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Life coaching: improving lives of people with hearing loss

Life coaching: improving lives of people with hearing loss
Transformational life coach Carly Sygrove is filling a niche in the coaching sector. After experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss in 2016, Sygrove noticed a gap in rehabilitation once her treatments had been exhausted. Hearing Like Me spoke with her about how life coaching can improve the lives of people with hearing loss.

More About Carly Sygrove

Transformational life coach Carly Sygrove started a blog, My Hearing Loss Journey, to document her experiences. The Spain resident who is from the UK realized the power of connecting with others in similar situations. In not wanting others to feel the same, lonely confusion she did, she became a qualified life coach. Through this, she offers her services specifically for the hard of hearing community. Now she supports people in moving forward positively with hearing loss. “I got to the stage where there was nothing else the hearing specialists could do for me,” she recalls. “I was left to live my new normal with little understanding of how to navigate the practical or emotional aspects of living with hearing loss.”

Hearing Loss & Mental Health

Mental health struggles are common in hearing loss. “The first research of its kind in 1994 found that 40 percent of the deaf or hard of hearing population were affected by mental health issues, compared with 25 percent of the hearing population,” writes Deaf Advisor Lenka Novakova, on the official NHS site. She works for a national Deaf mental health service based in South West London.

Recent studies tell us that over 20 years later, the statistics have not improved by much. A study by Clear Living in 2020 analyzed the impact of hearing loss on mental well being and lifestyle. Their data found that 89 percent of participants cited social and personal problems as a key impact of hearing loss. The 3,767 respondents seemed to all have one continuous thing in common – “addressing hearing problems appropriately always leads to a happier and healthier lifestyle.”

Despite these statistics, hearing treatment continues to prioritize focus on the physical aspects of hearing loss. While this obviously has to be the priority, there is a clear gap in the rehabilitation process regarding emotional well-being. It is common to experience mental health difficulties related to the life altering changes that hearing loss presents. If these negative feelings are not resolved, they can lead to serious disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Read more: Study: the impact of hearing loss on mental health

The Difference Between Coaching & Counseling

While both help to develop new ways of thinking, coaching should not be confused with counseling. Counseling is a much more complex service that focuses on recovering from symptoms. Counselors and psychologists use professional knowledge to explore causes of psychological trauma and guide emotional healing often through talk therapy. Coaching is not therapy, but rather is about helping you to find your potential.

“The focus of my sessions is always forward-facing: which is one of the ways it differs from counseling, which will often delve into a person’s past or childhood,” Sygrove explains. “That’s not to say we can’t talk about the past in a coaching session, but only if it’s relevant to moving forward with my client’s goal. For example, if they are working on exploring a new career path, they might reflect on previous jobs, determining what they enjoyed/didn’t enjoy and what they learned, in order to help them determine the key elements they would like in a new role.”

The focus of my sessions is always forward-facing.

Coaching offers a process aimed to help you achieve your goals by identifying obstacles and strategize how to overcome them. Sygrove’s coaching style is supportive and empowering rather than directive. Through questioning and reflection, she helps clients explore, organize, expand on their thoughts, and find a positive way forward.

Achieving Your Goals

In essence, coaching is a conversation-based approach to moving someone from where they are to where they want to be. In Sygrove’s coaching sessions, she explores a client’s inner world of beliefs, assumptions, values, and expectations in order to create greater possibilities for ways of being in life. “It is a pragmatic journey of self-exploration, which is likely to create long-term change,” she says.

In order to make connections with her clients, Sygrove went through extensive training where she received coaching herself. This gave her great insight into how she can pass this gift on to others. “In one session I had to speak about a limiting belief (that little negative voice in your head that holds you back from accepting great opportunities),” she says. “I said, ‘Because of my hearing loss, I can’t study Spanish.’ We worked through this together, until they finally asked me, ‘What if this belief is faulty in some way?”

Coaching helped Sygrove realize she had lost a lot of confidence in her language-learning since losing her hearing. This low confidence was preventing her from reaching her goals.

The First Steps

To ensure she is the right coach for the person seeking guidance, Sygrove offers a free 30 minute consultation. This introduction allows space for the client to tell their story. During the conversation, Carly asks questions to obtain a  understanding of one’s situation, goals they would like to achieve, and what they hope to get out of coaching. “This call is important because it gives both the potential client and me, as the coach, the opportunity to determine whether we might be a good fit to work together,” she says.

This half hour clarifies for the client how everything works and the general structure of a coaching session. Once she has identified her client’s needs, they can determine whether or not they will be a good fit.

