Irene Watterson is a meet and greet volunteer, and there are five volunteers who provide hearing aid maintenance and home visits.
Visitors are welcomed by Irene before being offered a cup of tea of coffee from volunteers from the church. If the person requires batteries Irene will distribute them; if they are having problems with their hearing aid they are given a number before being led through to a volunteer who will sit with them and examine their hearing aid.
Irene, Meet and Greet volunteer, said: “I had my second hearing aid fitted six years ago. I used to be a dial operator wearing a head set and that may have damaged my hearing. When people arrive I give them a number and help them fill in the paperwork so we can track the services we deliver. I file the forms at the end and help people to their cars if they need it. I’m a small cog in a big wheel but over the years people have got to know me; I even get hugs!”
Jenny has been a Hearing Aid Maintenance volunteer for eight years. She said:
“I’ve had hearing aids for 16 years. They were hard to get used to at first; the sound of the wooden floor or knives and forks was deafening. After a while you get accustomed to it. I know the difference that hearing aids make so it’s great to be able to help others to hear better.”
At a recent session, Jenny helped a woman who ‘hadn’t heard for weeks’. This is usually a result of a build-up of wax which prevents sounds getting through to the inner ear. Jenny removed the hardened discoloured tubing that connects the processor in the hearing aid to the ear mould and replaced it with clear flexible new tubing. Instantly the woman was able to hear as clearly as the first day she received her hearing aid!
Mary has also volunteered for the service for eight years. At the session, she assisted a young woman who had recently been given hearing aids and was looking for tips and information about coping at work. Mary was able to share her own experiences as a hearing aids user including information about using hearing loops, assistive products, how to clean hearing aids and other services which can help. The service user was delighted with the help, exclaiming “I’ve learnt so much from you in just 15 minutes!”
Mary also completes home visits for service users who are unable to leave the house, ensuring that they can hear well so they don’t become isolated from friends and family.
Hearing Aid Maintenance volunteers receive full training, and many volunteers assist at multiple sessions in their local area.
The issues service users have are varied: sometimes people struggle with inserting hearing aids properly; others find that their earmoulds are no longer comfortable. Many service users find that their hearing deteriorates due to wax build up and require earmould cleaning and re-tubing.
The drop in service means that people can benefit from free support without waiting for an appointment. After a short time, they are able to hear better than before and leave more informed about wearing and caring for their hearing aids.
Hazel Wilson, Hearing Aid Liaison Officer at Action on Hearing Loss, said: “We have a great team of volunteers in the South Eastern Trust who all support each other. Our volunteers provide an incredible service, helping hundreds of NHS hearing aid users every year.”
If you are interested in volunteering at a Hearing Aid User Support Session near you, either as a Meet and Greet volunteer or as a Hearing Aid Maintenance volunteer, please visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/volunteering or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Hearing Aid User Support Sessions take place across Northern Ireland in association with local Health and Social Care Trusts. To find a session near you please visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/hearing-aid-support-service-ni or call 028 9023 9619.