We have all struggled through the pandemic – communication challenges due to social distancing, plexi-glass partitions and face masks. Disconnection from family and friends making us feel isolated and lonely, increasing the risk of depression and anxiety. As we try to put the past 18 months into some perspective we have come to realize that the recent communication challenges we all faced are the very same challenges individuals with untreated hearing loss experience every day.
As the only non-profit agency of its kind serving Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands,
Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre (IDHHC) is celebrating 30 Years of leadership and innovation to improve communication, help strengthen families and communities, and fight isolation. IDHHC provides programs and services to Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing individuals, their families, and the broader community, and over our thirty years we have developed strong partnerships along the way – like our relationship with Victoria Foundation. In 2012 IDHHC established a Hosted Organization Fund with the Foundation, and our partnership has grown steadily since.
Hearing loss is the most common sensory deficit in North America today, becoming a severe social and health problem. Recent research has proven that untreated hearing loss is linked to depression and social isolation, has serious emotional and social consequences, and quality of life is dramatically impacted.
As reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in April 2021, “Over 5% of the world’s population require rehabilitation to address disabling hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age and among those older than 60 years, over 25% are affected by disabling hearing loss.”
In 2016, armed with this knowledge and being true to our innovative and pioneering culture, IDHHC launched the Sound of Change initiative which provides free refurbished hearing aids to vulnerable and at-risk seniors and adults. The Hearing Health teams in Nanaimo and Victoria provide individuals with full hearing assessments performed by registered audiologists; fitting of refurbished hearing aids; and communication devices and personalized communication plans, all free of charge.
Providing low-income seniors and adults with hearing aids will increase their mental and physical wellness, help keep them safe in their homes and in their community and improve their quality of life. Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the Sound of Change initiative, 550+ people have received over 1150 free hearing aids – a retail value of about $2.5 million. And Victoria Foundation has been our partner from the very start! The Foundation was one of the very first supporters to help launch the initiative and their donors and other supporters have been with us along the way.
IDHHC has four pillars of service: Hearing Health Services, Family and Community Services, Employment Services, and Interpreting & Captioning Services. Each pillar is staffed with service area professionals to deliver expertise and best practices while each client receives full access to all the professional services provided without limits or restrictions. IDHHC serves the complex needs of clients ranging from infants to seniors focusing on the individual, family or community. From teaching ASL to parents with a deaf infant; transitioning hard of hearing youth from school to post-secondary; providing captioning for community events to ensure access and inclusion; workplace assessments and communication devices for successful employment; and ASL interpretation for government broadcasts – all these services are provided by IDHHC.
IDHHC does not do this work alone. We rely heavily on the generosity of the community and Victoria Foundation plays a vital role in that success. Their team of experts know our work well and their ability to “connect people who care with causes that matter” continues to improve the quality of life for thousands on Vancouver Island.