RNID offers phone hearing tests

Tania Mason

The RNID is to offer free hearing tests over the telephone as part of its long-awaited campaign to make wearing hearing aids as trendy and accepted as wearing glasses.

The 'Breaking the Sound Barrier' campaign, which will have an initial budget of £1m, with more in reserve, will be launched at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in London next Monday. Devised by advertising agency Euro RSCG London, the campaign will involve TV and radio commercials, press and poster adverts, online activity and direct marketing.

The aim of the advertising is to reach the four million mainly middle-aged people who the RNID claims are losing their hearing but doing nothing about it.

"The nation is in denial," said Sue Osborne, one of two directors appointed to the charity in July to co-ordinate the campaign. "We want people to take hearing tests and to do something about it."

Two million UK residents already wear hearing aids, but the Medical Research Council estimates that a further four million have hearing loss serious enough to benefit from modern hearing aid technology, but do nothing.

According to the RNID, there is typically a 15-year delay between the onset of hearing loss and seeking help. Chief executive John Low said the campaign would "encourage everyone to look at hearing loss in a different light and not be afraid to take action where it exists".

A key plank will be the introduction of free telephone hearing tests, billed by Low as the "vital first step, allowing people to identify if they have hearing loss and how to take action to remedy it". Other parts of the campaign will attempt to break down the stigma that surrounds the wearing of hearing aids.

The RNID announced a year ago that it was planning a campaign to create a "seismic shift" in perceptions of the devices. In July, it opened an exhibition, 'HearWear', at the V&A that showed off the latest in hearing aid design. The exhibition will run until March next year.

HRH The Countess of Wessex, an RNID trustee who chaired an advisory board for the campaign, will attend Monday's launch.

Separately, Brian Lamb, RNID's executive director of communications, has received a human rights award from disability charity Radar.

The award recognises his commitment to deaf people over the past 20 years and his achievement in securing key changes to the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.

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