This month's blog has been written by a member of SCOAF, highlighting their experiences dealing with hearing loss and the benefits of joining one of the many networks within the Civil Service:
Network in the spotlight: Civil Service Deaf and Hard of Hearing Network (CSDHHN)
I joined the CSDHHN in 2018 after seeing an article about it on MODNET. Initially I didn’t know how much I could learn or contribute to the Network, but I was curious to find out more.
I have around 50% hearing loss in my left ear. After being discharged from the ENT clinic as a child, I didn’t know very much about hearing loss, outside of how often I have to move to be able to hear people. Just before my first meet up with the Network, in Whitehall, I had a sudden panic that the whole meeting would be in British Sign Language (BSL) and I would have no idea what was going on, because I only know the alphabet.
When I arrived at the meeting, I discovered Civil Servants with a wide range of hearing loss and some with no hearing loss at all. There were BSL interpreters available to assist but there was certainly no-one gatekeeping on the basis of hearing loss levels, so I had had no reason to panic. Many people had joined because of an interest in hearing loss because of a family or Team member. It was an inclusive atmosphere and I felt free to ask questions.
At an early CSDHHN quarterly Teams meeting I attended, statistics were shared about how much hearing loss increases the chances of Dementia or a fatal fall. I had dialled in hoping for an hour or so of gentle distraction before I got on with my casework. Definitely not this kind of horrifying information. But immediately the Teams Chat was full of people sharing tips about how to maintain hearing and balance.
A good way to decrease Dementia risk is to address hearing loss at the right time to stay socialised and part of a community. Hearing Aids can be invaluable for this. The CSDHHN run regular Hearing Aid Coffee Mornings on Teams. The Team chats are very active in these sessions with people asking lots of technical questions about specific devices and Bluetooth functions. A lot of the people in the Network do not know other Hearing Aid users outside of it so the Network enables them to help each other make the most of the existing technologies.
I had an appointment with a Consultant last year and discussed whether I needed a Hearing Aid yet. He said I would probably be ok without one for the next ten years. Because hearing loss is usually gradual, people adjust to it over time, often without noticing how much loss has occurred. I’m now keen to keep my hearing under regular review so I can make sure to get a Hearing Aid at the right time. I also practise yoga regularly to work on my balance. I have noticed a guy in his 70s at the studio, with Hearing Aids and amazing balance. So, if I keep turning up to class, I may finally nail the Warrior III pose too.
The CSDHHN has also increased my awareness of Tinnitus. Unlike hearing loss which, usually happens gradually, Tinnitus can hit people like a bus! It’s very sudden and life changing. But, having learned more about the seriousness of it, I’ve also heard from plenty of people who wondered how they would ever cope, who go on to cope well and live rich and full lives with Tinnitus. Sometimes the presentations are a lot more emotional than you might expect from a mid-morning Network meeting.
So, I have learned a lot from the CSDHHN. I know much more about hearing loss than when I joined, and I feel more empowered to make informed choices and take care of my hearing in the long term. It’s also nice to meet Civil Servants outside of MOD and hear about the similar and different challenges they are facing.
So, if, like I was, you are in two minds about joining one of the many Civil Service Networks, I would say it’s worth dialling into a meeting or two.
Link to the CSDHHN: Civil Service Deaf and Hard of Hearing Network - Civil Service (blog.gov.uk)