I first met Emily Balmer, Director of Audiology at The Hearing Suite in Harrogate, at a networking event where I was giving a talk. A someone who has always lived with hearing loss, standing up in front of groups and not knowing if I will be able to hear questions is something that I've learnt to manage so that I've been able to work in education, training, and now coaching.
I was intrigued to find out more about advances in looking after our hearing (a sadly neglected aspect of our health) so I arranged to meet with Emily. I shared with her a very poor experience I'd had, which I then realised was 30 years ago! So, when Emily invited me along to see the beautiful new Hearing Suite, and dropped "We can check your hearing while you're there", I have to admit to feeling a sense of trepidation.
When I arrived, Emily and I went through my hearing history, and it was really quite emotional for me, recognising how much the previous bad experience had impacted on me -that put the pressure on Emily! She really did not disappoint, and gave me all of the time that I needed.
As I sat in the big, plush blue chair, I concentrated so hard that I became aware of holding my breath while listening intently for the sounds at the edges of my hearing ability. I'm sure that I was pulling all sorts of faces as well! I really wasn't prepared for the outcome that Emily shared with me afterwards either.
Despite my worst fears, although I do have conductive hearing loss in both ears, it's not as bad as I thought it was. In fact, my ear drums are pretty healthy even though they are scarred; my hearing nerve is healthy, and so is my cochlea. I can't even begin to tell you the relief I felt at hearing this news! I was so sure that it had deteriorated further than it had. Don't get me wrong - both ears have hearing loss; I have lost both power and clarity in my right ear, and there is no way with my hearing that I can tell which direction sounds come from.
I also learnt that where there is low frequency loss, it affects not only volume, but also how you hear vowels. Losing high frequency affects clarity and how you hear consonants. Who knew?! (Emily did, obviously!)
It was a huge amount to take in at the time, and I've been able to take the information away and reflect on it. As a coach, I've been able to work through the emotions that came up for me during this process, and I can really see how this could help other people in my position too. It never ceases to amaze me how many people think it's funny to joke about hearing loss without realising the impact it can have on so many parts of your life, leaving you feeling quite isolated if you don't find new ways, both behaviourally and with the help of modern medicine and technology, to manage your unique condition.
What is fantastic is that it's really important to Emily that people are allowed the time that they need as an individual, not only during a consultation, but also to consider the options that are available to them. The most important thing that I knew when I left Emily that day was that I now had choices - and the most important choice that I have now made is to continue to work with Emily and look after my hearing health, whatever route that takes as we go forward.
Nicki Eyre is a Transformational and mBIT Certified Coach offering coaching programmes for businesses and individuals, helping to increase self awareness and emotional resilience. She also supports people struggling to cope with bullying in the workplace, or to move on after such an experience. Contact Nicki for a confidential discussion about coaching: