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Services update: November-December

By Nicholas Orpin

Thank you all for volunteering your time and experience this year in making someone else’s life that little bit easier.

Do take the time to look back on the path we have walked together and remember the people you have helped and your contribution to their hearing loss journey. That may be a well-worn phrase, but connecting with the right peer support volunteer at the right time, and in the right way, makes all the difference.

This Christmas will be the first one with no restrictions or guidelines in place since the pandemic began. While there is much to celebrate and enjoy, particularly improved communication without face coverings, managing conversations at busy meal tables and noisy venues can be quite daunting. So do be prepared and keep an eye out for yourself and each other.

Helpdesk and LiveChat: Almost 100 enquirers had their questions answered in November.  Not only will they have benefitted from your advice, but our Central Support Advisor colleagues will also follow these up and, where we can, a pathway of support opportunities will open up for many years to come.

If you usually encourage people to contact the Helpdesk or LiveChat services, do bear in mind that this service will be closed from 23 December. Our automatic email reply will direct enquirers to emergency services and accessible mental health services.

Our Central Support Advisors will monitor the inbox and if there is any indication that someone is struggling, we will email them with the same contact details. Normal service resumes on Tuesday 3 January 2023.

Community drop-in sessions These continued in November. Thank you again to Alison, Margaret and Elaine for taking your help and advice out to the public.

If you haven’t already done so, please follow Hearing Link Services on Twitter and Facebook, and ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ every time you see a post advertising these sessions. We are followed by thousands of people and also organisations that are interested in referring to our services. The more people see us, the more they will engage and the more we can help.

LinkUp Group: We had 13 people booked on the LinkUp Group at The Grange and six peer support volunteers supported them through the emotional and uplifting weekend. Sadly, Covid hit and a small number will now join a future group.

The attendees hugely appreciated the active and ongoing support and encouragement from some great volunteer-led sessions including the questions of the day, technology, lipreading and the split hearing/hearing loss specific groups.

Paula, a peer support volunteer and audiologist, delivered an eye-opening session covering what’s happening inside your ear and what makes a good audiology session. On Sunday we were lucky to have a member of a Sensory Support team come along and explain what services can be available. I think those teams across the country were busy the following Monday with our empowered attendees!

Thanks to volunteers Sylvia, John, Fiona, Paula, Steve and Chris.

Pension Policy Event: On 24 November, the Intercontinental Hotel at London’s O2 arena was the prestigious setting for the Pension Insurance Corporation’s return to an in-person conference. Around 700 pension holder delegates attended a social and well-being event alongside some motivational speaker sessions.

With a focus on well-being, there were massages and manicures on offer as well as our stand highlighting living better with hearing loss. The other charities focusing on health included the Stroke Association and the British Heart Foundation, while the RNIB encouraged a reconnection with nature.

Some delegates used this warm and friendly atmosphere to visit our Hearing Link Services stand and ask their first questions about their hearing to our Peer Support and Hearing Dogs volunteers. Others came over to ask more directly about their deafness and discovered our range of support services that way.

One gentleman had some direct peer support when he asked about activating his T-coil switch in order to benefit from the induction loop in the conference hall. Duly advised, he went into the auditorium to hear one of the motivational speeches, only to emerge 20 minutes later. He headed straight for our stand and declared “Thanks very much for the advice, I can hear everything that is being said now – the only trouble is, it’s so boring what he’s saying, I’ve decided to walk out!”

The ever-brilliant hearing dogs Arlo and Beany gave us a constant focal point and great way to break the ice and start a conversation. “How are you getting on with your hearing…?”

Thanks to Claire, Alison, Gill, Kate and Sebastian who made it a special day!

Association of Independent Healthcare Professionals (AIHHP) Conference: An 80-strong audience, of mostly independent audiologists, gathered at the AIHHP annual conference at the end of November. We had an invitation to present to delegated about our Hearing Link Services and run an exhibition stand! 

It was an excellent opportunity to showcase the full range of services that our charity has to offer to a dedicated audience. Our aim is to develop good professional relationships so we can work in tandem with them. Signposting their own clients and patients to our Helpdesk and LiveChat services creates the chance for them to come into contact with our Peer Support volunteers.

We had some nice feedback on our variety of services. It is encouraging that it’s the range of possibilities for people to discuss their hearing in a variety of ways, that shows us as being able to help people when they need it the most.

It was also really heart-warming that a number of delegates told us that their practice has been supporting the charity by sponsoring a hearing dog puppy for many years or have made us the charity of the year for fundraising. I lost count of the number who did, but they all remembered the puppies’ names or told me whether a hearing dog had been for a visit. It really made things easier to bring the conversation round to all our services.

Thanks to peer support volunteer John and Roo who were the star attraction on the day!

Post-presentation roll-out: I hope you have had a chance to see the presentation – or at least skip to the parts that interest you! In it, I outline the services delivery and which teams within the whole Hearing Loss Services Department you will come into contact with if you volunteer on the Helpdesk, at LinkUps or Community Days.  Thanks to everyone with whom Alison and I have spoken on a one-to-one basis, on the back of this. It’s been good to hear your thoughts and opinions and I am glad to note that it has been helpful. We’ll reach everyone in the coming weeks and months.

Christmas Market: Many thanks to Dave and Pam who helped run the Hearing Link Services stand at the Christmas Market. This was a hugely popular event overall and reportedly the most successful so far.

Supporting this type of event, which helps raises the funds we need to put on our services, also raises our profile generating more interest and more awareness of our services with the public.

During December:

  • We look set to have our next LinkUp Online just before Christmas which will be a valuable experience for the participants in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year.
  • London and Edinburgh will have their final monthly drop-in sessions of the year.
  • Alison and I will continue to book some one-to-one time with you.
  • We’re due to launch the Helpful Hour working group.

Wishing you a cracker of a Christmas and a Happy New Year!