Coaching – A Partnership That Can Help Cope with Late-Onset Hearing Loss

Coaching – A Partnership That Can Help Cope with Late-Onset Hearing Loss

By Bonnie O’Leary

Editor: There’s a growing movement in the US to achieve social justice for members of the Oral Hearing Loss (OHL) Community. (We define the OHL community as consisting of folks with hearing loss who prefer spoken language as their primary means of communication. This includes the overwhelming majority of people who consider themselves hard of hearing, late-deafened, or oral deaf.)

OHL Advocates are defining what services are required, how they should be provided, who should provide them, etc. This approach is very different from the approach of many DeafAndHardOfHearing agencies, whose personnel often believe that adding CART to their current services satisfies the needs of OHL folks.

Coaching for late-deafened folks is an example of a service that is crucial to some OHL folks and is not provided by existing DeafAndHardOfHearing agencies. Bonnie O’Leary reports on the SHHH Convention workshop that addresses this issue.

If you wish to share this report, please acknowledge NVRC as the source. See their credit at the end of the article.


This workshop, presented by Homer S. Mullins, J.D., and Norma Svedosh, Ph.D., took a look at coaching as an interactive process between client and coach, focusing on the potential benefits to persons experiencing late onset hearing loss.

Coaching is a partnership designed to facilitate self-awareness, set reasonable goals, determine strategies and establish accountability. It should be non-judgmental in nature to assure a nurturing atmosphere for best results. In people who have late onset hearing loss, identity and self image problems need to be reframed, often deteriorating relationships need to be re-examined, and the issue of assertiveness becomes paramount.

Late onset hearing loss typically produces depression because of the loss of hearing health and the assumption that becoming hearing impaired renders a person powerless. There is also a great deal of anxiety about how to support a lifestyle and dependents. The shift in relationship roles can produce anger, guilt, and a sense of abandonment in all members of the family and even among friends.

A Coaching partnership explores the client’s identity and the needs for structure and empowerment. This can be done through questioning, understanding, strategizing, taking action and monitoring once a plan is in place. Questions should be crafted more as observations in a non-critical way. Understanding should focus on self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-advocacy. Strategizing looks at how to plan, how to select alternatives, how to develop appropriate strategies, and how to anticipate as well as overcome obstacles. Taking action encompasses the learning of persistence, the management of frustrations, the celebration of successes, the learning from failures and how to reach goals. Coaching involves monitoring the client to observe, measure, record and remind the client about how well he or she is doing, offering non-judgmental feedback while creating a sense of accountability. Coaching also helps the client identify and tame his or her ‘gremlins’, those roadblocks that keep people from achieving their goals.

Coaching can take place on an individual or group basis, face to face, on the phone, through email or chat groups. An effective way to help a client understand all aspects of what he or she hopes to achieve is by use of the ‘Wheel of Life.’ This wheel is equally divided between career, money, fun, Significant Other, health, physical environment, personal growth, friends, family. The inner most part of the wheel is designated as a 1, the outermost as a 10. The client makes an x in each division marking where he or she sees herself, and then the x’s are connected. This creates a visual image of what aspects of the client’s life need the most work to make the wheel turn smoothly.