Vital People: Sound of Change program gives free hearing aids to low-income seniors

WatchMany low-income seniors can't afford hearing aids but as Tess van Straaten shows us in this week's Vital People, the Island Deaf & Hard of Hearing Centre's Sound of Change program can help.

Barbara Baldwin gets her hearing checked at the Island Deaf & Hard of Hearing Centre, to make sure her hearing aids are working.

“It causes a lot of anxiety when you can’t hear well and you’re always straining to hear a conversation,” Barbara says.

Barbara struggled with hearing loss for at least five years but the low-income senior is no longer missing out after getting free hearing aids through the centre’s ‘Sound of Change’ program.

“Oh, it’s been incredible!” Barbara says. “I hardly ever miss a word when I’m listening to TV and now when in a crowd, I can actually single out a voice.”

Sound of Change, which is supported by the Victoria Foundation, helps seniors and vulnerable adults who can’t afford to get help for hearing loss.

“If you don’t have income, it shouldn’t be a barrier to you getting what you need,” says Island Deaf & Hard of Hearing Centre executive director Denise Robertson. “Hearing health is incredibly important and we need to remember that.”

In the last few years, the program’s provided 1,300 pairs of refurbished hearing aids to around 650 people in need.

“The real catalyst for me was when COVID came along and the partitions were put up and masks were put on and that’s when I realized I had taught myself to read lips and it was an a lot bigger issue than I thought it had been,” explains Pamela Pearse, who received free hearing aids through the program.

Pamela says she felt very isolated before getting her hearing aids, and spent a lot of time alone.

“It takes a lot out of you to concentrate so hard on conversations, especially when you don’t hear so you’re trying extra hard to hear so I was getting super tired,” Pamela says.

With an aging population and noise-induced hearing loss on the rise in North America, programs like this are more important than ever. And there are ways you can help.

“We also look to the public to donate hearing aids and individuals coming into buy hearing aids from us, for every person that comes in to buy a hearing aid, you support five people to get refurbished hearing aids for free so it’s a give back and a win-win situation,” Denise explains.

For Barbara and Pamela, it’s been life-changing.

“The birds are so much louder now when they twitter,” says a smiling Barbara. “It’s fascinating!”

“The Sound of Change for me has really made a difference in my life in so many ways,” adds Pamela. “Everyone here is wonderful.”

Tess van Straaten

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