A VETERAN aircraft engineer who lost his hearing is calling for others to access new support.

Tom Kane, from Deeside, always had aspirations to join the Armed Forces.

From as young as he can remember he looked up to his father who was in the Fleet Air Arm, and at 14 he joined the Marine Cadets in Penzance in the South West of England.

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

After a setback, being told he wasn’t initially going to be accepted into the RAF, he reapplied in January 1975 and in April that year he finally swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and said: "I didn’t look back.”


Veteran aircraft engineer Tom Kane, from Deeside.

Veteran aircraft engineer Tom Kane, from Deeside.


Despite being fully hearing when he arrived at his first posting at RAF Binbrook, in Lincolnshire, Tom was tasked to work as a mechanic on The Lightning, at the time the loudest aircraft in the RAF.

Tom was at RAF Binbrook and issued with Amplivox ear defenders made out of ceramic cup with padding inside the cup and a seal with glycerine, which in his case were not adequate in the noisy environment of a Flight Line full of Lightnings.


Veteran aircraft engineer Tom Kane, from Deeside. The office.

Veteran aircraft engineer Tom Kane, from Deeside. "The office."


Despite improvements being made to ear defender technology over the years, his hearing was already damaged due to noise.

“I loved the RAF life,” said Tom. “So much so that from 1988 onwards I was always involved with the entertainment committees of various Sergeants Messes, but that is when I noticed my hearing wasn’t what it used to be.”

It was the weekly quiz nights Tom hosted at RAF Sealand, in Deeside when he realised that when people were asking him to repeat questions from across the noisy room, that he couldn’t hear his fellow colleagues.

In 2000 Tom lost a good part of his hearing and also developed tinnitus and went for several audiology exams but was told that it would be ‘something you have to live with’ and so he carried on, even serving in the Falklands.

After many failed attempts Tom was finally given a lifeline by the NHS and was seen by an audiologist in the hospital.

After a full hearing test which showed he had experienced noise induced hearing loss, and was given hearing aids.

Tom added: “It was pretty life changing, but I also made sure I went onto lip reading courses to do what I could to help myself.”

“When there was a possibility of a fireman strike after the last foot and mouth epidemic, I was told I would be expected to be chosen to lead teams of service personnel in an emergency setting and it clearly just wasn’t safe," said Tom.

"At that time I really knew I had to push to get help and after some persuading, I was given a medical downgrading, which meant I wasn’t going to be expected to work in a hazardous area because of my hearing loss."


Veteran aircraft engineer Tom Kane, from Deeside. First day and last day.

Veteran aircraft engineer Tom Kane, from Deeside. First day and last day.


Father of two Tom, was given a Hearing Dog for the Deaf Nevis who he said, 'changed his life completely'.

Now Tom is fully qualified as a lip reading teacher and works to help other Veterans who have lost their hearing through active service.

“It can take 10 years for someone to realise they have a hearing loss,” said Tom. “Luckily now there are Facebook groups you can join and get support but when mine happened it was very isolating - and tiring!”

DSN, previously known as Deafness Support Network, has been awarded a grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund to enable veterans to get better access to support and services. The project is being headed by Pam Craige.

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

DSN will be hosting its first ever workshop for veterans, where Tom will be the guest speaker, at The Armed Forces Community Services Hub, Warrington on November 26th from 1pm-3.30pm. The workshop is free with lunch and refreshments provided.

Anyone interested in going along can email pcraige@dsnonline.co.uk