Episode 77: Living Skillfully with Hearing Loss — Beyond Hearing Aids

Hearing loss impacts 430 million people worldwide, including 48 million in the US. You may be one of them or know someone in this category.

My guests today are Gael Hannan and Shari Eberts. They both have hearing loss and advocate for others. They co-authored the book Hear and Beyond, Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss. Their book offer a new skills-based approach to hearing loss that is centered not on hearing better, but on communicating better.

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People with hearing loss are stigmatized, seen as less capable than a hearing person or somehow inadequate. 

There’s also self-stigmatizing. This can lead to not wanting to get help or trying to fake it in conversations. The worst of this shows up as isolating oneself. And isolation can lead to depression which is more prevalent as we age.

Untreated hearing loss can lead to falls, has a relationship to heart health,

In order to communicate better—Gael and Shari have what they call their 3-legged stool. Part 1 is attitude, part 2 technology and part 3 are behavioral changes. They form the basis of their book.

By the way, sign language is not for everyone with hearing loss. In the US, less than 500,000 — or about 1% — use sign language. As Gael told me, 

“Sherry and I use Spoken language and those people who are in deaf culture and have brought up to sign and learning sign, that is their language.”

One of the skills they teach is to

“confidently tell people you have hearing loss and how they can help you in terms of communicating better. So maybe that’s moving to another part of the restaurant. Maybe that’s asking and letting them know they need to face you so that you can see their mouth and their face for speech reading.”

We talked hearing aids—and blinging them—cochlear implants, and the importance of getting help early. I learned quite a bit and am now looking for an audiologist to get a baseline on my hearing.

We also talked tinnitus which is common in people with hearing loss and ways to distract yourself from it if you suffer with it.

This conversation gave me more compassion for people who can no longer hear they way they used to or never could.

Groups mentioned for support with hearing loss

Living with Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss Association of America

Canadian Hard of Hearing Association

Imagine what it must have been like for people with hearing loss during the pandemic, when most of the world wore face masks. It was during that very scary time for folks like Gael and Shari that Shari joined forces with some colleagues to produce a documentary on hearing loss.

We Hear You is a groundbreaking one-hour documentary about hearing loss, the invisible disability that impacts 430 million people 

worldwide, including 48 million in the United States alone. By shining a light on the hearing loss experience, it strives to build awareness, community and a more inclusive world for all.

An informative and humorous article from Gael titled 

The Hearing Husband’s Top Communication Tips” on the Hearing health Matters site. 

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