Coaching and Late Onset Hearing Loss – A Partnership that Works – Part 1
Presented by Norma Svedosh and Homer Mullins
Norma is a licensed social worker and Homer is a retired attorney. They founded a company called Odyssey Hearing Solutions, which provides support for people with late-onset hearing loss.
This is part one of three parts.
For more coverage of this great convention, please point your browser to http://www.hearinglossweb.com/res/hlorg/alda/cn/2006/2006.htm
We want to talk to you about coaching people with hearing loss. There are coaches for all kinds of other situations, but we don’t know anyone else who is doing coaching for people with hearing loss.
My original training was in coaching people with ADHD. They have normal hearing, but have cognitive processing problems that affect their behavior. Despite very different causes, their behaviors can be very similar to those of people with hearing loss.
We work mostly with professionals, primarily because those are the fields we know. We have some very flexible payment options, including accepting volunteering with a charity as payment in full.
A coach is a non-judgmental partner who works with his client to explore the identity and need for structure, and to facilitate change in the client’s life.
When adults become late deafened, their whole identity changes. They were hearing persons in a hearing world, and when they lose their hearing, we try to help them redefine who they are and how they will get things done.
The biggest issue we focus on is denial. It’s a problem that allows many of our clients to go a long time resisting the notion that they have a hearing loss. During that time, they habituate to small changes, and they may go many years before they first get their hearing checked. By that time, the client has become so adjusted to their loss that they think they hear just fine.
Often it takes a real crisis to alert people to the fact that they have a problem. Of the 32 million people with hearing loss, about 80% have not sought treatment. And of the 20% that have, about 80% do not wear hearing aids.
The main reason is stigma. Among lawyers, they’re concerned that an opponent will find out about their hearing loss and use it against them. Also lawyers have huge egos, and they can’t believe that they have something wrong with them.
But they’re also open to malpractice, and if the client figures out that they have been poorly represented because of the hearing loss, that opens a lawyer up to a lawsuit.
If a person is in denial, it’s often his spouse or his boss who first brings up the hearing loss. And we as coaches have to demonstrate to him what his problem really is.
People in denial tend to think that it’s all the other person’s problem. There’s no doubt that the other person has a problem, but the person with hearing loss also has to face up to his issues. We work with both groups.
Some people with even a mild hearing loss can miss pieces of a sentence or pieces of a conversation. If you take all the high frequency consonants out of a sentence, it’s amazing how much information is missing. That’s what happened to me. I wasn’t hearing things that people were telling me. It was often at the end of a long discussion that I struggled to get through. Everyone else heard it, but I didn’t.
Being a hidden disorder, hearing loss can create some really serious credibility problems. The person you’re talking to just has to take your word for it; you can’t show them the disability.
A person with hearing loss has an identity crisis. He’s trying to adapt his view of the world and understand how people see him.
Frequent coexisting conditions include depression, grief, and the feeling of having lost control. In my case, I was missing significant parts of what was told to me. And when I was called on the carpet because of it, I really had to doubt myself. At first I thought it was early onset Alzheimer’s.
And you start imagining things. I thought that I couldn’t earn a living any more.
What we have to do as coaches is help these people restore their confidence and realize that they can move ahead.
One thing we don’t do in coaching is get into the subconscious motivations people have. That gets into psychological issues and we’re not qualified to address those issues.
Hearing loss often results in a shift of roles within the family. A dominant male who loses his hearing often becomes isolated and defaults to his wife or a son to take over. That stresses the entire group, and they don’t know how to deal with it. Within the family are feelings of grief and anger. People feel that the person who had always handled things is not doing that, and that is threatening.