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Advice service for hard of hearing Oamaru residents

14 December 2020 – Smoke alerting devices for the hard of hearing save lives when installed and thanks to a partnership between Fire and Emergency New Zealand and Life Unlimited Charitable Trust they can now be quickly installed in Oamaru and potentially fully funded.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand fire risk management officer Mark Bredenbeck and Life Unlimited hearing therapist Heather Talbott work together to ensure information about the devices is readily available.

Heather Talbott

Hearing therapists do an initial assessment to determine eligibility and then Fire and Emergency assess the home for the required amount of specialist smoke alarms that would be needed to adequately cover the house and keep people safe. 300

“These days you do not need to be able to hear the alarm for it to be effective. Wireless interconnected smoke alarms can be fitted in your home which communicate with a bedside unit that has a vibrating pad attached to it and placed under your mattress,” says Mark.

“If the smoke alarm was activated during the night, it would alert this unit which in turn sends a message to the vibrating pad to do its thing and ‘shake’ you awake. These units also have flashing strobe light for use during the day which operates on the same principle.”

Heather, who is based in Timaru and covers North Otago and South Canterbury, is the equipment modification servic 300es assessor for hearing assistive technology in Oamaru.

In that job, she assesses people’s suitability for fire alerting devices. Audiologists or health professionals may refer clients, if they are concerned, or people can self-refer from the Life Unlimited website.

In recent months Heather and Mark, who is Dunedin-based, have made sure they visit several people a day to assess the applications. A wireless smoke alarm system works extremely well and has already been attributed to alerting people to fires which otherwise would have had a worse outcome. It requires minimal upkeep and is easy to use. The batteries last 10 years which is a bonus.

“It is the best thing to happen to smoke alarms since smoke alarms were invented,” says Mark.

Heather now realises there is a need for someone in the town to give free impartial advice about hearing needs. She is running a hearing clinic in the Oamaru Opera House on Wednesday 10 February, Wednesday 10 March and Wednesday 7 April and depending on demand will visit Oamaru more regularly.

“Hearing loss can lead to communication breakdown and result in frustration and isolation.

“Sometimes hearing loss can deprive a person of important life signals e.g. the kettle boiling, a tap at the door,” she says.

Hearing Therapy is a national service funded by the Ministry of Health and delivered by Life Unlimited nationally.

“We provide free hearing assessments, information, hearing tests and support to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents aged 16 years and over.

“Our service is independent and free. We don’t sell or fit hearing aids, but we give advice about using hearing aids, other listening devices and fire alerting alarms,” says Heather.

Hearing therapists are trained in helping clients with the emotional effects of hearing loss and other associated difficulties with the use of counselling skills and tools and can offer practical advice, information and help.

Making an appointment is easy, she says, either by going online www.hearingtherapy.co.nz to fill in a self-referral or by ringing 0800 008 011.



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