As a child I thought little about immunisation programs that kept me safe from diseases such as smallpox that caused misery in previous generations. Doctors' consultations were taken for granted - as were medications and hospital visits.
As a young mum I was grateful for the extension of these services that helped care for me, my husband and our children - relieving me of the worry of how they were to be paid for. Automatic deductions from pay packets gave us welcome peace of mind where health services were concerned.
Over the years I became increasingly aware that my hearing was not as good as it might be. I was the usual victim of comments such as: "Wash your ears out." "Pay attention!" "Were you not listening?" or, "It doesn’t matter." uttered by a frustrated friend/colleague/family member when I asked for repetition.
The crunch finally arrived when I began to use the subtitles on the TV. My hearing loss was now visibly affecting my nearest and dearest at home. Away from home I learned to accept that viewing that required listening was pointless. Social occasions were becoming increasingly frustrating too. There are only so many times I feel able to ask for repetition before joining the nodding and smiling bluff brigade. Losing the thread of a conversation leads to feelings of isolation and can make one appear stupid later when people expect you to have heard and understood.
I had undergone a hearing test in 1992 but although there was high frequency loss I had been offered no help. I assumed that analogue hearing aids would be of no use to me. When the NHS began supplying digital hearing aids I decided to try again. In 2006, following a new hearing test and diagnosis of 'mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss', I was fitted with an NHS digital hearing aid in my left ear. Wow! I was totally unprepared for the result. Speech was so much clearer and there were 'new' environmental sounds that added musical colour to my life. Six months later an NHS digital hearing aid in my right ear gave me improved bilateral hearing and my life - and that of my husband - was truly transformed.
I cannot thank the NHS enough for the life enhancement it has afforded me. Those two tiny digital devices behind my ears have allowed me to: socialise so much more easily with family and friends, visit places of interest including theatres, engage in voluntary work, participate in associated meetings and many other normal everyday activities that those with good hearing take for granted.
As a result of my personal experience of hearing loss and NHS hearing aids I became passionately involved with Action on Hearing Loss's campaign to save the provision of hearing aids on the NHS for all who need them. I cannot support a postcode lottery for NHS treatment of any kind and I believe that all those who seek help with their hearing and would benefit from hearing aids should have access to them - 'free at the point of delivery'.
Our NHS is a national treasure that has developed over the last 70 years. We must celebrate its many achievements and preserve it for the benefit of ALL who need it.