Rural Success

Service Users Aled Williams, Michael Thomas and Andrew Ward have been braving the elements in support of the voluntary woodland project ‘Three Crosses’ in Swansea.

The project, which is managed by charity Crwys and District Sports Association (CDSA) relies on the support of volunteers such as Aled, Michael and Andrew to maintain this area of natural beauty by creating accessible woodland space that can be enjoyed by everyone in the community. Receiving community support from Support Options’ day services, the trio of handymen have been involved in a variety of tasks since joining the project including cutting back trees, fence building, hedge laying and drainage work. Heading up the project CDSA Committee Member Mary Rees, whose son is also supported by Support Options says;

‘We couldn’t have achieved all this without the hard work and dedication of Aled, Michael and Andrew. They’ve turned up in all weathers to help out and I’m so appreciative of everything they’ve done.”

As part of the scheme Aled, Andrew and Michael have also been tasked with creating an accessible pathway to enable wheelchair users to access the park. “My son is a wheelchair user and it means so much to me that people with mobility needs, like my son, are now able to enjoy the woodland area at Three Crosses.” Explains Mary, Support Options Day Opportunities Service Manager, Andrew Edwards, adds “Since they began volunteering at the project new opportunities have opened up to them and they’re now involved in a number of conservation projects in the area. They’ve also received training from the council around fence building, strimming and using a brush cutter – which they’ve been able to put to good use at Three Crosses and are developing their skills everyday.”

Mary agrees: “I think the Three Crosses project is testament to what can be done through hard work and I hope that others will take inspiration from what has been achieved here.”

To find out more about the project, visit www.threecrosses.org.uk and follow the link to CDSA.

Stop Hate Crime

As part of our ongoing commitment to ensure that the views and ideas of the people we support across The Lifeways Group are heard and responded to, service users and staff joined forces at a recent quality focus Group meeting in Birmingham to exchange thoughts and opinions about a number of topics such as Hate Crime and Service User Involvement in Recruitment.

Sally Raynor, Quality Manager who facilitated the day said; the day was a roaring success with some lively discussion around recruitment and Hate Crime. We had a visit from a local Police Community Support Officer who was able to facilitate discussion and answer any questions with regard to hate crime, and we also gained some great ideas for our new recruitment toolkit, which we’re designing to facilitate the involvement of service users in recruitment.”

Michael Quality Focus Group Member, explains about Hate Crime: “Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t understand autism or other forms of learning disability which can lead to the public calling the Police for the wrong reasons. It’s important to learn about hate crime as people with disabilities may have been too afraid or they may have been the victim of a hate crime. Some people with a disability also find it hard to stand up for themselves therefore they need to be able to talk to a responsible adult.”

Hearing loss can affect people from all walks of life

In both cases the contributing factor that leads to reduced hearing is linked to the inner ear tiny hair cells that either die or diminish in quality. The inner ear contains up to 20000 microscopic hair-like cells that are tasked with capturing waves in the air across a wide spectrum of frequencies. Once these waves are captured the information is passed to the brain via the hearing nerve, where the information is made into tangible language that we simply categorise as ‘sound’.

In the case of age related hearing loss, the demise of the inner ear hair cells is natural and is likely to affect individuals from as early as their 40s, though more common in the over 60s. It is simply one of the challenges that growing older brings with it and individuals cannot hold back this natural process. In the case of noise induced hearing loss, the picture is completely different. The cause is directly linked to work and lifestyle choices that individuals actively take, often while well aware of the risks.  It is widely believed that sounds exceeding 85dB can damage the inner ear hair cells and because these cannot regrow, the damage is permanent. For example, working a chain saw without hearing protection can expose the ear to 120db leading to possible inner ear hair damage (contributing factors: distance from the noise source and duration of exposure). While on the other hand, enjoying bird song will only expose the ear to 44dB well below the human pain threshold (70dB) and when damage may  happen (85dB).

Treatment options for hearing loss to date revolve around managing the condition rather than curing it. In humans (as opposed to other species), the inner ear hair cells cannot regenerate so any treatment option aims to help manage the condition. However, it is worth noting that researchers are actively working on ways using stem cell technology to regenerate hair cells. Such treatment is many years away, though promising for the completely deaf. For now, the most widely effective treatment options rely on amplified devices to send sounds to the hair nerve. Common devices include digital hearing aids, hearing impaired telephones, personal alerting devices and recreational headphones for TV watching and music listening. Such aids are effective in the case of mild (defined as a loss of 20-39dB) to moderate (defined as a loss of 40-69dB) hearing loss. Some devices are even able to help in the case of severe hearing loss (defined as a loss of 70dB and beyond) but in the case of profound hearing loss individuals will have to use lip-reading and even sign language.

If you suspect that your hearing is impaired, you should consult with your doctor for an initial check or visit your local hearing centre for a hearing test. The test is pain free and can help determine long-term hearing loss causes from age related and noise induced reasons as well as less common reasons ranging from mild inner ear infection to prescribed medication.

Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology.

Joan works for hearing company Hearing Direct brand of deaf and hard of hearing ALDs (assistive listening devices) and their accessories from batteries to alarms.