Hearing loss strategy backed

MEMBERS of a health board have backed a hearing loss strategy after it was revealed 15,000 people in Hartlepool are likely to have problems at some stage of their life.

Council bosses say hearing loss can have a significant impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing – and for children who are born with a hearing impairment, their language development, educational attainment and life chances can be affected.

It can also impact on an adult’s employment opportunities and lead to isolation, depression and mental health problems.

A report said just over 16 per cent of the population suffer a hearing loss which mounts to one in six people or around 14,700 in Hartlepool.

Now a hearing loss strategy has been backed and it aims to:

l Create a visible focal point in the town for people with hearing loss to meet, get information and support;

l Review the commissioning of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter services and redesigning them in consultation with other partners and the deaf community,

l Develop a “strategic approach” to the engagement of people from the deaf and hard of hearing communities to enable them to be fully involved in decisions and changes to services that affect them.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s shadow health and wellbeing board, chaired by Mayor Stuart Drummond, met recently to discuss the draft strategy and give their backing.

Jill Harrison, the council’s assistant director of adult social care, told members that one in six people in town will be affected by hearing problems at some point.

Mrs Harrison said: “I bring this report for your consideration today and hopefully for support going forward.”

She added that for people who are profoundly deaf their first language is British sign language, and said it was important to be aware when trying to communicate with people.

A report was presented to the cabinet committee in November 2011 requesting permission for a hearing loss strategy to be developed and that has now been backed by the health and wellbeing board.

Louise Wallace, director of public health in Hartlepool, said: “This is probably quite ahead of the game to have a strategy of this nature.

“There has been a lot of support for it and we are hoping to launch it soon.”

Alan Foster, chief executive of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I support this proposal and making sure that we are helping people that are hard of hearing.”

Independent councillor Paul Thompson said anything that raised awareness should be welcomed adding: “It is about people being trained and aware that there is a large deaf community in Hartlepool.”

The local strategy coincided with the publication of a national hearing loss strategy and a major programme of work recently announced by the county’s largest deaf charity, Action on Hearing.