Old name, new purpose: why we’ve gone back to RNID

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Our history

We’ve been helping people with hearing loss for more than 100 years, and changed the lives of millions since we started.

Our key achievements include successfully lobbying the NHS to provide free hearing aids in 1948 and hearing-screening for newborn babies in 2000.

We’ve also been involved in life-changing research and, today, hundreds of thousands of people have checked their hearing with our online hearing check.

The beginning

In the early 1900s, Leo Bonn, a successful banker with hearing loss, decided to use his wealth to improve the lives of those who were deaf, or had hearing loss.

There were many societies, schools and missions devoted to the education and welfare of deaf people but they didn’t work together. Leo saw the need for a new, national organisation to coordinate activities so more people could be helped.

His aims were ambitious:

  • to support and care for people with hearing loss
  • to educate people at risk of damaging their hearing
  • and to raise awareness of how isolating hearing loss can be. 

A national charity for deaf people

In 1910, Leo’s lipreading teacher, Mary Hare, introduced him to Arthur Story, headmaster of the Mount Blind and Deaf School in Stoke-on-Trent, who was leading the call for a national organisation for deaf people.

Leo was so impressed that on 9 June, 1911, he hosted a meeting of the disparate organisations in the dining room of his Mayfair home, where he offered to establish and fund the National Bureau for promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf.

Continuing to improve lives

With Leo at the helm, the founding organisations set out their three aims: to coordinate charity activities for deaf people, provide accurate information and statistics, and suggest reforms to improve their lives.

Since then, we’ve achieved so much. But our work’s not over yet. We’re driven to succeed by the same passion to improve lives that inspired Leo Bonn, our founder.

With your support, we can continue the work that Leo Bonn began, and change the lives of even more deaf people and those with hearing loss or tinnitus.

RNID library

We have a collection of approximately 3,000 books and archives about deafness and deaf people.

Learn how to access the RNID library

Our timeline

We’ve helped millions of people in the century since our charity began. Our key events show how we’ve been changing lives from our start in 1911 right up to today.
View our timeline

Page last updated: 8 March 2024

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