It is important to discuss stress with group participants. Hearing loss can often increase stress and anxiety. On top of that, stress may make it more difficult for people with hearing loss to take the necessary steps to improve their situation and employ communication strategies. Through group exercises, you can help empower group members to alleviate stress and improve their daily lives.
Stress and Hearing Loss
Individuals with hearing loss must use more effort to understand speech than individuals with normal hearing. This is because they have to use additional cognitive resources to makes sense of an incomplete auditory signal. A full day of effortful listening can be stressful.
Research supports the claim that stress and hearing loss are linked. In 2011, Dan Hasson and others conducted a study of approximately 10,000 Swedish workers. The study found that there was a clear and mostly linear relationship between higher prevalence of hearing problems (tinnitus, hearing loss, or both) and occupational stressors, such as poorer sleep quality, higher burnout scores, long-term illness, and poorer self-rated health.
Research shows that Group AR participants who are taught relaxation strategies have more positive outcomes and can cope better with their hearing loss. You can encourage members to use the following exercises at home or at work.
Stress reduction and relaxation exercises can be discussed and practiced during the Group AR session. These activities could include breathing exercises, guided imagery or a structured discussion.
At the Group AR session, you can have a structured discussion of the activities that members are already using to cope with stress.
It is useful to consider both positive and negative ways that we all deal with stress. For example, positive methods may be exercising or participating in an enjoyable hobby. Negative methods may include drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or using drugs.
You should try to encourage group members to support each other to employ more positive methods to deal with stress.
Guided Imagery is a simple way for group members to quickly and easily manage and alleviate stress. Elizabeth Scott from About.com describes how one can get started with this activity by following five simple steps.
1) Ask members of the group to get into a comfortable position.
2) They should start breathing deeply, close their eyes, and focus breathing in peace and breathing out stress.
3) Ask members to envision the most relaxing environment they could imagine. This could be a tropical island. It could be a quiet, logged cabin during the wintertime.
4) As they imagine this environment, tell them to try to imagine all of the details. What does it look like? How does it smell?
5) Have them stay in this state for a couple of minutes, but no longer. Then, tell them to slowly come back to reality by counting from one to ten very slowly.
After going through the exercise, encourage the group to try using this exercise at home.
There are numerous websites with digital recordings or written transcripts that can help you demonstrate stress reduction activities to the group. You can also encourage the group members to use internet resources when they are at home.
University of Southern California - Center for Work & Family Life: Scripts and recordings for guided imagery exercises, deep breathing exercises, and other relaxation methods.
University of Maryland Medical Center: Includes recordings and instructions for various relaxation techniques.
G. J. Beynon, F. L. Thornton, and C. Poole. A randomized, controlled trial of the efficacy of a communication course for first time hearing aid users. Br J Audiol 31 (5):345-351, 1997.
Hasson et al. Stress and prevalence of hearing problems in the Swedish working population. BMC Public Health 11:130, 2011.