Ensuring older veterans are supported with sight and hearing loss

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 placer 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.

isa 3

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.

Download ‘Combating Sight and Hearing Loss – Advice for older people with a military service background’.

Age Scotland logo, Scottish War Blinded logo, Action on Hearing Loss logo


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.

unforgotten-forces-logo-hi-res

 

 

Hearing Forces: a new service for Scotland’s Veterans

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s new Scotland wide Hearing Forces service is part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium, which offers advice and support to veterans aged 65 or over, their families and carers with hearing loss or tinnitus.


Hearing loss is a common health issue in the armed forces. Many veterans have been exposed to loud noise from gun fire, engines and other machinery, and explosives. The 2014 ‘Lost Voices’ report, collated by the Royal British Legion with support from Action on Hearing Loss, found that veterans under the age of 75 are around three and a half times more likely to experience hearing loss than the general population.

ACTION ON HEARING LOSS SCOTLAND LAUNCH HEARING FORCES 1

Veterans William Smith and Elizabeth Mitchell 

Through the Hearing Forces service, we can offer a service regardless of where veterans are in their hearing loss journey. This can include:

• Hearing checks and screening
• hearing aid maintenance and support on using your aids
• advice on useful equipment to improve every day life (e.g. amplified
• telephones, personal listeners)
• support both before and after hearing aids have been fitted.

We are currently delivering the service in a variety of settings across Scotland, (in particular with Unforgotten Forces partner’s venues) including Scottish War Blinded centres, Erskine, Poppy Scotland welfare centres, British Legions, ex service clubs and many more! We can also visit veterans in their own homes if they struggle to get out or we can see them at a local location convenient to them.

We are also currently recruiting for volunteers to help us deliver the service, across the whole of the country – if this is something of interest to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

To contact us, to make a referral or if you would like us to visit your group or venue, get in touch using the dteails below:

Tel: 07388 227407
Email: hearing.forces@hearingloss.org.uk

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland – April’s “Hot Tips”

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

April sees us team up with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to bring you information about taking care of your hearing. In this guest blog, Delia Henry, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, explains how having your hearing tested is a vital first step towards getting the support you need


Delia Henry Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Delia Henry – Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Recognising that you have hearing loss can be an uncomfortable truth which many don’t want to deal with and people often confide in me that they are having difficulty hearing but are not sure what to do.

71 per cent of people of over 70-year-olds have hearing loss, with signs of deafness such as turning up the television volume, thinking others are mumbling and needing to ask people to repeat themselves.

With funding from the Scottish Government, Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and RNIB Scotland produced resources to help you recognise whether you have hearing or sight loss. The information cards and videos also provide useful deaf awareness and communication tips.

People can wait up to 10 years to take action from the point of first experiencing hearing difficulties but we encourage you to get your hearing checked regularly. Asking your GP to refer you to an audiologist for a hearing test is a vital first step on your way to getting the support that you need.

Good quality digital hearing aids are free on the NHS in Scotland and you can also choose to buy hearing aids from private dispensers too. Action on Hearing Loss and Which? have produced the ‘Best hearing aid providers: How to get the best hearing aid’ guide to help you to make informed decisions about which hearing aids are best for your individual needs.

Although hearing aids will help you to hear your conversations with friends and family more clearly, it can take time to adjust to wearing them. Community-based support from our Hear to Help volunteers, who have hearing loss themselves, in Tayside, Greater Glasgow and Ayrshire & Arran can make a big difference – especially for people who are housebound or have mobility difficulties. Our website has details of our drop-in sessions and contacts for home visits.

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Learning to lipread can be also be a big help as the ability to identify lip shapes, patterns and facial gestures can fill in the gaps of conversations you have misheard. Details about what happens during lipreading classes, the benefits they bring and those running in your area can be found on www.scotlipreading.org.uk

There is also equipment such as personal listeners, hearing loops, amplified phones and flashing or vibrating doorbells to help people with hearing loss in everyday life. Visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/shop or call 0141 341 5330 to find out about the latest products.

I hope that I have reassured you about the range of support that is available for you, if you are diagnosed with hearing loss but, if you need more information about Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s services, please visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/Scotland or email: scotland@hearingloss.org.uk

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Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

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What’s up with the Tele?

Advocates of Tele-care, and Assisted Living Technologies generally, believe they can save Scotland blowing its health budget; by enabling more older people to live independently, and so relieving pressure on hospital services.  But does the reality match the hype, asks Doug Anthoney?

Assisted Living Technology on display at Age Scotland's Nicolson Street Shop.

Assisted Living Technology on display at Age Scotland’s Nicolson Street Shop.

The shoes are a give-away – literally.  They’ve got tracking devices in the heels so that, using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, the wearer can be traced by satellite.  This made some delegates at a recent conference run by the COBALT project (Challenging Obstacles and Barriers to Assistive Living Technologies) uncomfortable.  Can we be sure the wearer has consented, they asked? Is it ethical? However I also spoke to a Tele-care professional excited by the potential of a GPS pendant being piloted by her local authority.  A wearer who became confused or lost could use it to request directions from a dedicated call centre, or to speak two trusted contacts; who in turn could text for their location as a Google map.  With safeguards, she believed this could help many vulnerable people remain both independent and safe.  We also heard about a couple who had gained peace of mind with installation of a doorway sensor, so that the wife would no longer be worried she would sleep through her husband’s night-time wandering.

The devices currently on offer are a mixed bag.  There was an environmental remote control to operate lights and draw curtains, potentially of use to someone who is bed bound.  There was a medication dispenser, as complex and fiddly as a Rubik’s Cube, but potentially useful where there was a carer who had the time and skills to learn and manage its operation.  Not all of it was high tech – perhaps the most well received bit of kit, by both professionals and older COBALT project participants – was a key safe with a simple four digit combination that would allow a care worker or family member to get into someone’s house in an emergency.  A key finding of COBALT is that age isn’t a barrier to using technology; however people tend not to value or keep using devices unless they can easily learn their operation by playing with them.

The potential of mainstream technology became evident when we heard Brian’s inspirational story.  When he was diagnosed with dementia Brian lost his confidence with devices as simple as the TV remote control. However since participating in COBALT he has learned how to use tablet computers and smart phones, enriching his life and enabling him to be independent when it comes to tasks such as booking travel.  He says: “I am proof positive that new skills can be learned, especially with new technology.” You can find out more about Brian on his blog.

Age Scotland’s new partnership with Action on Hearing Loss and RNIB is enabling us to encourage use of technology to improve quality of life for hearing or sight impaired older people.  At ourEdinburgh Nicolson Street shop you can see what’s on offer (see picture).  We’re hoping to roll this out to more of our shops, starting very shortly with Bathgate.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer.

You can also visit our Edinburgh Nicolson Street shop on Facebook.