It's estimated that approximately 11 million people across the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss. That's around one in six of us, and that number is projected to increase in the coming years. Deafness can be debilitating and traumatic, but thankfully there are charities which provide a much-needed support network.
WHY VOLUNTEER WITH A DEAFNESS CHARITY?
Of the 11 million people with hearing loss, around 900,000 of these are classed as being severe or profound sufferers. It's thought there are at least 24,000 people in the UK who use British Sign Language as their main form of communication, and around 50,000 children with hearing loss.
Volunteering with a deaf charity is a wonderful way to show your support to a large group of people. Whether or not your own life has been touched by hearing loss, giving up your time can be a hugely rewarding thing to do. You may find there are other benefits too, including the social side of volunteering, as well as the opportunity to develop new skills, not least learning British Sign Language.
HOW TO HELP DEAFNESS CHARITIES
BECOME A CARE VOLUNTEER
Deafness charities offer huge amounts of care and support to people who suffer from hearing loss and their loved ones. Whether it's a one-off visit to a support group, regular assistance that enables someone to maintain their independence, or helping out at a care home, there are lots of ways your time can help when it comes to direct care.
PROVIDE HEARING AID SUPPORT
If you wear a hearing aid or know someone that does, you're probably aware they're not always easy to maintain. Plus, newer models are often packed with technology that can be difficult to fully understand. Some deafness charities run drop-in clinics that rely on volunteers to help people get the best out of their hearing aids. This can be a wonderful way to really empower someone with severe hearing loss, as a properly functioning hearing aid can make a huge difference in their daily life.
JOIN A RESEARCH PANEL
A tiny amount of the total public and charity investment in medical research is spent on hearing. In 2014, it was less than 1%. Getting involved with research can be a great way to help, and you may be able to join a panel through a deafness charity whereby you complete surveys, take part in focus groups and interviews, or are involved in other research activities.
BE A VIRTUAL VOLUNTEER
Having computer skills only ever gets more and more vital. In the modern world, technology is playing a bigger part in supporting deaf people both young and old. If you're a computer whizz or have experience of using technology with a deaf person, you could give talks and demonstrations.
GET INVOLVED WITH SERVICE ANIMALS
Hearing dogs can be life-changing for deaf people, bringing incredible levels of independence, not to mention companionship. These animals need to be raised and trained, which may be something you could help with. If not, you could sponsor a dog that's going through their training, or adopt one if they're looking for a home when they come to the end of their service.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VOLUNTEER
Volunteering is a great way to develop skills that you can use throughout your career. You'll also find that most charities will give you a reference you can include on your CV too.
If you plan on helping people directly, you're likely to need at least a little bit of training. This can be useful both in the long and short term, but it may also mean the charity providing the training will ask for a minimum time commitment from you.
WHERE TO GET STARTED
As well as supporting charities through volunteering, why not get involved with schemes like Money Mechanics, which is a collaboration between the Royal Association for Deaf People and MyBnk. People's Postcode Lottery players raised over half a million pounds for the project, and you can contribute to good causes like this when you sign up to play.