Action on Hearing Loss have opened a new North West hub in Derry’s city centre, with the Mayor and other dignitaries joining service users at the official launch.
Mayor of Derry & Strabane Maolíosa McHugh and Foyle Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion joined Santa and Action on Hearing Loss NI Director Jackie White to cut the ribbon at the new premises in the Embassy building at Waterloo Place on Wednesday.
Local people with hearing loss led a rendition of Christmas Carols on the street outside the premises prior to the opening.
Speaking to the Journal at the event, Jackie White said: “It’s a really, really exciting day for us. We have had a presence in this area for a long time, since 1995, but this sees the start of new services coming into the area, and a concerted community presence to make sure that the people of Derry City and further afield across the whole Foyle area and the west receive the services that we believe will really support them in their lives.
“One in six people in this area are living with hearing loss. The numbers are staggering and the range of support that is required is also staggering, so we are going to do our best to make a really good start with that, and see people are really integrated into the community here and start to collapse the barriers that they are facing in their every day lives.
The new hub has a team of employment support workers to help people find work and to stay in work. It also has a Big Lottery - funded team to provide face-to-face information and advice to people with hearing loss who can’t use the telephone or are not Internet savvy.
Mayor McHugh said he himself had a hearing difficulty. “I am very aware and sensitive to the issues and how important it is to have this type of facility in Derry to provide for the people of the north west,” he said.
Mrs McCallion said it was vital to have a base where people can come and access services, and praised the work of Action on Hearing Loss NI over the past 20 years.
Foyle SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said: “It’s great this has opened in the Embassy where you already have groups like RNIB established here. There’s assistance here for multi-sensory needs, and it’s great that support is available here in the city centre.
“The difficulties people face through hearing loss often go unseen but it can have a huge impact on quality of life and ability to do certain jobs and access certain services so it’s great that that support is here now.”
There are approximately 16,800 people with some form of hearing loss in the Foyle area alone, many of whom will now be able to benefit from a range of support services provided by the charity.
These include comprehensive information resources; specialist employment advice; practical hearing aid support; befriending support for older people with hearing loss; and a wide range of specialist equipment which can be borrowed for a trial period. Anyone concerned about their hearing, or who has a hearing loss is encouraged to drop into the new Action on Hearing Loss office for support.
For more information on hearing loss, deafness or tinnitus, contact the Action on Hearing Loss Information Service on 028 9023 9619 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Action on Hearing Loss is encouraging everyone to value their hearing health and take the charity’s hearing check by visiting www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/check or calling 0844 800 3838.