About Cambridgeshire Hearing Help

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:

  • Lack of public transport in rural areas.
  • Inability/reluctance to use public transport due to the sense of vulnerability that hearing loss causes, coupled with potential mobility issues.
  • The inability to hear on the phone to make an appointment/get information. Even if some services accept contact via email/text, only 48.3% of the over 65’s in Cambridgeshire are online, and only 50% of those 75+ use a mobile phone (Age UK).
  • Difficulty maintaining hearing aids at home resulting in the need for frequent appointments – e.g. struggling with simple hearing aid maintenance tasks, such as changing batteries, and removing wax blockages, due to limited dexterity, and care staff being insufficiently trained in this work.
  • Long waiting lists for home visits from some mainstream audiology services (e.g. Cambridgeshire’s non-complex audiology is provided by Specsavers and the current waiting list is 5 months for a home visit).

“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:

  • Hearing loss can lead to social isolation. Older people with hearing loss are more likely to experience emotional distress and withdraw from social situations (Negative consequences of uncorrected hearing loss – a review, International Journal of Audiology, Arlinger, 2003).
  • One study found that hearing loss is associated with feelings of loneliness – but only for people who don’t wear hearing aids (Hearing Loss and Cognition: The Role of Hearing Aids, Social Isolation and Depression, Dawes et al, 2015).
  • Research shows there is an association between hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, with the risk of developing dementia increasing in line with the severity of hearing loss (Hearing loss and incident dementia, Lin et al, 2013).
  • A recent study identified hearing loss as the largest modifiable risk factor for dementia (Dementia prevention, intervention and care, Livingston et al, 2017). If removed, the study states that 9% of dementia cases could be prevented.
  • Unaddressed hearing loss has been linked with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems (Acquired hearing loss and psychiatric illness, Eastwood et al, 1985). For example, research shows that hearing loss doubles the risk of developing depression (Hearing handicap predicts the development of depressive symptoms, Saito et al, 2010).
  • Unmanaged hearing loss has been independently associated with falls, with the risk of falls increasing by 140% for every 10 decibels of hearing loss (Hearing loss and falls among older adults, Lin and Ferrucci, 2012).

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.

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