Royal National Institute for Deaf People

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), known as Action on Hearing Loss from 2011 to 2020, is a charitable organization working on behalf of the UK's 9 million people who are deaf or have hearing loss.

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  • Brightfield Business Hub, Bakewell Rd, Orton Southgate, Peterborough, PE2 6XU
Region served
United Kingdom
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The Royal National Institute for Deaf People was founded as the National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf in 1911 by Leo Bonn (Leo Bernard William Bonn, Lord of the Manor of Newbold Revel) a deaf merchant banker, and philanthropist, in the ballroom of his home, at Bonn House, 22 Upper Brook Street, Mayfair, on 9 June 1911. The house is marked by a memorial plaque unveiled by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Patron to the RNID, on 9 June 1998.[1][2]

The Bureau was reorganised as the National Institute for the Deaf in 1924. Alongside its role in influencing public policy in favour of people who are hard of hearing in the UK, it also developed a role as a provider of care to deaf and hard of hearing people with additional needs during the late 1920s and early 1930s.

During the 1940s, with the introduction of the National Health Service to the UK, it successfully campaigned for the provision of free hearing aids through the new welfare state system. The 1950s and 1960s saw its increasing influence marked by Royal recognition: in 1958, Prince Philip became the Patron of the Institute; and in 1961 Elizabeth II approved the addition of the "Royal" prefix, creating the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID).

The Institute expanded into medical and technological research during the 1960s and 1970s, being a key player in the development of NHS provided behind-the-ear hearing aids. During the 1980s it developed the Telephone Exchange for the Deaf, a pioneering relay service allowing telephone users and deaf "textphone" users to communicate with each other using a third-party operator to relay voice and text communication. This became the service known as Typetalk in 1991, funded by BT but operated on their behalf by RNID until 7 December 2009 when the RNID stepped down from the service. It is now solely owned, run and managed by BT alone. In March 2009 the name of the Typetalk service was changed to Text Relay.[3]

In 1992 the Institute changed its name to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People but kept the initials RNID.

June 2011 saw celebrations of 100 years of the RNID and a new trading name. "Action on Hearing Loss" was chosen to describe the breadth of help and support they provided for people with all types of hearing loss—from people who were profoundly deaf, to people who were losing their hearing.[4] While trading under the new name, they kept the legal name, Royal National Institute for Deaf People.

RNID announced in 2020 that it was selling its 23 care homes and its supported living, community and domiciliary care services which it had been providing since 1929. The charity’s 560 clients were told their homes and services were to be sold and the 600 staff would be transferred to a new owner. This was despite the organisation’s chief executive saying in 2018 he had no plans to carry out the same kind of mass sale of services that he oversaw in his previous position as chief executive of the disability charity Scope.[5]

Its 2017/2018 annual accounts showed the charity had an income of £40.1m but spent £42.7m. This was the fifth time in six years that the charity's expenditure had exceeded its income. RNID's auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers said that "material uncertainty" over fundraising income and other conditions cast doubt on the charity’s ability to "continue as a going concern".[6]

A financial recovery plan was delivered in the 2019/20 financial year. As a result, RNID's auditors expressed no further concerns about the charity's going concern status in the accounts signed in November 2019. Like all charities, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new financial pressures for RNID. However, as a result of the financial recovery plan and ongoing prudent financial management, RNID is confident in its ongoing financial sustainability.

In 2020, partly as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the charity rebranded and reverted to the RNID name, stating a new purpose: "Together we'll make life fully inclusive."


RNID activities include:

  • campaigning and lobbying, with the help of members, to change laws and government policies
  • providing information and raising awareness of deafness, hearing loss and tinnitus
  • giving training courses and consultancy on deafness and disability
  • offering communication services including sign language interpreters
  • making lasting change in education for deaf children and young people
  • supporting deaf people into work with the organisations employment programmes
  • providing care services for deaf and hard of hearing people with additional needs
  • social, medical and technical research.

Present operationsEdit

RNID has achieved a high profile for its work in lobbying and working with the UK government on modernisation of the UK's audiology services. This has resulted in the introduction of superior digital hearing aids free of charge via the NHS.

RNID has also emerged as a major player in technology research and development, in particular through its work in the area of product development. The RNID Product Development team won an Innovation Award for their work on a new genre of telephone - the ScreenPhone.

Hearing checkEdit

RNID has developed an online free, confidential online hearing check,[7] which can identify potential hearing problems. The five-minute check assesses a person's ability to hear someone speaking when there is background noise. It can indicate whether the test taker's hearing is within the normal range or if it is below normal. The hearing check does not give a medical diagnosis, but the charity hopes it will prompt people to take action and visit their GP or an audiologist for a fuller assessment. On average, it can take people living in the UK up to 15 years to deal with a hearing loss.


  1. ^ "Westminster Green Plaques" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Leo Bonn - Upper Brook Street, London, UK - Blue Plaques on". Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  3. ^ "About Next Generation Text". Next Generation Text Service. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Why We Changed Our Name". Action on Hearing Loss. Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Action on Hearing Loss to sell entire care and support portfolio". Disability News Service. 9 January 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  6. ^ "Action on Hearing Loss begins recovery plan amid financial concerns". Third Sector. 28 January 2019. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  7. ^ "Check your hearing". Action on Hearing Loss. Retrieved 24 January 2019.

External linksEdit