The Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre offers support to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and their families, across Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.  They have two clinics, one in Victoria, and the other in Nanaimo.

It all began in 1969, when a group of concerned parents met to discuss the educational needs of their deaf children.  Those families laid the groundwork for what has become this vital not-for-profit centre.

“We’ve been on Vancouver island for 30 years” says Kristi Falconer, from the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre.  “We serve the population of all of Vancouver island and the Gulf Islands.

“We have our hearing health services, where we meet with individuals and provide them with some communication strategies; we have speech reading courses; we provide a number of workshops here at the Centre that are accessible with sign language interpreters and captioning services…

“We also have employment services, where we work with individuals to get them job ready, and/or work with employers so that they can feel confident when they’re hiring a hard-of hearing, or deaf individual.  We also have interpreting and captioning services, so when there’s meetings, job interviews, conferences, workshops, we want to make sure that those are all accessible,” says Falconer.

The Centre also offers all kinds of technical aids for the deaf and hard of hearing, and teaches their clients how to use them effectively.

Denis Sloan learned of the Centre about a year ago, from a friend who volunteers at the Victoria Disability Resource Centre.

“They set up an appointment for me with an audiologist,” says Sloan, “and from there, they tested my hearing, and I found out that I definitely needed hearing aids.

“I’d been for another hearing test earlier, and they were talking $5000…which is beyond me…” Sloan added.

Sloan also learned that since 2016, the Centre has offered the Sound of Change service, thanks to a grant from the Victoria Foundation.

“Hearing aids are extremely expensive,” says Falconer, “and individuals that are on lower income are not able to purchase these hearing aids, which leaves them feeling withdrawn, isolated, and not out in their communities.”

“So our Sound of Change program provides individuals with free, refurbished hearing aids, and access any of our services here,” says Falconer.

Falconer is proud to explain that the program has served “well over 380 individuals to date. We have provided more than 660 hearing aids to those individuals, which would have a market value of approximately $1,400,000.”

“We really rely on individuals from the public and the community,” Falconer adds, “to donate used hearing aids, as well as audiology clinics around town.  We have a group of volunteers that clean all the hearing aids, and then our audiologist refurbishes them, tests them, and gets them ready for clients.”

Sloan says his hearing aids have made a huge difference to his quality of life.  “Now, when I go to the park, I can actually hear the birds sing!”

And he encourages others to visit the Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre.

“I would recommend going” says Sloan. “They will help, and that’s the great thing about this program.”

Veronica Cooper