Shona has been a hearing aid user for most of her life, but it wasn’t until she was older that she sought help from Hearing Link.
Growing up with hearing loss
On the face of it Shona has lived a full life. She attended mainstream school, got married and attended university, and works as a manager for a water utility company. In her spare time her hobbies include walking and sailing.
However, since birth, Shona has struggled with hearing loss. Her parents and brother were extremely supportive throughout her life, encouraging her to achieve whatever she wanted to achieve and helping her to live as ‘normally’ as possible.
Shona recalls, “My mother was, and is, a constant source of support, always looking for new hearing aids and advancements to ensure I had the best I could have.
“However, I have discovered on this journey that it must have been hard for my mum and dad too, worrying about how I would manage. It was only after my dad mentioned in his speech on my wedding day that I had overcome all sorts of obstacles in my life, that I truly realised the impact my hearing loss must have had on them.
“Even though my hearing loss never stopped me doing anything, I also realised that I was beginning to struggle. It took me a long time to finally pluck up the courage to get the support I desperately needed.”
Despite being a hearing aid user for most of her life Shona was experiencing difficulties in hearing conversations. She struggled to work out what people were saying, and found lipreading and trying to participating was increasingly exhausting. She tried assistive listening devices, but became exasperated with them quickly when she got no real benefit from using them.
In April 2014 she decided enough was enough. Realising that her deteriorating hearing was affecting how she thought about her job, Shona desperately sought help and advice that could help to restore her confidence. This is when she found Hearing Link.
Shona aged 52, recalls, “I wanted to do everything I could to ensure I would not lose my job. I was feeling pretty despondent as I was struggling and had been struggling to manage for a few years. Deep down I was quite frustrated.
“After searching the internet, I came across Hearing Link and immediately contacted its Helpdesk for help and support.”
The Helpdesk team, which is run by volunteers who have experience of hearing loss themselves, suggested that Shona would benefit from attending Hearing Link’s highly regarded Self Management Programme.
Shona, from Warwickshire, said, “To be able to share my experiences with others with hearing loss has been a huge step forward.
“What the Self Management Programme has taught me is that everyone deals with hearing loss in their own way. There is no right or wrong answer, but a sharing of experiences. Whilst I like to think I was unique; in reality, whatever your hearing loss, we all discover ways to deal with it through trial and error.
“The support received has given me the confidence to try things and be more assertive. I feel more informed and deaf aware as a result. I now feel ready to challenge myself a bit more. I’ve started pushing myself taking risks that before I wouldn’t have considered and I am now more assertive about my needs. I see a world of opportunity to work with my hearing loss rather than deny it.”
Meeting like-minded people
These were of great value to Shona. She said: “I got lots of tips from other people just by listening at the course and feeling included thanks to the Speech-to-Text Reporting available. I was inspired by the whole group, and for the first time in my life, was able to truly relax with a mixed group of people who understood what it’s like not to hear.
“Some of the things that I enjoyed I had long given up on, such as swimming and yoga. I could see from others that they were still doing them, so it helped me to challenge my thinking and encouraged me to give it another go.
“The best thing though is it is entirely up to you what you want to try or not try. There is no pressure, but the Self Management Programme is an opportunity to meet like-minded people, who don’t judge, and will support you if you want it. In fact a few of us have remained in touch and aim to meet once in a while.”
The Self Management Programme has also inspired Shona in many other ways.
She has decided to take a career break and is now undertaking some voluntary work to raise awareness of hearing loss issues. She is also on the path to becoming a Hearing Link volunteer – all thanks to the support and new-found confidence she received during the Self Management Programme and since.
She said, “The programme has spurred me on to take a career break from my job to focus on my hearing. Learning about the local services available in Nottingham, made me realise that there is a gap in my own county and maybe I could do something about that. So, I’m doing things I would not normally do, such as meeting with a supermarket chain to discuss ideas of how they can support customers with hearing loss.
“I’m also dedicating my time to raising awareness of hearing loss in my local community, as well as meeting other deaf and hard of hearing people and making new friends. I have even been out and about checking hearing loops in my town and hope to help it achieve ‘looped’ status in the future.”
Even Shona’s close friends have noticed a difference. Her friend Ann said, “Shona has become more confident, self reliant and much happier. She shows more awareness of the needs of other people who have hearing problems. Hearing Link has been very beneficial.”
Connecting with others
Shona continues to make use of Hearing Link services by actively reading its website to keep updated on news from the sector and continues to connect with others through its dedicated Facebook page.
She added, “I love connecting with others and keeping up to date with research and continuing to learn about hearing loss. Hearing Link assists me in doing this and I would recommend them to anyone. Suddenly my hearing loss does not seem such a negative thing. It’s a long journey to final acceptance but I think I am on my way”
Webpage published: 2018