When May decided to retire she also made the brave decision to take action and understand her hearing loss. After struggling throughout her life and teaching career, May wanted this new chapter in her life to be one that she could enjoy and make the most of.
May’s problems began in her early 20s when the classroom environment caused her many communication difficulties. She muddled through for more than a decade before finally acquiring her first hearing aid.
She attended lipreading classes at a local charity near to her home in Ayrshire. The communication hints and tips she received helped her to keep her head above water, but she was still struggling in many aspects of her life.
Then May was told about Hearing Link. Her lipreading teacher encouraged her to find out more about our Specialist Support Programmes. Eager to see what was involved, she looked at our useful website which offered a wealth of information as well as experiences she could relate to. It also answered some of the questions she desperately wanted the answers for.
May remembers, “When I took early retirement I was very aware I needed to understand my hearing loss better and find more ways to cope and optimise my listening skills in order to help communication and socialise. I had become rather isolated, very withdrawn and possibly a little depressed. I needed to get out more, do something useful and make new friends. The ethos of Hearing Link encouraged me to move forward.”
Specialist support programmes
May contacted our Helpdesk and as a result signed up to attend a Self Management Programme that was taking place in Edinburgh. Through group discussions they looked at useful resources, shared experiences and found practical ways to manage hearing loss.
She said, “The workshop was a powerful tool to cope with so many of the difficult situations deaf people such as I face on day-to-day basis. I particularly found ‘target setting’ useful because I was able to take a fresh look at the problem, work out how I would like to resolve it, and then work on it bit by bit. This has made so many situations since then achievable.”
However, a few months after her first programme, May signed up to attend the charity’s Intensive Rehabilitation Programme (IRP). She was still finding difficulties in accepting her hearing loss and was in need of more specialised support to cope with the practical and emotional issues she faced.
She met lots of other people facing the same challenges as her, as well as their families at the five-day programme.
May said, “The IRP turned several corners for me. I finally accepted my deafness as a non-negotiable fact which I had to face up to and move forward. ‘Hearing’s gone, get on with life’.
The boost to my self-esteem of being in charge of living my life again was immense.”
The skills May gained gave her a renewed sense of confidence. She said, “I have gradually participated more and more with the activities at Hearing Link and at each stage I have gained the help and support I needed. I have made many friends. It has been a positive ‘journey’ to accepting my deafness.”
May admits that there are still some elements of day-to-day life that she finds difficult such as using the telephone, participating in larger group conversations or being in noisy environments. But thanks to the strategies and techniques learned from the support given at our programmes, she is now finding ways to overcome these difficulties.
She added, “In my day to day activities I have been able to establish ways to cope with my hearing loss and be independent. I lead a full and busy life with minimal limitations.
“I do have particular problems in understanding speech which will always be an issue when out and about. I accept this to be the case but no longer allow it to distress me nor embarrass me. I have many little strategies to cope, yet when necessary am confident enough to be assertive to tell people that I am deaf and to explain to others what my particular communication needs are – slower, clearer, good speech, without shouting.”
It is not only May who has noticed the difference; her family have also been encouraged by her renewed sense of confidence. Her son Andy said, “For as long as I can remember my mum has had hearing loss, and it has been a continual aspect of life growing up.
“Before she received support from Hearing Link she often struggled with the demands of work and the isolating effects of hearing loss. It had its toll on family life too, with dinner conversations being missed and typical social situations such as dining in bustling restaurants being uncomfortable and frustrating experiences.
“Since Hearing Link has provided support, my mum has developed greatly. Her confidence has improved, her self-esteem and well-being have also sky-rocketed. She has gone from someone who fought with her impairment to someone who accepts it and deals with it. Of course her hearing hasn’t improved, but her coping methods, which Hearing Link have developed, have helped her overcome her hearing loss.
“In my opinion the most helpful aspect of Hearing Link’s support to my mum has been lifting the isolation of hearing loss. She knows that there are many people going through the same thing, who have the exact same challenges and that there are techniques and ways to deal with it available.
“Seeing my mum flourish and begin to help others through Hearing Link has been inspirational for me. To show my support for what Hearing Link does I ran the Edinburgh Marathon in aid of the charity, raising over £1,000 for this fantastic cause.”
May is now helping others as one of our valued network of volunteers. Her initial role was working as a Helpdesk Responder, answering email enquiries from individuals and their families across the UK looking for support just as she once did.
May added, “I share my experiences and much of the practical and emotional help I have received from Hearing Link with other deaf/hard of hearing people and I always recommend its services to everyone.
“It frustrates me that there are so many people living with a hearing loss restricting their daily lives, whether it is at work, at home or socially. Hearing Link can offer so much valuable peer support and advice. I want to make more people aware of the range of help available out there and help them to enjoy a full a life as possible.”
May is turning her hand to other volunteering activities. She said, “Although I spend most of my time volunteering with the Helpdesk I am also hoping to train as a LinkUp facilitator having really enjoyed facilitating at Self Management Programmes. I love to meet participants face to face, to chat with them about hearing loss issues and to share experiences. Peer support is so beneficial to us all, to know that someone really understands.”
Heather Jackson award
She was delighted to receive the Heather Jackson Award for 2017. She said, “It was an honour and privilege to volunteer with Hearing Link, to follow in Heather’s Jackson’s footsteps offering peer support and advice to people with hearing loss, encouraging them to manage that loss and helping them overcome the day-to-day challenges they face. To see deafened people move forward and again enjoy participating fully in life with their families and friends or at work is our reward.”
Webpage published: 2018