Southampton is bidding to become the first city in the UK to install hearing loops in every public building. £54,000 has been pledged to achieve this goal through a partnership between GO! Southampton, Southampton City Council, NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group (SCCCG), Southampton Healthwatch and Lets Loop Southampton.
One in six people living in Southampton is believed to suffer from hearing loss, a figure set to rise further this year. Despite this, in 2017 only 13% of businesses had hearing loops in operation. Lets Loop Southampton Founder Steve Beal notes that ‘Most [shops]have music playing but don’t have a loop system – and the staff haven’t had deaf awareness training’.
Following a pilot scheme of three buildings carried out by GO! Southampton, the £54,000 additional funding is estimated to allow a further 200 buildings to be fitted with hearing loops. These hearing loops minimise background noise, transmitting speech directly to hearing-aids.
Kevin West, whose printing firm Colour Company in London Road benefitted from the trial has stated that:
Hearing loss conditions are a lot more common than people think and we have a lot of customers affected by them. Before we had the loop it was difficult for those customers to hear us properly, which we appreciate must be so frustrating. Now, they can hear us so much better and they’ve really welcomed our installation of the system. It’s a great idea and every business should have one.
Southampton City Councillor Satvir Kaur, who is the Cabinet Member for Homes and Culture ‘encourage[s]small businesses and GP surgeries to apply for the grant to help them to support their customers or patients with hearing loss in a more personal way.’