Around 70% of people aged over 70 and 40% of people aged over 50 have some form of hearing impairment. Many of these people are living independently but struggle when having conversations in places with a large amount of background noise. This results in confusion, alienation, embarrassment and unsatisfactory levels of service.
Effective and efficient use of hearing loops by businesses will dramatically increase the quality of their customers’ experience and mean they are more likely to return and use a service again.
Hearing Link, a national organisation supporting people experiencing hearing loss, is working with Swindon Borough Council to:
- increase the provision of working hearing loop systems in businesses, shops and public buildings in and around Swindon
- increase knowledge about and better use of hearing loops by hearing aid users
- create better awareness in local businesses, shops and facilities to make sure their staff understand the needs of hearing aid users and provide services accessible to them
The project, called ‘Let’s Loop’, had already been successfully piloted in Eastbourne. It encourages communities to become more inclusive and accessible and supports the government’s Accessible Britain Challenge.
It involves recruiting a team of hearing aid users to act as secret shoppers. They monitor how good loops are and then encourage businesses and organisations to make changes when issues arise. A steering group oversees this work and contacts organisations to offer support and information following the loop check.
Rotary Community Corps is supporting the project and helping overcome difficulties such as insurance for volunteers. Contacta Systems is providing training for volunteers to test hearing loops from the perspective of a customer. The audiology department at the local hospital has also offered advice.
The project is providing evidence for Hearing Link to support negotiation with national companies to increase the provision of loop systems and knowledge of their staff.
As a result of working on the project, Swindon council are also checking their hearing loop systems and making changes.
The following organisations support the project:
- BBC Radio Wiltshire
- Churches Together in Swindon
- Click 4 Action eRotary
- Great Western Hospitals NHS Trust
- Hearing Link
- Swindon Borough Council
- Swindon Equality & Access Group
- Swindon Equality Coalition
- Voluntary Action Swindon
- Zurich Community Trust