Elderly music lover told to remove hearing aids at concert felt ‘humiliated’

A picture of the Aberystwyth University campus
Aberystwyth University said it had conducted an investigation into the incident - Wales News Service

An elderly music lover has said she felt “humiliated” when staff demanded she take out her hearing aids at a concert in an arts centre.

Susan Davies, 80, brought a discrimination claim against the Arts Centre at Aberystwyth University after she and other hearing aid users were told to take out or turn down their listening devices because they could affect the acoustics during a performance.

Ms Davies won a £4,000 pay out and an apology after she and others were “shouted at” by “intimidating” staff members during last year’s AberMusicFest, leaving her “humiliated and upset”.

Ms Davies said that, after one performance, staff started “searching” for hearing aid users in the crowd, saying their devices affected the sound for other attendees.

After another performance, Ms Davies said, an audience member stood up to tell people to turn down hearing aids.

Ms Davies said: “She shouted ‘turn your hearing aids off’ and one gentleman shouted: ‘How on earth can we hear if we are told to turn our hearing aids down?’”

And on a third occasion, Ms Davies said, a member of staff claimed hearing aids were “causing an irritating noise nuisance to non-hearing aid users” and apparently laughed while she said it.

Ms Davies said: “I spoke to a technician there during the week and mentioned to him about it and I said: ‘Are you aware there are problems with the acoustics in the Great Hall?’ And he said that his view was that it’s to do with the wiring under the extended seating that can be moved in and out.

“He said it’s very unfair to blame hearing aid users for any acoustic interference that might happen,” she added.

Settlement donated to charity

Ms Davies wrote to Aberystwyth University to voice her concerns but after several letters did not feel they had done enough to remedy her complaints.

She then submitted a disability discrimination claim and received a settlement for £4,000 which she donated to the charity Royal National Institute for Deaf People.

Ms Davies said: “What’s unpleasant for me now is the arts centre is an amazing venue. I haven’t been there since the incident because I am afraid of walking in and seeing staff and that will remind me of that unpleasant experience.

“Unless little small people like me fight, how are we ever going to make it easier for people with disabilities?”

A spokesman for Aberystwyth University said: “The university aspires to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for the whole community. We take any complaint of discrimination extremely seriously and conducted a full investigation into the complaint made by Ms Davies.

“A settlement was paid to Ms Davies before any litigation was brought and it recognised the seriousness with which the University takes concerns of this nature.

“In addition, a full and sincere apology was provided to Ms Davies. We always seek to learn from any such concerns and have ensured that all necessary remedial action has been implemented.”