History of Open Ears
‘Open Ears’ was founded (as the Hard of Hearing Christian Fellowship – HHCF) by a group of concerned Christians in London in 1974. The first Fellowship Weekend was held in 1977, and a national weekend or holiday has taken place every year since then. The first pastoral worker was appointed in the early 1980s and a number of local support groups were formed.
As a Christian charity, members are also concerned about the unmet needs of hard of hearing and deafened people in developing countries. In 1993 the new pastoral worker, Richard Livermore, visited Albania to be involved in aid work, taking 10 used ex-NHS hearing aids to be distributed to the local hospital as a one-off project. The hearing aids were seen by a missionary as an answer to prayer. A new chapter had begun in the history of HHCF, called Hearing Aids Abroad (HAA), later to be known as ‘Open Ears Worldwide’ (OEW).
Richard made several overseas trips for some twenty years after his initial visit, to Albania, Kenya, Niger, Ethiopia and Tatarstan, a Russian Republic. He distributed thousands of hearing aids along with accessories. Skilled audiologists have worked alongside OEW in deaf schools and churches, helping to train staff there.
However, the switch to digital hearing aid technology has proved a great challenge in terms of advanced computer equipment and skilled personnel being required. Unfortunately, this means that Open Ears can no longer support hearing aid distribution, but information on where to send used hearing aids can be found in the Links to “Useful Websites” under the “How we can Help” of the website.
Open Ears continues to support overseas work, by regular gifts of money to the International Nepal Fellowship “Ear Centre” at INF Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara, Nepal.
Since 2014 Open Ears has been a member of IVSS-Churchear, a pan-European Christian organisation for hard of hearing people. Open Ears is also a partner organisation of Churches for All, an umbrella group of organisations representing people with various disabilities, campaigning for access for all to churches and Christian events.
For Open Ears weekend conferences and holidays, there is a loop, a speech-to-text reporter and a BSL interpreter, ensuring full access for all who come. Details of forthcoming events can be found on the Events section of the website.