Polish-British Lidia Best was born in Poland fully-hearing and around age of 12, during the late seventies, Meniere’s disease struck her and left her with a partial hearing loss. Today she lives in the UK and works in London’s fashion industry as a garment technologist.
“It has helped me enormously in the last 10 years, allowing me to carry on functioning as a hard of hearing person”, she says.
My hearing loss has not been an obstacle
“To be honest, I have never allowed hearing loss to prevent me from doing what I wanted. My family and friends have never made me feel different and I am a naturally confident person, so I am open about hearing difficulties. All my friends and colleagues at work are fully aware of my ‘better ear’ which sometimes creates funny situations but all this relates to being assertive and finding what works best for me.”
“I use simple strategies such as sitting at the end of the table where I can see everyone’s lips, so I can lipread, look for quiet spots at the restaurants where I can cope with background noise, and my implant’s processor is permanently using an intelligent system of changing environmental programs. When participating in intensive meetings, I use assistive listening devices and captioning.”
Since 2014, Lidia Best has been Vice-President in EFHOH (European Federation of Hard of Hearing People).
The objective of EFHOH is to achieve a barrier free Europe for all people who experience hearing difficulties- from education to employment to retirement. The goal of EFOH is to influence politicians and decision makers and to collaborate with potential partners at the European level to raise awareness of the needs of hard of hearing people and present workable solutions that will benefit everyone who has specific needs related to their hearing.
“We still observe stigmatisation, misunderstanding and a lack of reasonable adjustments for those who experience hearing difficulties”, says Lidia Best.
“Personally, I support the work of the EFHOH board in the development of the EFHOH policy and strategy, public speaking and preparing our contributions to public consultations. Part of my work is to develop strong collaborations at the international level, bringing our European voice to UN agencies such as WHO (World Health Organisation) and ITU (International Telecommunication Union)”.
The Essen Declaration
“One of milestones in EFHOH is the Essen Declaration in 2015. The Essen Declaration is a joint statement of the hard of hearing community in the European Union. The Declaration calls for European governments to guarantee access to affordable, good quality, professionally approved hearing aids, assistive listening devices, as well as the training and support standards to use them successfully.”
UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities
The Essen Declaration builds on the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). The Convention is also relevant for the hard of hearing as it says in the Article 1: “Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
Access to hearing aids
“Another important aspect is personal choice, rehabilitation and quality of hearing aid fitting. We believe that everyone should have access to hearing aids when they need them in order to live independently and to sustain employment and education prospects.”
“The Essen Declaration states that for 51 million hard of hearing people in the European Union this right to access can be best fulfilled through state-funded provision of hearing aids and the proliferation of assistive listening devices, also known as ALDs.”
“In Europe, we have state-funded universal insurance or other means of reimbursement for hearing aids. While there are different ways of receiving reimbursement, they all have something in common. They are often part of health policies endorsed by the state. In practical terms, it means that all members states need to ensure that cost is not a barrier to opportunities for hard of hearing citizens.”
We must continue to speak up
“Us hard of hearing need to continue speaking up and being involved in the development of policies which affect us directly”, states Lidia Best.
EFHOH (European Federation of Hard of Hearing People)