Kent’s 350,000 deaf and hard of hearing people have an independent local charity to call on for help.
The charity’s name is Hi Kent – the ‘Hi’ stands for ‘hearing impaired.’
Hi Kent’s chief executive John Clayton tells us more about the charity and our involvement with it.
Hi Kent was founded in 1986. It has grown from modest beginnings into a well-respected professionally-run charity that provides services all over Kent. It now helps more than 70,000 people a year.
Hi Kent has centres in Maidstone and Canterbury where people can make appointments to try a wide range of assistive equipment such as special telephones, including the latest mobiles, doorbells, alarm clocks and TV listeners. Advice is also available to enable your hearing aids to connect with other devices, including your television and phone.
In 2007 Hi Kent was the only voluntary organisation in the county to win the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Organisations for its network of support clinics for people with NHS hearing aids.
The charity runs these clinics, staffed by trained volunteers, in towns, villages and communities throughout the county.
At each clinic people can come along without having to make appointments. They receive new batteries and cleaning and retubing services while they wait, as well as helpful advice on coping with their hearing loss.
Learning to lipread can make a profound and often life-changing difference to the life of someone with hearing loss. Hi Kent runs lipreading classes in towns all over Kent.
The Oscar-winning short film The Silent Child in 2017 sparked a surge of interest in learning British Sign Language (BSL). Hi Kent has been the county’s leading provider of BSL tuition for many years, with classes at Level 1 and Level 2 on offer in all major towns.
Inevitably, some people are housebound and unable to get to their local clinic so Hi Kent carries out home visits to hundreds of people on request.
John says: “Hearbase has supported us for many years – in East Kent in particular. This has enabled us to extend our clinics network into the London Borough of Bromley where we are now helping thousands of people. Hearbase has also provided expert speakers and advice for our tinnitus support groups.
“Hi Kent and Hearbase are discussing ways of strengthening our joint working by introducing some new services – such as a wax removal service in West Kent – for the benefit of our clients. There is also scope to increase what we do at some of our clinics.
“Hearing aids are becoming more sophisticated all the time and, with our collective expertise, the more we work together the more we shall be able to provide an even better joined-up service for the deaf and hard of hearing people of Kent.”
For more information about Hi Kent visit the website: www.hikent.org.uk