By John Keast
Ashburton had one of the best hearing associations in the country, national president Tony Rush said.
Mr Rush, who now lives now at Hakatere but came from Levin, was speaking at a dinner to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Ashburton Hearing Association.
Mr Rush – who decided to live in Ashburton after a visit to the i-Site – said one person in five in New Zealand had hearing loss, but that was expected to increase to one in four, mostly because of induced noise.
Mr Rush said many people lost some hearing in older age, but the modern habit of young people playing loud music through earbuds or earphones would help push up numbers.
Past president Geoff Horrell, a retired truck driver, said his occupation contributed to his hearing loss, and in his day people did not wear earmuffs.
Mr Rush said that since be became national president eight months ago he had visited 12 branches and “in some ways this is the strongest and best led”.
He said they did not need to look out for money and had a strong committee and chairman, Russell Anstiss.
When he went to the Christchurch annual general meeting there were 20 people, but soon after in Ashburton there were 63.
He said that when the association started it was to teach lip reading, help people use technology and to create a social outlet, and two of those things were still valid today.
The Ashburton association had 143 member families whose subs were only $10.
The branch began after a meeting in 1957, with 20 attending.
Tutors, then, came from Christchurch one day a week and were funded by the Education Department.
Ashburton was a sub branch of Christchurch until 1963 when it became a branch known as the Hard of Hearing League.
In 1976 it became the Hearing Association.
In the early years lip reading lessons and socials were held in the Community Rooms in Tancred Street.
In 1966 the Jaycee property in Havelock Street was bought for 5650 pound, and a Golden Kiwi grant of 2250 pound was used and members offered smaller loans. It was paid off in two years.
Today the association helps members Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm with a first level hearing aid service, vacuum clearing of hearing aids, and ear vacuuming by a Christchurch specialist.
In 2000 an opportunity arose to join three other groups in the proposed new Seniors Centre and invested $75,000 in the project.