Lorraine Gailey: Supporting adults with hearing loss

A guest blog post by Lorraine Gailey, Chief Executive of Hearing Link

Dr Lorraine Gailey 2015
Lorraine Gailey

Many of us will experience hearing loss at some stage of our lives, and for some of us, the impact will be devastating. Currently around 1 in 10 adults, around six million people in the UK, are living with some degree of hearing loss.

It affects everyone differently, but what remains consistent is that it touches every part of a person’s life from their ability to communicate, relationships with family and friends, and status at work.

Hearing loss in the workplace often presents new challenges which can lead to growing frustrations and impact on your self-confidence. Tasks that fellow employees take for granted, such as being able to use the telephone or participating in staff meetings, can become daunting and lead to feelings of anxiety and vulnerability.

Hearing Link is here to help and we provide personalised information and support for adults so they can participate fully and confidently at work and in their daily lives, whatever their level of hearing.

Our free Helpdesk service has information on Access to Work, assistive equipment and offers experiences of others who are coping with hearing loss in the workplace.

Alternatively there’s our friendly network of Community Support Volunteers who provide one-to-one support via email, in person or via post; offering first-hand experiences of what to say when speaking to employers about your hearing loss or strategies to cope with the challenges.

Some people may also find our specialist support programmes insightful.

Many adults across the UK benefit from our help, but I would like to highlight the story of our beneficiary Shona Hudson.

Shona started to lose confidence at work when she noticed she was struggling to hear discussions in meetings and was unable to participate confidently at conferences and training events.

Shona Hudson low res
Shona Hudson

She recalled: “I had already had an Access to Work (AtW) assessment and equipment to help me hear at work, but I was still struggling in round-the-table discussions. Although everyone knew I had a hearing loss, I was getting frustrated that this did not seem to change anything for me.

“I found meetings particularly exhausting and felt that I was unable to contribute to discussions because I was always missing what someone said at the opposite end of the room. I was sure that this would affect how others perceived my capabilities and left me feeling quite vulnerable.”

Shona found Hearing Link through an online search and after speaking to one of our Helpdesk responders signed up for our Self Management Programme, with the support of her employer.

The SMP created an opportunity for her to receive face-to-face help by sharing her hopes and fears with people who had experience of hearing loss. It also created an environment where she could understand that some of the challenges she had been facing as a result of her hearing loss.

She said: “It gave me confidence to start tackling different issues and introduced me to a wider range of technological solutions than AtW had done. There was absolutely no place else I could have found this kind of support.”

Shona was able to use the tactics and experiences she learned to positively change her working experience.

She added: “I started goal setting and planning my future taking into account my hearing loss and finding a way to work with it rather than covering it up. I used the advice from others at the workshop to deal with my work issues. I learned that I was struggling at work, not because of my abilities, but as a direct result of struggling with my hearing. This gave me a huge confidence boost to realise I didn’t have to settle for something that was making me unhappy.”

Since receiving our support, Shona has blossomed. She has since supported other people with hearing loss at work by publishing her experiences on its intranet. Shona has also taken up more social and group activities, fundraised for our charity, got involved in different Hearing Link projects and after a career break now hopes to start her own business.

We can help more people like Shona to overcome the challenges they face.

If you’re worried about your hearing and would like more information about the support we provide, please visit www.hearinglink.org.

To find out more about our one-to-one support, specialist programmes or for information about coping at work with hearing loss, email helpdesk@hearinglink.org. Alternatively call 0300 111 1113 or text 07526 123255.

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