.
  • 2013 The Duke of Edinburgh was our Royal Patron until 31 March 2013, but has now handed on to the next generation in the guise of Prince Andrew, HRH The Duke of York.
  • 2013 We merged with the medical research charity, Deafness Research UK.

We've achieved so much since 1911 – but we still have along way to go!

Help us change the lives of the 10 million people who are deaf or have a hearing loss in the UK. You can help us to reduce the stigma and isolation attached to hearing loss through support, campaigning and awareness.

You can also contribute to our ground-breaking biomedical research into treatments for deafness and tinnitus.

Help fund our work for the next 100 years!

hearing matters