Hearing Link

Hearing loss and counselling

People seek counselling for many reasons, all to do with change; bereavement, illness, hoping to change the way they feel about past experiences (abuse, relationships, family), frustration with where their life is going (or not going).

Counselling and hearing loss

But sometimes people with hearing loss (whether mild, moderate, severe or profound) struggle with other things as well. People are generally sympathetic if you suffer other types of loss. For example, if you are bereaved or lose you mobility through an accident. But often loss of hearing is not given the same consideration: it may be the butt of jokes or it may be a hidden loss.

When you lose your hearing you may find that most people don’t understand what you are going through.

It can be difficult to ask for help and talk about things which are confusing, painful or uncomfortable. Counselling offers you a safe, confidential place where you can explore difficult feelings with someone who will really listen.

Talking to a counsellor, who accepts you and respects your feelings, can help you process difficult issues in your life. However, counselling is not always about problems.

The honest feedback from a counsellor can enable you to understand more about yourself and discover changes that you might want to make to improve your quality of life and relationships.

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.

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 contract to work with.

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.

It provides an opportunity for you to assess how comfortable you feel with the counsellor and to ask questions such as confidentiality, cost, theoretical orientation, their experience qualifications and whether they have membership of a professional body with a Code of Ethics.

Finding a ‘deaf aware’ counsellor?

While counselling directories do not specifically give information about ‘deaf awareness’, professional counselling organisations may be able to help you find a ‘deaf aware’ counsellor.

For example the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website says they will try to help you locate accessible practitioners or services (minicom service available).

Also, once you have identified some counsellors you think you might want to meet, this is an important question to ask when you first make contact with them.

The hearing environment

Do 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.
  • Tell the counsellor if you are struggling to understand them – don’t just nod or smile.
  • Ask the counsellor to speak a little louder/slower or to rephrase what they said as you are having difficulty following what was being said.
  • Explain that you need to lipread so it would help if they look at you when they speak and avoid covering their mouth.

Communication during the counselling session

One counselling expert says ‘As a counsellor working with hearing impaired people, I take responsibility for making sure my clients can understand me. For some clients that will mean making sure the room is quiet and well lit. Others might want to use the personal loop system.

For those with profound hearing loss, I will often use a laptop linked to another laptop or an iPad. I type what I would normally say and the text appears on the other screen which is in front of my client. The client can speak back to me so they don’t have to use the computer. Sometimes my spelling is a bit wonky and it takes a bit of getting used to, but if you’ve ever used STTR, Skype or MSN Messenger, it’s the same idea. It means we have instant communication.

A couple of clients have said to me that they nearly didn’t come to the first session because they were fed up with not being able to understand the audiologist / doctor / social worker but when they walked in and saw that I could communicate easily with them they felt such a sense of relief.

Of course, 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 and all a counsellor needs to be able to do is type fairly competently and have the equipment.’

Can you access counselling for free through the NHS?

It is 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.

More information about NHS counselling:

Paying for counselling

If you can afford it, you can choose to pay for your therapy privately. The cost of talking therapy varies and a one-hour session can cost between £40 and £100.

In the first instance, ask your GP if they can suggest a local private therapist. If you still need help, you can find a private therapist using the internet, the library or the Yellow Pages.

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.

Talk to several therapists before you decide which one is right for you.


Webpage published 2014

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