Blog: Motorway thoughts about Hearing Link
By Hearing Link volunteer, John Newton
“The Shropshire Deaf and Hard of Hearing Forum meets three times a year in Telford and it recently expressed interest in learning more about the activities of Hearing Link.
Despatched by Hearing Link’s Volunteer Co-ordinator Alison, and kitted with a bag of leaflets and magazines, I drove down from Buxton.
It’s about 60 miles away, so I had to time to ponder how best to explain what goes on at the weekend events Hearing Link hosts. We used to call these Self Management Programmes (SMPs) but are now rebranded as LinkUps.
I decided the best thing would be to talk about the personal stories of how people have been affected and helped by these groups, using some of the material on the Hearing Link website and showing one of the videos.
Alas, despite prior assurances, I found no internet connection in the room. I should have had the videos in my computer memory but, although I used to consider myself to be cool with computers, I’m afraid I’ve been left behind in recent years and had not thought of doing that.
So I decided to share a story about a professional person, competent, capable and busy whose existence is slowly undermined by progressive hearing loss. This person was me. But it was also the same story for a lot of people I have met over the years working as a volunteer for Hearing Link.
Despite the work of Hearing Link and many others, I don’t think the average person really appreciates how devastating hearing loss can be when it strikes at one’s core competence as a worker, citizen, spouse and friend. The stories on our website illustrate these feelings and challenges very well.
I also explained what we do at these Hearing Link events to help people overcome their personal challenges and what it is about the events which sometimes, indeed quite often, engender such remarkable transformations.
Having had time to think about these things on the (congested) M6 my conclusion were thus.
Firstly, Hearing Link’s LinkUps provide a protected safe environment where people feel they can express their feelings in a non-judgmental atmosphere. I’m not even sure how we achieve that, but it is clearly something to do with the fact that we assure people that the proceedings are confidential, the way we talk to them, and our body language. All our peer facilitators also have a sensitive understanding of hearing loss either directly or through a family member.
Secondly, obvious but extremely important, we encourage participation as a group by making it possible for them to hear everything that is said, maybe for some people for the first time. A hearing loop is available and participants can follow every word that is being said on a big screen, recorded there by a Speech-to-Text reporter.
Lastly, we don’t lecture or tell people what to do, we ask them what they think themselves and share their experiences and ideas with the rest of the group.
Sometimes, people do ask what they should do and it’s often a temptation to start a sentence “Well, why don’t you do?” But I think the facilitators mostly resist this temptation.
Abbreviated like this, it seems simple, but we know it is not. The approach has developed over many years, and many events by many volunteers and staff – and it works! I hope all our Hearing Link volunteers are all justly proud of what we do in their chosen role – the Shropshire Forum found it very interesting.
Driving back home I made the mistake of heading through the Potteries in the rush hour. This gave me more thinking time, which I must confess, was more about what I was having for my supper and to drink than Hearing Link!”