A volunteer for charity Action on Hearing Loss is encouraging others to support hearing aid users in the Newtownabbey area.
Angela Hamilton, from Doagh, has been volunteering for the charity for five years.
She said: “I wear hearing aids myself and I have a nursing background, so I love the hands-on aspect of volunteering for the service. I enjoy helping people – sometimes their hearing aid only needs a simple adjustment and then they can hear again, which gives me the biggest buzz.”
Angela volunteers for the charity’s Hearing Aid User Support Service, funded by the Health and Social Care Board, which provides free drop in support sessions across Northern Ireland.
At the sessions, trained volunteers provide hearing aid users with new batteries, cleaning and re-tubing, and information about getting the most out of their hearing aids.
Angela has been instrumental to the service in the Northern Trust, setting up a drop-in session in Ballyclare, running support sessions in Broughshane and Carrickfergus, and providing home visits to hearing aid users who are housebound.
One person that Angela visits on a regular basis is William Cobain, 79, from Ballyclare.
Two years ago William was at a hospital appointment and it was noted that his hearing aids were not inserted properly and he was struggling to hear.
Angela was asked if she could visit William in his home to spend time teaching him how to insert his hearing aids correctly.
William said: “Angela’s visits have made a good lot of difference. It’s better seeing someone face to face as I can’t hear well over the phone.
“For a while I couldn’t hear the doorbell, so Angela referred me to Sensory Support who installed a new doorbell which flashes when people ring. They changed the smoke alarm as well as I wouldn’t have been able to hear it either. I wouldn’t have known anything about them without Angela.”
As William finds using the phone difficult, Angela has supported him to use the hands-free setting.
She said: “People often pick up the phone and press it to their ear, but the hearing aid acts like an earplug instead. They need to hold the phone up to the microphones on the top of the hearing aid to hear someone speaking.
“Sometimes William forgets to use the hands-free mode, so I’ve highlighted the hands-free button to remind him to press it when someone calls. Visiting William at home means I was able to pass on communication tips to his sister who was there on one of my visits.
“Hearing aids don’t make your hearing perfect - they’re not like glasses - so it’s about learning techniques of how to communicate well, or what to do if you’re in a restaurant with lots of background noise. If someone is housebound I may be the only person they see in a while so it makes a big difference.”
Susan Gilchrist, Hearing Aid Liaison Officer at Action on Hearing Loss, is passionate about recruiting more volunteers to support the service and provide home visits.
She said: “For a while Angela was the only volunteer covering some of the sessions in the Northern Trust but we need at least two people for each session.
“If we had more volunteers we could also offer a meet and greet service and we could visit more hearing aid users in nursing homes and folds.
“Volunteers can start by committing as little as two hours a month to help at a support session in their local area, but we often find that people want to give more. They may start out at a support session and then gain the confidence to do home visits.
“Volunteers may decide they would prefer to greet the service users and record their details rather than doing the hearing aid maintenance. Volunteers are able to choose the areas and times that suit them and they also receive full training and support.”
To register as a volunteer or find out more, call 028 9023 9619 or email firstname.lastname@example.org