After years of issues with her hearing, Rachel Miller of AllThingsIC shares her experience of being fitted with a hearing aid for the first time and what it means for her day-to-day comms work as an internal comms consultant.
I have just had a hearing aid fitted for the first time and have finally realised what I’ve missed.
I’ve been working in PR and Communications for 21 years, starting out as a Journalist, then specialising in corporate communication. I’m trusted by brands and professionals around the globe as an experienced consultant, trainer and mentor.
A lot of my work is helping companies and Comms professionals improve the way they listen to employees and amplify their voices.
When I write or talk about listening and amplifying, I mean it from an employee voice perspective, championing two-way channels and ways to encourage your people to share their views.
However, it has another meaning for me too. I was born with hearing difficulties and countless operations and appointments over decades failed to make any lasting difference. I moved from Essex to West London 11 years ago and haven’t had a regular Consultant as a result.
I got into the habit of compensating my hearing loss through lip reading and didn’t think much of it as it’s become a way of life.
However, as the hearing loss worsened, I started the process of being assessed and having regular appointments again last year. I struggle to hear speech and was surprised to discover the loss is 70%, which explains a lot!
I was due to have the aid fitted in March 2020, but as the NHS was under pressure and the UK was about to go into lockdown, the appointment was postponed.
It was fitted in June and over the first 24 hours I made a note of 14 new sounds. I’ve discovered things I didn’t realise made a noise actually do, including the leaves on the trees outside my window. I’ve also heard my neighbourhood for the first time, I had no idea you can hear trains and traffic, plus the number of birds in the area.
Adapting for work
As a Consultant, I have a lot of video calls and run one-to-one training and mentoring sessions, which work well. However, once there are more people in the room, I’ve struggled to hear.
I’ve never really shared my hearing loss, it’s become such a way of life that it’s not something I’ve thought to mention and I didn’t realise how bad it was.
However, over the past six months (pre-lockdown) I’d started to admit to my in-person Masterclass attendees that I struggle to hear and encouraged them to be aware I may ask them to repeat questions or move their hands from their mouths so I can read their lips. Their responses were fantastic, and I could tell they were making a real effort to be clear in their communication.
I’ve sat at the front of conferences and events for years, whether I’m speaking on stage or not. The reason has been twofold – to take photos of the slides to help me blog later, but mainly to help me hear.
Whenever I’ve been on stage, I encourage people to wait for microphones to ask me questions. I’m mindful it’s not just me who won’t hear their shouted question, but others in the audience with hearing loss too.
I’m excited to discover what the world really sounds like. Sharing my hearing loss via my All Things IC blog has created conversations and deepened Comms professionals’ understanding of hearing loss.
I will continue to champion ways to amplify employees’ voices in our organisations and use my own experience to help others.
Rachel can be found tweeting at @AllthingsIC