Founded in June 1979 under the name of CAMTAD (Cambridge Campaign for Acquired Deafness), we are run by and for people with hearing loss. We have a dedicated team of five part-time staff and 115+ volunteers, over 80% of whom have hearing loss. Our mission is to support people (particularly older people) with hearing loss across Cambridgeshire to maintain their independence and wellbeing. To this end, we support approximately 6,500 service users a year, 72% (4,680) of whom are aged 80+.
Our core services are provided in close partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council’s Sensory Services and Cambridgeshire’s complex and non-complex audiology services. They constitute the provision of community-based NHS hearing aid maintenance and hearing loss information, advice and signposting via 43 (1 weekly, 1 bi-monthly, 32 monthly, and 9 quarterly) drop-in sessions across the county, home visits, residential home visits and prison visits. Through this work, across the last 12 months, we managed 12,951 service user contacts, cleaning and re-tubing 16,995 NHS hearing aids and giving 1,412 information/advice/signposting sessions.
Other free services we provide include: community hearing loss awareness-raising talks and assistive technology demonstrations, peer support, ‘Living Well with Hearing Loss’ workshops, and lip-reading classes.
Why we are needed
Hearing loss affects over 40% of 50-year olds and over 70% of 70-year olds. It is a growing challenge in Cambridgeshire because the over 65s are forecasted to grow by almost 80% by 2036, and the over 90s by more than 250% (Cambridgeshire Insight).
Those who are older, frail, have other disabilities or live in rural areas often need our support to effectively manage their hearing loss because of the barriers they face to accessing mainstream audiology services. These barriers include:
“I am struggling to walk. I am 93. I use my scooter to get about. This service is a lifeline for me and others.” (A service user at one of our community drop-in clinics)
“A very comforting service that has given me a new lease of life and the confidence to wear my hearing aids. Thank you to everyone involved.” (A home visit service user)
“Our staff can put the hearing aids in and take them out but we struggle to unblock the tubing of wax and we certainly can’t replace it. Residents have to wait a long time before an audiologist can visit but your volunteers come in almost straight away. This makes life much easier for both the residents and the carers who need to be able to communicate with them.” (The Manager of one of the residential homes we support)
Left unmanaged, hearing loss has a very high personal cost. For example:
Unmanaged hearing loss also puts safety at risk – e.g. it results in people missing important signals that alert them to danger, such as fire alarms and the doorbell, and leaves them vulnerable to abuse/exploitation.
Other significant barriers that people with hearing loss face include barriers to accessing work and volunteering opportunities, such as emotional barriers (e.g. shame, and reduced confidence/self-esteem), attitudinal barriers (e.g. stigma/discrimination), and physical barriers (e.g. difficulty with communication/lack of assistive technology). They also include barriers to accessing social/leisure opportunities, including the inability to hear conversation in noisy places/films/performances/talks, etc. If not overcome, such barriers lead to loneliness/isolation, reduced confidence/self-esteem, mental health issues and associated health inequalities.