Today is Time to Talk Day. A day when we are encouraged to talk about mental health, with the aim of bringing about an end to the misconceptions and stigma associated with having a mental health problem.
It therefore feels timely to also use the day to talk about hearing loss. It too, is not talked about often enough. It is hidden, felt by many to be stigmatising, and for some people, can result in withdrawal, social isolation and depression.
Hearing loss disclosure
A couple of months ago I posted about the disclosure of my own hearing loss and how difficult it was to admit to others in my workplace. I began to worry that I wasn’t as competent as my hearing peers, and that my manager would think I wasn’t up to the job simply because some things were becoming impossible for me to do.
When I eventually talked to my manager about it, he helped me to put my negative feelings into perspective. Sitting back and thinking logically about it, I realised that I was too focused on the 2-3 things that I couldn’t do, compared to the 102 things that I could!
I also realised that if I too had a member of staff that had come to me with a problem, then I would have done everything I could to support them. If they were unable to do some things, then I would have just made some ‘reasonable adjustments’ and introduced some ‘work-arounds’ in their day to day work. Unfortunately, I had failed to recognise such adjustments could be applied to me too. That old saying, that I “wasn’t able to see the wood for the trees”, had never rung so true!
I was too close to the problem and by not talking about it and sharing it, was unable to lift my head up beyond those negative thoughts. Such thoughts undoubtedly affected my mental health, putting me under more stress than was necessary and leaving me with feelings of self-doubt and low self esteem.
And it’s not just me. I’m sure that many people with hearing loss would have similar experiences to share.
Its good to talk, and the personal stories of people such as Alistair and Hilary, highlight the importance they also place on being open and honest about hearing loss. It really can help in the long run.
On Time to Talk Day, I’d therefore encourage you all to reflect on the level of disclosure you have about your hearing loss, and the effect this has upon you.
Of course, disclosure isn’t something that you do once in a lifetime, its something that you might have to do every day with new people and colleagues you come into contact with. It requires us to become both educator and advocate.
By talking about our own challenges and how to address them, we start to question the status quo; proposing solutions, influencing decisions, encouraging change and educating people that we meet every day about hearing loss and the issues it raises. This might be something so simple as explaining which is the ‘best side’ to approach you from, to having a discussion with your boss about the need for an assessment from Access to Work.
By continuing to talk about it, we can gradually increase awareness about the prevalence of hearing loss in the public’s consciousness, and slowly shift society’s attitude and the stigma associated with it.
We all have our role to play in de-stigmatising hearing loss. Lets start today on Time to Talk Day.