Supporting Different Hearing Loss Journeys

We asked Carly what sort of client spectrum she works with and how she coaches people living with different types of hearing loss. “I connected with so many people who felt stuck in their hearing loss journeys,” she says. “Some had experienced a recent loss and were unsure how to live their lives with reduced sound, and others had been living with hearing loss for many years—some since birth—and wanted to make key changes in their lives but weren’t sure where to start.”

Often, people find that their hearing condition impacts certain parts of their lives, which can affect their sense of self. For example, a person with hearing loss may not enjoy activities they used to due to communication difficulties. Such difficulties can include socializing in noisy environments. A person with tinnitus may avoid music concerts they used to enjoy, etc.. Both situations can lead to the individual questioning their sense of identity.

“If my clients have different focuses, e.g. one person wants to explore identity as someone with hearing loss, and the other wants to explore effective communication techniques while living with tinnitus, the discussion will naturally take a different path,” says Sygrove. In the coaching sessions, she delves deeper into how the client’s hearing condition has impacted their identity and how they want to move forward with this or make a change.

Coaching for Hearing Loved Ones

When a family member has hearing loss, it impacts the whole family. It can be difficult for people to know how to support loved ones with their hearing loss. This is especially true if the person with hearing difficulties finds it upsetting or uncomfortable to talk about. Talking about their thoughts and feelings with someone who is not emotionally involved in the situation can be helpful.

“I help loved ones of the HOH community to have more empathy,” Sygrove says. “We work on themes including accepting their loved one’s hearing loss, how to stay calm in challenging communication situations, and how to speak to their loved one about their hearing loss and the challenges this brings to the relationship.”

Sygrove answers any questions regarding living with hearing loss that they might feel they’re not able to discuss with family. She focuses on helping them move forward with whatever goal they bring to the session.

Accepting Your Hearing Loss

Accepting our hearing loss often means dealing with feelings of grief. This is something that Sygrove has experienced first hand and is a common topic of discussion in her Facebook group.

“I feel that it’s something that often takes us by surprise and that is rarely mentioned to us by hearing care providers,” she says. “For me, it wasn’t until a few months following my hearing loss that I realized I was grieving. I needed to experience the sadness and anger I had at my body before I could reach a level of acceptance. Once I reached this stage, I was able to start making plans and focus on moving forward with living my life with hearing loss.”

Through coaching, Sygrove helps her clients accept the changes hearing loss brings to their lives by supporting them in envisioning a positive future with hearing loss. When we identify specific challenges of hearing loss, we can work on overcoming them. By creating subtle changes in their  routines, she helps clients create a plan that will guide them towards acceptance.

Becoming a Hearing Loss Advocate

In addition to accepting our hearing loss, an important and empowering part of healing is learning to advocate for ourselves. We spoke about becoming an advocate for both yourself and for the hearing loss community through coaching. Sygrove relayed a story of a client who came to her soon after losing their hearing in one ear. Their general goals were around learning to cope with their new normal and eventually becoming their own advocate.

In addition to accepting our hearing loss, an important and empowering part of healing is learning to advocate for ourselves.

“Recently they told me how they had advocated for themself in a restaurant,” Sygrove says. “They told the waiter that they had hearing loss and asked to move from a table in the middle of a restaurant to one in a corner where they would be able to hear their friend better. This is someone who in the early days didn’t want anyone to know about their hearing loss! It’s so wonderful to see this kind of transformation in people, and to see them living their lives successfully and happily!”

Contemplating on the work she has put into becoming an advocate for herself, Carly told us, “Becoming a coach has helped me work on my advocacy skills further since I am now more self-aware. I make sure I check in with myself every now and then and evaluate communication situations. But I think, after six years of living with hearing loss, I am still learning to be my own advocate! It’s not a linear process.”

Read more: New to hearing loss? 3 ways to be an advocate for your hearing loss journey

Overall Benefits of Coaching for Hearing Loss

Life coaching is an option that can be used to prevent, rather than treat ill mental health. By having someone championing you to advocate for yourself, coaching empowers you to lead a life you’re in control of. This positively impacts our lifestyle which is directly linked to well-being.

Seeking emotional support is crucial in reducing the psychological symptoms of hearing loss. If you think you or a loved one could benefit from life coaching, visit Sygrove’s official website to learn more. Sygrove takes clients from all over the world, time zones permitting. Most of her clients are UK and US based. She has also recently joined Instagram. There, she shares informative posts about living with different hearing conditions and self-advocacy.

Author Details
Beth Tingle is a 27-year-old English graduate, and currently resides in Bristol, UK. Beth was born with congenital deafness to an otherwise all hearing family, and is currently navigating life with new sound after receiving cochlear implant surgery in April 2021. She is currently learning BSL.