When I woke up last Saturday morning, I couldn’t have imagined how my bank holiday weekend would turn out. My husband Richard and I woke up early to drive to Eastbourne. We were attending Hearing Link’s first ‘Link-Up’ programme to be held in England. It was meant to be a follow-up programme for people with acquired hearing loss and their partners, family members or friends who had attended one of their intensive rehabilitation programmes (IRPs) last year.
Apart from feeling tired from the early start, I woke up with mixed feelings about the weekend ahead. I was intrigued to find out what seemed to have sparked a transformation in Richard since he came back from the IRP last year and why he suddenly felt so empowered, positive and enthusiastic about Hearing Link after his experience on the programme, since I hadn’t attended it with him. I was also feeling slightly apprehensive, as I didn’t know what to expect. I was worried that it might be very depressing and emotionally draining sharing our personal stories of living with hearing loss and the impact that it has had on all our lives. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. I had a wonderful weekend in Eastbourne and I met some amazing new people, as well as meeting up again with some familiar faces from Hearing Link.
There were about thirty-five people there on the programme, including people with acquired hearing loss, their partners, friends, children and family members. A few people had brought their hearing dogs with them too, and there was a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere among the group. The event was run by Hearing Link volunteers, all of whom had personal experience of hearing loss. Ann did a great job of chairing the sessions and making sure the programme ran smoothly with her unique energetic and engaging style, and she encouraged everyone there to participate fully in the sessions. The other volunteers and Hearing Link staff members such as Jan, Ray, Val and Vivian also did a really good job of assisting her and they spent plenty of time supporting and talking to the participants. Communication was assisted throughout by remote live captioning via Bee Communications and a very good hearing loop.
We introduced ourselves and shared our personal stories, which were quite emotional, but it was also uplifting to find out how far many of the people with hearing loss had moved on and turned their lives around since they attended the IRPs last year. The rest of the programme involved lots of group sessions and workshops, as well as some information and role-play sessions. It was particularly good that everyone participated in these sessions and felt comfortable enough to talk in front of the whole group. We also came up with some new ideas to try and help other people living with hearing loss, which hopefully Hearing Link will use in the future.
One of the highlights of this weekend for me was the people I met. Apart from Hearing Link staff members and volunteers, it was great to meet other people who had all had similar experiences to us of living with hearing loss. I had previously never met anyone else with a similar experience to ours. We all agreed that this made us feel less isolated and like we were the only people to know what it felt like. The highlight of my weekend was meeting a wonderful chap and his charming wife. He is ninety-three years old, and has led a very eventful long life. He was a Squadron Gunnery Leader in the RAF in the Second World War and the airgunnery caused his deafness. Yet, despite his hearing loss, he has had a long and very successful career in the City of London. He is a wonderfully eloquent and engaging person, who seemed to feel very comfortable speaking in public. One of the best quotes of the weekend was when he was talking to the group about how technology can assist people with their hearing and he said in a very passionate voice “If they can put people on the moon, I’m sure they can sort out my hearing. Don’t tell me that the sky’s the limit, when there are footprints on the moon!” I thought these were wonderfully inspirational words for us all.
I was glad I attended this event and I felt very positive about it afterwards. The people we met there had really made it a great event for all. We have now made some new friends, who I am sure we will keep in contact with. Thanks to everyone at Hearing Link for organising this first ‘Link-Up’ programme. Let’s hope it is the start of many more to come!