There is no doubt that life is full of personal challenges and disasters, some will be small but others will be far more difficult to deal with. Hearing loss isn’t often thought of as something that can harm our mental health, but research has shown that it can impact on our self-confidence and relationships with others.
Hearing loss affects more than 10 million people in the UK and it is thought that this will increase to 14.5 million by 2031. Running alongside this is the hearing disorder Tinnitus that is estimated to effect 10% of the UK population frequently, with 5% of them experiencing it in a persistent or troublesome way.
Whatever the diagnosis, hearing disorders can have a huge effect on our quality of life, both physically and emotionally. It can result in a breakdown of communication that can bring on physical symptoms such as tension and exhaustion as well as issues such as distrust, sadness, depression, nervousness, anger, irritability, feelings of incompetence or inadequacy and of feeling marginalised. People can become withdrawn and isolated so their social life can become more difficult and the prejudices associated with hearing loss can result in low self-esteem.
In the workplace, hearing problems can affect the ability to communicate with co-workers, interface with customers, and function as part of a team. It can be harder to follow discussions and presentations and, if work relies on communicating with clients, a lack of understanding can be seen as rudeness or inability to do a job well. Hearing can also deteriorate as people get older and, as the majority of us will now be remaining in the workplace for longer, there will be a higher proportion of the workforce with some amount of hearing loss. Around 41% people with hearing loss already retire early due to the impact of their hearing loss, reasons commonly given include difficulties in fulfilling their day-to-day tasks, such as using the phone, or communication challenges with colleagues. Age-related hearing loss develops slowly over time so it can take several years before people actually realise they are having difficulty hearing and often their efficiency and self esteem has already been compromised by this point.
It is easy to understand why people might not want to tell their employer about a hearing problem but it’s important not to pretend or make excuses about it. This only creates problems in relationships with co-workers, customers and clients. People will be far more helpful if they know someone is suffering from a hearing disorder rather than just not paying attention to them. Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace for disabled employees and prospective employees and this includes people with hearing loss. This could mean adjusting the layout of a meeting room, using better lighting to help the person with hearing loss see everybody clearly to help with lip-reading, moving to a office where sound is transmitted well and providing equipment such as amplified telephones and flashing-light fire alarms.
Well-developed resilience skills can also be helpful in dealing with the issues surrounding hearing disorders. The coping skills that can help you bounce back from setbacks and challenges can also be used to deal with some of the issues that can come with a loss of hearing. Stress, anger, pain and feelings of victimisation or of being overwhelmed can be helped by learning some simple techniques that control your psychological response to pressure. It may seem that some people have inbuilt resilience, but resilience is defined in terms of behaviour, so it’s something that everyone can learn and develop so they can cope with pressure, adversity and uncertainty.
Invisible disabilities are sometimes easy to ignore, and although developing resilience will not make problems disappear, it can provide the ability to see past an issue, to better handle stress and to ensure that confidence, energy and performance are maintained.
You can find out more at:
Deaf Awareness Week May 6 – 12, 2019