Former RAF Sealand engineer urges fellow veterans to acknowledge their hearing loss


A veteran aeronautical engineer who has lost his hearing asks others to access new support.

Tom Kane of Deeside has always dreamed of joining the Armed Forces.

As young as he can remember, he admired his father who was in the Fleet Air Arm, and at 14 he joined the Sea Cadets at Penzance in the southwest of England.

“I was still in school when I applied to join the Royal Air Force and was working as a part-time butcher,” Tom said.

After a setback, being told he was not initially going to be accepted into the RAF, he reapplied in January 1975 and in April of the same year he finally swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and said, “I haven’t looked back.”

Veteran aeronautical engineer Tom Kane, of Deeside.

Although he was perfectly understood when he arrived on his first posting to RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, Tom was tasked with working as a mechanic on the Lightning, at the time the loudest aircraft in the RAF. .

Tom was at RAF Binbrook and received Amplivox earmuffs made from a ceramic cup with padding inside the cup and a gasket with glycerin, which in his case was not adequate in the noisy environment of a flight line full of lightning.

Veteran aeronautical engineer Tom Kane, of Deeside.  Office.

Veteran aeronautical engineer Tom Kane, of Deeside. “Office.”

Despite improvements in earmuff technology over the years, his hearing was already damaged from noise.

“I loved the life of the RAF,” said Tom. “So much so that from 1988, I was always involved in the animation committees of various sergeant’s messes, but it was then that I noticed that my hearing was no longer what she was.

It was during Tom’s weekly quiz nights at RAF Sealand, Deeside, when he realized that when people asked him to repeat the questions across the noisy room, he didn’t couldn’t hear his colleagues.

In 2000 Tom lost a good deal of his hearing and also developed tinnitus and had several audiology exams but was told it would be “something you have to live with” so he continued, even serving the Falklands.

After many unsuccessful attempts, Tom finally received an NHS lifeline and was seen by an audiologist in hospital.

After a full hearing test which showed he suffered noise-induced hearing loss and was given hearing aids.

Tom added: “It changed my life, but I also made sure to take lip-reading classes to do what I could to help myself.”

“When there was a possibility of a firefighters strike after the last foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, I was told that I would be supposed to be chosen to lead teams of service personnel in an emergency context and that it was clearly not sure, ”said Tom. .

“At that point I really knew I had to push for help and after being persuaded I was given a medical downgrade which meant I wasn’t going to have to work in an area dangerous because of my hearing loss. ”

Veteran aeronautical engineer Tom Kane, of Deeside.  First day and last day.

Veteran aeronautical engineer Tom Kane, of Deeside. First day and last day.

A father of two, Tom received a hearing dog for the deaf Nevis which he said “completely changed his life”.

Now Tom is fully qualified as a lip reading teacher and works to help other veterans who have lost their hearing while on active duty.

“It can take 10 years for a person to realize they have hearing loss,” Tom said. “Fortunately, there are now Facebook groups that you can join and get help with, but when mine happened it was very isolating – and tiring! ”

DSN, formerly known as the Deafness Support Network, received a grant from the Armed Forces Trust Fund to enable veterans to have better access to support and services. The project is led by Pam Craige.

Pam said: “Tom’s story is so inspiring and it’s fantastic to see how he turned his hearing loss into something he can now help people with. We really hope that other veterans will be encouraged to speak openly about their hearing loss and to come and find a support network with us here at DSN.

DSN will be hosting its very first Veterans Workshop, where Tom will be the guest speaker, at the Armed Forces Community Service Center, Warrington on November 26 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The workshop is free with lunch and refreshments provided.

Anyone interested can send an email to [email protected]

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