Are you hearing- or listening?

Sudden hearing loss can be terrifying. I know – I’ve been there.

During the pandemic, I had three bouts of Covid-19. During each of these, my hearing deteriorated noticeably and irreversibly. The impact of this affected my confidence, both personally and professionally, and I felt myself starting to withdraw from certain conversations and social situations.

My story has a happy ending. I now wear an NHS hearing aid whenever I need to – and revel in the amazing benefits of its technology. And I now regularly marvel at the great work done by The Royal National Institute for Deaf People and others in creating awareness around hearing loss.

In the process I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that I’m actually one of many – 1 in 5 UK adults, according to the RNID are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.

In my work, as I’m sure in yours, listening is rather important. For example, when we develop content audits, strategies and thought leadership for our clients, it all begins by listening very carefully to what they have to say, to help them find answers. And listening was difficult, I discovered, when I couldn’t hear.

My earlier listening journey had been a gradual one. When I was a magazine editor a few years back, I interviewed people, asked questions and heard their answers. I thought that meant I was a good listener, but I wasn’t.

It was only when I moved into consultancy that I realised that I hadn’t been listening at all. I had only really been listening selectively, for the headline or the key quote that I needed to make the story work.

Listening is truly paying attention to what someone says, showing empathy and then building on it in a way that adds value and makes sense to them. Listening helps us to come up with better answers, build networks and relationships.

It was only when I couldn’t hear, that I truly realised how important listening is.

So my message to anyone who thinks they are experiencing hearing loss, even if they think it’s mild, part of getting older or they don’t want to “make a fuss”, is not to delay and suffer in silence (as I did at first, quite literally).

Do something about it. Hearing loss really affects how you think and feel inside, as well as understanding what’s going on outside. So go and get yourself checked out.

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