As people get older, sight and hearing may be affected as part of the natural ageing process. Sometimes though an older person will have worse problems with sight or hearing than might otherwise have been the case because of their military service.
Veterans who were exposed to loud noise from small arms fire, artillery, engines, other machinery or explosives are at particular risk of developing hearing loss. Research has found links between sight loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There is a wealth of support available specifically for veterans with sight and hearing loss but unfortunately many are missing out either because they are unaware it is available, or because they don’t realise they count as a veteran.
Anyone aged 65 years and older who has done and received pay for at least one day’s service in the UK Armed Forces is classed as an older veteran. That includes national servicemen, reservists and merchant navy who have supported a military operation.
Age Scotland has combined forces with Action on Hearing Loss and Scottish War Blinded to raise awareness among Scotland’s veterans of the need to act swiftly if they are having problems with their hearing or vision. Getting the right support in place can make a massive difference to someone’s quality of life.
Isa, age 88, first experienced sight loss problems in her mid-eighties. She said:
“It came on quite quickly. I just couldn’t see. It was as though there was something on my eyes, and I was rubbing them to try and get rid of it.”
A couple of weeks later she visited her GP and was referred to the Royal Alexandria Hospital, which diagnosed macular degeneration. A quick medical referral gave her answers about the causes of her condition, but little else. “After the hospital treatment I didn’t see anyone, and I was left to cope alone.”
The council sensory impairment team visited Isa and referred her to Scottish War Blinded. Over the following year she was visited by an Outreach Worker and benefited from home visits from the charity’s local rehabilitation officer, who provided guidance and a CCTV reader that enabled Isa to continue her hobby of knitting.
Then Scottish War Blinded’s Hawkhead Centre opened in Paisley. “At first I thought it wasn’t for me, I told them I was too old. Now the Hawkhead drivers come and pick me up and drop me home again each week, which is great.”
She is involved with “everything”; from yoga, to art and crafts activities, to social music groups. “Around the house I’m fine, but I’m not confident to go outside on my own other than to the shop across the road so I love going to the centre. It’s smashing.”
With support from the centre’s Rehabilitation Officer she has also benefitted from equipment, including cup levels that enable her to make a cup of tea at home, and a talking watch to keep track of the time.
Getting the right support in place can make a huge difference – but sometimes it’s tricky to know where to start. Age Scotland have worked with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and Scottish War Blinded to produce a new publication to help veterans find the support they are entitled to. You can download the guide below or request a free copy be posted to you by calling the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222.
Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s Hearing Forces project, Age Scotland and Scottish War Blinded are members of the ‘Unforgotten Forces’ Consortium which is a partnership between 15 leading organisations led by Poppyscotland which is delivering a range of new and enhanced services to older veterans.