Hearing loss and counselling
Hearing loss can happen gradually over a period of time or quite suddenly. No longer hearing some things does change a person’s world and there is a ripple effect from the resulting deafness.
It can impact on your sense of self and also on your relationships within the family, at work and with friends. Partners and family who have known you as a hearing person may also be coping with loss as they miss the relationship they had with the hearing person who was you.
The resulting confusion, frustration and sense of social isolation can be very difficult to cope with. Some people simply give up, exhausted from the struggle to find new ways to communicate and to explain to others how they can help.
It can be difficult to ask for help and talk about things which are confusing, painful or uncomfortable. However, talking about your thoughts and feelings with someone who, unlike a friend or relative, is not emotionally involved in your life can be very helpful.
Counselling offers you a safe, confidential place where you can explore difficult feelings with someone who will really listen, accept you, respect your feelings and give you honest non-judgemental feedback. That process may enable you to understand more about yourself and discover changes that you might want to make to improve your quality of life and relationships.
A qualified counsellor has had training to enable them to listen to you and help you find ways to deal with emotional issues, but you may need to shop around to find a qualified counsellor who is deaf aware.
The counselling relationship
There are a number of different methods and approaches to therapy, but research has shown that the quality of the relationship between you and the therapist is more important than the method they use. The first session with a counsellor is an assessment, to enable both of you to decide if it feels right to work together. Some counsellors charge for this and others do not.
The first session is an assessment which provides an opportunity for you to assess how comfortable you feel with the counsellor.
The counselling relationship is ‘co-created’ – the counsellor can try to understand your world but will need your help. It is important that you tell the counsellor you have a hearing loss and explain what is helpful to you – and what is not. For example:
- You might benefit if the counsellor is not sitting too far away from you and is positioned where light will fall on their face. That might mean moving the chairs in the room.
- Help the counsellor by explaining that you need to lipread so it would help if they look at you when they speak and avoid covering their mouth.
- If you have not understood something the counsellor has said then do tell the counsellor – don’t just nod or smile. You could also ask them to speak a little louder or slower, or to rephrase what they have said using different words.
Finding a ‘deaf aware’ counsellor?
You will probably need to see a counsellor privately if you wish to choose who you see. It is useful to shop around and maybe meet a few counsellors before you decide who you want to work with. You are unlikely to find a counsellor who is listed as being ‘deaf aware’, so you will have to do some research.
Most counsellors have a website, which gives information about their practice and will follow up an enquiry with a response which invites questions you may have such as: confidentiality, cost, theoretical orientation, their experience qualifications and whether they have membership of a professional body with a Code of Ethics.
It is a good idea to meet one or two counsellors to get a feel as to whether the relationship and the counselling environment are good for you and also whether the counsellor is sufficiently ‘deaf aware’ to enable you to feel comfortable when talking to them and to understand what they say.
Hearing therapists are one of several professional groups within the field of hearing healthcare professionals.
Hearing therapists can often be found working alongside doctors and audiologists, or independently as a separate service.
The focus of the hearing therapist is on helping someone with acquired hearing loss, understand and navigate the widespread issues which living with a hearing loss can often bring- such as a loss of confidence, functioning or breakdowns in communication and relationships.
Time spent with a hearing therapist can be extremely valuable. While wearing a hearing aid may take a relatively short time to become accustomed to, what often takes much longer is the process of developing new skills and mindsets required when living life with a hearing loss.
If you feel you would benefit from the support that can be offered by a hearing therapist please ask your GP, hospital consultant or audiologist to refer you to one. To see if there is a hearing therapist available in your area, you can also consult the public register of the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (www.rccp.co.uk), search for ‘Hearing Therapy’ in the ‘Search the Register’ box on the middle/right of the home page.
As a hearing impaired person, you have a right to communication support if you need it, so you could always ask for a notetaker or palantypist to be in the session. Usually, though, it is more comfortable without a third person in the room. However, with the advances in technology there are more options available for deafened people.
Many counsellors do now offer sessions using phone or video chat and voice calls between computers, such as Skype, Facetime and Zoom. If you are not familiar with such technology, it can be a bit scary, but once it is set up it is simple to access.
The benefit of video chat is of course that lipreading is enabled. Also use of a streamer can vastly improve the sound quality of speech from a computer by providing a wireless connection between your hearing aids or implant and the computer or tablet.
Thus technology now enables deafened people to have access to a much wider range of counsellors, since geographical location is not necessarily a constraint.
Counselling through the NHS
It is current government policy to make counselling and other talking treatments more easily available on the NHS. If you want to try a talking therapy, ask your GP, who will be aware of what’s available locally.
Your GP can refer you for a short course of talking treatment that is free on the NHS. For more information about NHS counselling, visit the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/counselling/
Paying for a private counsellor
However, if you can afford it, you may choose to pay for your therapy privately. That will give you autonomy to choose which counsellor you see, when you see them, how often and for how long. The cost of talking therapy varies.
You will need to do some research to find a private therapist. The internet, the library, Yellow Pages and of course word of mouth recommendations are all useful ways to collect relevant information.
Here are some useful links to organisations which have directories of counsellors. Do be aware though, that these are paid for entries, so you will need to check out the details. There are no rules governing who can advertise talking therapy services, so it’s essential to check that the therapist is listed on one of the registers of approved practitioners, and do talk to several therapists before you decide which one is right for you.
Counselling directories do not specifically give information about ‘deaf awareness’, but professional counselling organisations may be able to help you find a ‘deaf aware’ counsellor.
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website says they will try to help you locate accessible practitioners or services (minicom service available).
- United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) has a directory of therapists and lists as one of its objectives ‘To make sure that high-quality psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic counselling in both private and public sectors is available to everyone, no matter who they are’.
- Counselling Directory says on its website ‘A disability can be any physical, cognitive, sensory, emotional or developmental condition that hampers or reduces a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. In some cases, people may have a combination of some, or all those mentioned above. A disability can be present at birth or occur later in life, depending on the nature of the condition. A sensory disability can affect one or more of an individual’s senses, such as touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing and spacial awareness. Hearing loss, blindness and autism all fall under the ‘sensory disability’ category’.
Other useful links
If you seek low cost counselling, there might be local organisations who can help. For example, for those with access to west London, the Metanoia Institute has a counselling service which offers up to six months of sessions with their counsellors in training.
And of course, if you need to just talk to someone, Samaritans are there all the time.
Webpage reviewed: November 2022