The Hearing Association (Auckland) Inc. started out as The New Zealand League for the Hard of Hearing, which was founded in 1932. It was started by a lady named Kathleen Hurd-Wood (nee Chitty) who had no children and, after her husband’s death in 1924, had personal and financial independence that was unusual for a woman of her generation. Kathleen decided to devote her life to helping people with hearing loss. When she began her campaign in the 1920s ear trumpets were still in use and, although hearing aids were becoming available, they were not affordable for many people. The government’s lip reading classes for adults were limited and, not surprisingly, the hard of hearing were often described as withdrawn, or living in semi-isolation.
In 1926 Kathleen trained as a lip reading teacher and offered free classes in Hamilton. She soon realised that there was a need for a national organisation and she canvassed tirelessly for this. She was a persuasive public speaker and gained widespread public support.
On 16 March 1932 the New Zealand League for the Hard of Hearing was established, with headquarters in Auckland. The league began lip-reading classes in May 1932 with 17 members; within a year there were 77.
It also gave advice about buying and using hearing aids, conducted hearing tests (15 years before the opening of the first audiology clinic in a public hospital) and arranged events for members whose social life was often severely limited by their disability. Moreover, it put the needs of the hard of hearing to the government, and through publicity worked to improve understanding of hearing loss in the community.
Over the years various branches of hearing associations were formed throughout New Zealand and we at the Hearing Association (Auckland) Inc. continue Kathleen and the New Zealand League for the Hard of Hearings’ work in the Auckland area. Due to the advances in technology over the years, there is no longer such a great need for lip reading classes, because hearing aids and other assistive listening devices are so much more effective. However, in this age of information and choice, which can be really confusing with all the options available, we are still here to give advice about buying and using hearing aids and to support people with hearing loss, as well as their whanau and families, because hearing loss is not just about the individual, it affects those close to them too. We now offer a full range of professional hearing rehabilitation services and we also continue the work of advocacy and education that Kathleen started.