May discusses the isolation and challenges of living with hearing loss and how peer support helps.
“I have had hearing loss most of my life, it’s impact on my ability to communicate increasing as the years went on. As a child I had enough hearing in one ear for the problem not to be noticeable.
When I started work as a young teacher, I became aware that I was struggling more and more to hear my pupils, to follow conversations in the staff room and to keep up with friends’ chatter when out socialising. I needed support.
Hearing aids were not much help to me then, and even now my modern digital aids are only of limited support – I have gradually lost the ability to make out what folk are saying to me. I hear the voice, but I still struggle to understand the speech. I usually describe myself as ‘deaf’ or say I have a profound hearing loss so that people realise I am struggling to follow what they say.
Communication is so important, so being unable to hear tends to cut us off, it’s isolating. We miss the jokes, the ‘banter’; we miss the chatter and gossip most people take for granted; we miss a lot of family interaction. We work so hard to hear all day long it becomes exhausting, we are always shattered, our self-esteem goes down, our self-confidence plummets, we get frustrated and we get ‘crabbit’! We often just hide away.
I found that there was a lot of support available out there; lipreading classes, hearing support charities running self-management courses, other people struggling with their hearing loss journey who would listen, could understand, could empathise and were willing to share their experiences.
I volunteer for hearing support charities. I am lucky to be part of a fantastic group of people who refuse to let their hearing loss define them. Our personal experiences and people skills enable us to support each other, and others, through the challenges of hearing loss; this has such a positive effect on our confidence and well-being.”
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