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RNID volunteers in Northern Ireland greet visitors at the Balmoral Show

A RNID volunteer speaking with visitors at the Balmoral Show, in an outdoor tent.

Mariette Mulvenna, RNID Development Officer in Northern Ireland, brought RNID to Northern Ireland’s biggest agricultural show this May: the Balmoral Show.

“I grew up on a farm and still live in an agricultural village. A few years ago, I spotted an unfamiliar van parked in the village, offering free health checks to farmers as part of the Farm Families Heath Check project.

“I was interested to find out more about this innovative service and, having got in touch with the lovely team behind it, realised this could be a perfect partnership for RNID. From that point, Christina Faulkner and I have been working together to offer advice and support on hearing loss at their outreach events as part of their core health screening activities: BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol testing, and diabetes and wellbeing advice.

“At the start of May, this partnership stepped up a gear at their stand at the Balmoral Show. Running over 4 days, our RNID dream team of staff and volunteers joined 120,000 visitors.

Three people smiling outside, holding a sign that says: 'Farm Families Health Checks'.
From left to right: Christina Faulker from Farm Families Health Check; William Irvine, Deputy President of the Farmers Union, and Carolyn Ritche, RNID Near You Coordinator

“We joined the Farm Families Health Check team at their bus, parked centre stage in the show grounds. While they delivered their services, we were on hand to offer advice on hearing loss, give out hearing check cards, and had over 500 meaningful conversations with visitors.

“It was striking that so many of the people we spoke to weren’t aware of the intrinsic risk to their hearing that exists in everyday farm activities. Any noise exposure over 85dB can be a risk to your hearing, and feeding time in the pig house, for example, can reach 100dB. Ear protection is recommended for exposure over 15mins. We showed them the associated noise levels with various agricultural activities.

“Unlike me, having been to the Balmoral Show more times than I can remember, for one of the volunteers it was a new and very different experience to his normal volunteering activities! He said:

“I enjoyed it very much. We were kept busy all day, the time just flew by. […] The Farm Families people were very friendly and really welcomed us to join their stand. […] Those that came over to the stand were clearly interested in their health, so it was easy to engage with them on their hearing.”

Tom, Northern Ireland RNID Volunteer

“Our biggest challenge throughout the show was the unpredictability of the weather. In the space of a day we saw rain, heat, cold and sunshine. But hey, if taking on and off raincoats and fleeces is our biggest concern, we don’t have much to complain about! It was a great experience for all involved – never a dull moment – and we can’t wait to be back again next year.”

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