I’ve had hearing loss since 2005. I lost the hearing in my right ear in the space of 12 hours and was plunged into the hearing loss world literally overnight. But living and working with hearing loss has led to a whole range of positives for which I am very grateful. Here are just four of them:
1. I found a great support network
When life hits the skids you soon find out who your friends are! They were the people who, when I wasn’t comfortable asking for the help I needed, insisted that I sit down first at the table to get the best position to hear. They were people like Trevor Ashworth, who made sure I knew about Access to Work and the right to reasonable adjustments to help me at work. And people like Lilian Cain, my manager at the time, who was so incredibly understanding and supportive.
What I learnt: you can’t deal with hearing loss alone. Build a supportive team around you who have your interests at heart.
2. I worry less about what people think of me
For a long time I worried that admitting I couldn’t hear well would make people think I couldn’t do my job properly. So I wouldn’t ask for any help in meetings, or when trying to hear on conference calls. I just muddled along the best I could. It wasn’t until I started to lose the hearing in my good ear that I realised I couldn’t carry on like this. If I did mishear something important my clients would think I was incompetent, rather than simply hearing impaired. So I decided to tell the team I was working for about my deafness in an email, explaining what hearing loss was like and how they could help.
What I learnt: tell your colleagues very clearly what assistance you need, and 9 times out of 10 they will do their utmost to help.
3. I’ve come out of my shell
I grew up as a real introvert. I was dynamic and communicative at work, but once work was done I was delighted to shut the door at home and spend time on my own. Hearing loss is not good for introverts. It gives us a great excuse to avoid socialising. But that wasn’t fair on my husband who is a social animal. So I had to dig deep to find the courage to go to pubs, parties and restaurants with all of the challenges to us deafies that they present. And, you know what, the more I did it, the easier it became. Now when I meet new people I cheerfully announce that I have hearing loss, and will probably mishear them at some point or even drop a clanger.
What I learnt: using humour when talking to people about your hearing loss breaks the ice and makes them more inclined to help you.
4. I’ve been able to pay it all forward
I know how scary, frustrating, exasperating, embarrassing and worrying hearing loss can be. That’s why in 2015 I started to help people manage their hearing loss at work and at home. And I absolutely love it! After every appointment I know that my 12 years + of experience has helped someone else cope better with their ‘new normal’. And knowing that helps me to make sense of my own hearing loss which gets worse each year.
Has your hearing loss or health condition led to some surprising things that you are thankful for?