Phonak recently released a position statement on Well-hearing is Well-Being™ because we know that improving hearing for those with hearing loss reduces feelings of isolation and improves well-being. With the current global COVID-19 outbreak, many of your clients may be self-isolating or distancing themselves from others in order to reduce the spreading of the virus. Isolation may well bring about feelings of stress or anxiety and this is completely normal and understandable. However, this will of course have a knock-on effect on their well-being. What can you do as a hearing care professional to support your clients during this time?
Keep them connected
The World Health Organization’s biggest recommendation for people in isolation is to stay connected to others to avoid feelings of isolation. Increasing evidence demonstrates that having supportive social ties is associated with better health outcomes, including better mental health1. This can be done by phone calls, video calls, social media or emailing. You could support your clients in this by keeping contact with them during this time. You could send out regular emails or an interesting newsletter.
Consider setting up an online support group where clients who are interested in participating can chat together online, whether it is via video-chat or instant messaging. You could maybe host the chat group and have a different topic each time. Some topics could center around hearing loss or hearing aids, in order to maximize the chance of participants contributing, as this is something which they would have in common. Other topics may include local current affairs, or you could do something fun like an online game or poll.
Make sure their hearing aids are set optimally
In order to stay connected via smartphone, they need to be able to hear as well as possible. You can still carry out appointments with them via remote support. If you are not set up for remote support at the current time, I recommend you read last week’s blog post by Tania Rodrigues for tips on how to get started. Even if you haven’t been in touch with some of your clients for a while, try to contact them all, to ask whether there is anything you can do for them. Maybe just a few tweaks of the hearing aids could make all the difference for some clients. Check they have enough batteries if they use them and post them out to them if required. If they don’t need any support, the thought of someone willing to help is anyway going to lift their mood.
Give them tips on maintaining their well-being
Exercising, meditation, fun, learning something new…. You can share a list of mood-lifting, stress- reducing ideas with your clients to keep their spirits up during isolation. To make this easy for you, I have complied a list below, which you can copy and paste into an email or send out as a newsletter. Maybe you could send it by post so that they can stick the list onto their fridge, to remind them of what they can do. Maybe you have other ideas which you can add to the list, such as local services of interest.
Here is a list of ideas:
- Staying connected with friends and family
This is first on the list for a reason. The World Health Organization’s biggest recommendation for people in isolation is to stay connected to others to avoid feelings of isolation. This can be done by phone calls, video calls, social media or emailing. Try to make a point of connecting several times a day via any of these methods. It is sure to boost your mood and keep things in perspective. Maybe there are friends or family members which you have been meaning to catch up with for a while. Here is your chance! If you don’t have video-calling installed, try downloading either Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp. If you know someone who is not set up to be connected online, try to find a way to help.
Science shows that meditation reduces stress levels, controls anxiety and promotes emotional health. If you feel yourself becoming anxious or stressed about the virus or anything else, try a short meditation session to ‘press the re-set button’. If you have never tried this before then search for ‘beginners meditation’ on YouTube or another common resource would be headspace where you can do a basic course of ten minutes, every day for 10 days, for free.
This is another activity proven help mental health and well-being. Here is one example of free online yoga videos but there are of course many more available.
Although getting motivated to exercise might be a little difficult, I bet we all agree that even after a very short workout we feel pretty great. This is due to the endorphins produced while we exercise which produce positive feelings in the body. Whilst in self-isolation, try to do a short workout a couple of times a day. Maybe you just do your own short routine but if you want ideas or instructions, try one of these 10 minute workouts, a 7-minute instruction video or find one dedicated to seniors such as this one.
- Dance to your favorite song!
This may seems silly but this is definitely one of my favorites. If I am feeling down, this is my go-to option 😊 Dance is great for stress reduction, disease prevention, and mood management. Consider closing the curtains if you don’t want your neighbors to see, put on some music and dance around your living room!
Dig out your puzzles hiding in your attic. It is a good way to pass time and apart from improving memory and problem-solving skills, puzzles have also been proven to reduce stress levels.
This is quite an obvious one as it is well known for relaxation and enjoyment. Maybe you have a stash of books and it is time to re-read them. Otherwise, consider free books online. For those people you know with sight problems, audiobooks are a great option.
At least in some parts of the world, Covid-19 has come in Springtime which is one of the best times of year for gardening. If you haven’t already got what you need, try ordering seeds etc. online and plant some herbs, veggies or flowers in your garden or on your balcony.
- Learn a language
Always fancied learning a foreign language? This is the perfect time to do so. There are many online possibilities and here is just one option. You can also try to connect with an online tandem partner who speaks the language you want to learn, via a website such as this one. This ticks two boxes as it helps you stay connected (point 1 on this list).
- Sort out cupboards
Sounds boring, but it is therapeutic and once done I’m sure you will be smiling when you open your newly ordered cupboards!
- Catch up on housework and cleaning
Again, therapeutic and you can enjoy the benefits.
Try cakes, cookies, bread and enjoy the eating part!
- Try a new recipe
Search for new recipes online. If you have stockpiled too much of something, search for a recipe specifically to use that ingredient. You might end up with a new favorite dish.
- Take a walk
Getting out of the house and in the fresh air is very important to boost mood. Make sure of course to avoid other people by trying to walk in more remote areas such as in the forest.
- Watching television/movies
Keep informed on important information regarding the virus but do not overdo it. If you enjoy television, catch up on your favorite soaps, documentaries or watch a movie.
Search for ideas online and try something new.
- Pamper yourself
Not necessarily everyone’s cup-of-tea, but for those who enjoy this, give yourself a self-manicure/pedicure or do a face mask.
- Play charades
An old classic! If you do not live with anyone then you can do this with friends or family via video call.
- Make a scrap book
Do you have vacation photos or family photos tucked away in envelopes. Use them to create a scrapbook and make sure to write down memories around them. It will be a wonderful thing to look back on, or to share with friends or family.
- Join an online book club
Such as this one.
- Join an online social group
Search online for social groups or forums on topics or hobbies you are interested in.
Maybe you have other ideas or tips on how we can support our clients whilst in self-isolation. If so, please comment below.
1Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Tost, H. (2012). Neural mechanisms of social risk for psychiatric disorders. Nature Neuroscience. 15:663-668.