As a family of Audiologists, we tend to notice when the symptoms of hearing loss start to appear. Whilst watching television one day, I noticed my husband, Paul (Ben) Bennett had turned up the volume above safe levels. I felt compelled to ask him why he needed it so loud and he confided in me, he was struggling to hear the TV. I had also noticed that at social events he wasn’t coping with conversation in groups, he would often gaze over other people’s heads at me to question what was being said.
Our son and daughter whisked their father into the office which was a converted garage in our house, with a full specification of audiological equipment. After a thorough hearing assessment, we pinpointed a high-frequency loss, marginally worse on the left side with recovery at 6kHz, (a technical term which indicates damage by loud noise such as a rifle). Ben is a veteran of the Armed Forces and served 13 years in the Royal Artillery, travelling all over the world and participating in action in Ireland.
What caused the hearing loss?
Having spent 13 years using all forms of firearms, including using large artillery weapon systems he was at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. Going on exercise in the field with fellow soldiers surrounded by gunfire also had an impact on his hearing at 47 years of age. This did have an affect on him before this age, but it had gone undetected. Ben hadn’t had a medical on leaving the Armed Forces therefore he had not been advised of any potential issue and early symptoms were not detected.
How did we resolve the problem?
So, swiftly with excitement, our children had their father fitted with hearing aids and a TV attachment so that he could turn the TV down for our benefit. We had a huge benefit from this immediately. Social events became much easier for Ben, and he relaxed more as he knew he would be able to hear. He appeared to be happier within himself and less frustrated with asking people to repeat.
A few months later Ben went to a reunion with his Regiment, a fabulous event to get together again with his “family”. Quite a few of his fellow veterans were very interested in his hearing aids and asked if I could help them.
I was a Leicestershire dispenser and these guys were living all over the world. They needed a fast, efficient service which I and the current services offered by other organisations couldn’t offer.
Our light bulb moment
I set up a network of Independent Audiologists nationwide willing to work to a strong service level agreement (I am all about quality service systems). This was to ensure gold-standard fitting levels to all hearing aids. I could also utilise our strong buying power and the kindness of the UK manufacturers in supporting us with this venture. I could also get them for free by accessing the Royal British Legions Veterans Hearing Fund…and this is how it started.
Hundreds of veterans fitted so far, and three years down the line the Veterans Hearing Fund is coming to an end… But the UK Veterans Hearing Foundation isn’t ending. This is where the new journey begins..
The Birth of the UK Veterans Hearing Foundation
We have learnt a lot over the last four years of our journey supporting veterans. Watching other organisations “trip up”, and making mistakes ourselves, we were forced to evolve for the benefit of the people we were working on behalf of.
The first thing we needed was charity status to help us access funding from other organisations who would support veterans with their hearing requirements. We needed to work in partnership in assessing the veterans on behalf of the organisations providing the funding. Our dispensing procedures with other Audiologists were already well refined, but we could now support these Audiologists and pay back by promoting their services as part of our network.
We could ask for help from the general public, from Audiologists, from other organisations and from veterans themselves. And we could pull all these individuals together on behalf of veterans to create “energy” in our cause to make people listen to our cause and what we wanted to achieve. So today we have our first national meeting set up ready for the next 5-6 to flow out this year all over the UK. We have our CIO and our CIC imminent. We have our network but they haven’t as yet received our new message and our marketing material sat on hold to await the new logo.
Please continue to read our blog, follow our journey and help us help the Veterans we never left behind.
Help Us Fit More Veterans!
Since becoming a charity, we have managed to fit over 50 veterans with top-class hearing aids! However, we still have more than 2,500 veterans who need our help in getting back to a normal standard of life after the hearing damage they received in their years of service. Any donations we receive are a huge help in the lives of our vets and we are eternally grateful for whatever you may be able to spare.
Proudly supporting those who serve!
UK Veterans Hearing Help (now the UK Veterans Hearing Foundation) received the Bronze Award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme in 2016, in 2019 we achieved Silver level and in 2020 we achieved the highest level Gold. The scheme provides an award for organisations that pledge, demonstrate or advocate support to defence and armed forces community.