Limerick TD hears deafness charity’s message loud and clear

Deputy Willie O'Dea having his hearing tested by Chime audiologist, Sarah O’Sullivan.

AFTER a 40-year Dáil career, including a term as Minister for Defence, veteran Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea has probably heard it all.

So when Chime, the national charity for deafness and hearing loss, held its first screening tests in Leinster House, it was hardly surprising that the affable Limerick politician was one of the first in line to have his hearing tested.

As part of a campaign to highlight the social and mental impact of unaddressed hearing loss in Irish adults, TDs and Senators were invited to have their ears screened by Chime’s senior audiologist Sarah O’Sullivan.

The charity is seeking a commitment from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to tackle the long audiology waiting lists and establish a working group to develop a national strategy to manage the issue of unaddressed hearing loss and its long-term costs to the State.

Outlining the importance of hearing tests, Deputy O’Dea said that people who have hearing difficulties have to go through life at a great disadvantage.

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“It is intolerable that there should be a delay in hearing aids in a country that is one of the most prosperous in the world.  It represents an infringement of a basic human right,” he declared.

There are currently around 20,000 adults and children on the HSE’s audiology waiting lists, double what they were in 2014.

Chime chief executive Mark Byrne said that the government does not have a strategy to deal with hearing loss, so there is a piecemeal system with a lot of duplication that is wasting precious resources.

“There are major gaps with people falling through them and being left behind completely.

“Measures to tackle the long waiting lists for audiology tests is vital to developing a cohesive, efficient and caring strategy that addresses the hearing needs of the Irish adult population. This, in turn, would reduces the financial health burden on the State in the coming years,” Mr Byrne explained.

Although medical card holders are entitled to basic hearing aids, many non-medical card holders cannot afford them, even with the current PRSI grant.

Chime audiologist, Sarah O’Sullivan, chief executive Mark Byrne and head of advocacy Brendan Lennon with Deputy Willie O’Dea.