Hearing Link

History

Hearing Link butterfly logo in blue

Hearing Link was formed in 2008 as a result of a merger between Hearing Concern (formerly the British Association of the Hard of Hearing, BAHoH), and the LINK Centre for Deafened People.

British Association of the Hard of Hearing (BAHoH)

WW1 Hearing Link can trace its existence to the beginning of the 20th century, to the aftermath of the First World War where large numbers of servicemen are deafened by gunfire and warfare.

1920s The first lipreading class for ex-servicemen takes place in Edinburgh soon after the war. A hard of hearing club is set up in Glasgow in 1922 and another in Birmingham in 1929.

1937 An Association of Hard of Hearing Clubs is started in London and in several other cities across the UK.

WW2 The Second World War drastically increases the population of deafened young men, including VC Captain Richard ‘Dickie’ Annand.

1948 Richard Annand starts work at Finchale Abbey Training Centre, a rehabilitation centre for injured ex-servicemen returning home from active service during the Second World War. He is keen to raise awareness of the ‘invisible’ disability and writes to a newspaper exposing the plight of the men with whom he works. He receives hundreds of replies.

One of them is from Madeleine de Soyres who had set up a hard of hearing club in Welwyn Garden City. She and Richard Annand believe that a national association of hard of hearing clubs, where people can learn communication skills, get the right hearing aids and equipment, and meet others for social interaction, is the best way of supporting those injured through war (and indeed the thousands of people in the UK affected by hearing loss caused by medical conditions unrelated to war).

1946 In September 1946, they organise a conference with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID, now Action on Hearing Loss) to debate their ideas.

1947 In June 1947 the first meeting of the British Association of the Hard of Hearing (BAHoH) takes place.

1950s/1960s The dynamic new organisation drives forward the creation of more hard of hearing groups and clubs in all four countries of the UK. From these groups and clubs, leagues and federations are formed, where grass roots membership is able to influence the charity’s aims and objectives. The structure continues in this way until the late 1990s when it moves to become a trustee-managed charity.

1980s/1990s From its headquarters at 7-11 Armstrong Road in west London BAHoH’s principle activities are:

  • Clubs, groups, leagues and federations
  • Telecoms
  • Lipspeaking
  • Public awareness
  • Broadcasting
  • Young people

1996 Her Majesty The Queen graciously consents to be BAHoH’s patron, and is succeeded in 2001 by HRH the Princess Royal.

2003 BAHoH changes its name to Hearing Concern.

LINK Centre for Deafened People

1960s Rosemary McCall works as a lipreading tutor in the audiology department of the Princess Alice Hospital in Eastbourne. She is concerned about the lack of provision for adults who become suddenly and profoundly deaf.

1972 Working with ENT consultant Mr O’Connor-Coffey, Dr Iris and Pamela O’Cuneen, Rosemary McCall sets up the LINK Centre for Deafened People in September 1972.

The objectives of the new charity are to offer practical support and emotional encouragement to those who had acquired a profound hearing loss in adult life and also to their family members. Rosemary McCall brings together groups of five to seven deafened adults and their families, and they take part in a two-week long residential course in Eastbourne. ‘Guests’ are accommodated in local guest houses and come into the Centre every day for sessions on a variety of subjects.

1978 A benefactor, Philip Lowe, helps raise funds to purchase an old Victorian house, 19 Hartfield Road in Eastbourne.

1980s For about 20 years, the nationally-recognised courses are the primary activity of the charity, the only significant changes being the length of the course reducing from two weeks to one in the mid 1980s, and the creation of specialist courses for families with Neurofibromatosis Type 2.

1990s As funding became more secure, the charity begins to diversify, initially introducing a Returners Courses and then visits by specially trained Peer Volunteers to provide continuity of care before and after courses.

1998 For the first time programmes are delivered in other parts of the UK, the first being in Harrogate in 1998, so that people do not have to travel so far to reach them; it also enables local professionals to acquire experience in supporting people after the courses end.

2006 A new office in Edinburgh is opened, a significant step in providing more programmes and support for people living in Scotland and north east England.

2007 LINK establishes a community of deafened people with a distinctive and unique identity different from those with a lesser degree of hearing loss. LINK commissions an in-depth study researching the psychosocial impact of acquired profound hearing loss on adults and their families (carried out in partnership with the University of Greenwich), runs the first national Convention for Deafened People, and launches a new membership scheme with a members’ magazine and newsletter.

Volunteers run ‘deafened-ness’ awareness training for shops, public services and businesses, peer mentoring schemes for people considering cochlear implantation, and short, non-residential self management courses. LINK works with the British Library and Oral History Society to create a schools’ education awareness pack about the lives and experiences of deafened people.

Merger of Hearing Concern (previously BAHoH) and the LINK Centre for Deafened People

2008 As a result of demographic changes, raised expectations and advances in technology Hearing Concern and LINK merge to become Hearing Concern LINK. Dr Lorraine Gailey, who has been Director of LINK since Rosemary McCall retired in 1991, is Chief Executive.

2011 Hearing Concern LINK is re-launched as Hearing Link.

2012 The entire range of the charity’s services is extended to residents in all four countries of the UK:

  • Helpdesk run by volunteer responders with personal experience of hearing loss,
  • Residential programmes for deafened people, and confidence and independence-building courses for people with any degree of hearing loss,
  • Interactive website, providing a comprehensive set of factsheets on medical, technology and communication issues, with unique living-with-hearing-loss blogs and testimonies,
  • Engagement and communication activities focusing on hearing loops and hearing awareness, rolled out in collaboration with Hearing Link groups and clubs and statutory and third sector organisations,
  • Through representation in government, NHS and business Hearing Link keeps the psychological, access and social needs of hearing impaired people high on the political agenda.

2013 Hearing Link hosts the third International Hearing Loop Conference in 2013, as a forerunner of the Let’s Loop the UK campaign.

2015 Hearing Link’s services today illustrate that the core values that existed in Hearing Concern (BAHoH) and LINK at their inception remain at the heart of the organisation, namely, a personal interest in the individual and a drive to help each person live their life to the full with confidence and independence whatever their degree of hearing.

With thanks to: Marwood Braund MBE, Jim Pothecary, Jack Sandover

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