In the new book, “Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss”, Shari Eberts and Gael Hannan offer a comprehensive and actionable guide for hearing loss patients to dramatically improve their ability to communicate effectively.
It all starts with a shift in focus.
For better or worse, hearing loss patients (and hearing healthcare professionals) have long focused on trying to improve hearing ability. This is largely because the conventional approach to treating hearing loss has historically focused almost entirely on sound amplification technology.
Even before the invention of modern electronic hearing aids, the first hearing aids, known as ear trumpets, were originally used all the way back in the late 1700s.
For the last 500 years, we have essentially tried to treat hearing loss as if it were the same as treating vision impairment with glasses.
But hearing loss can affect almost every aspect of your quality of life.
Even a mild case of hearing loss is not actually mild at all if it prevents a person from communicating well with others. And hearing aids, even those with the latest and greatest technology, simply do not reverse hearing loss the same way eyeglasses help the visually impaired.
A wholistic approach is required. One that addresses all the ways in which hearing loss affects quality of life.
Shari and Gael explain that to truly live well with hearing loss, we must shift our goals to focus on improving our ability to communicate rather than simply improving our ability to hear.
In my opinion, it should be required reading for all hearing loss patients, from the newly diagnosed to the experienced veterans.
“Hear & Beyond” offers a crystal clear, step-by-step guide for hearing loss patients to improve communication, along with every other aspect of their quality of life.
“Hear & Beyond” is divided into three main parts: education on the bigger picture of how hearing loss affects quality of life, strategies for improving communication, and a framework for implementing these strategies into every part of your life, including your personal relationships, work, and social life.
It all starts with the understanding that every case of hearing loss is unique, and that people struggle in different ways. There is a wide spectrum of possible experiences that patients may face, and Shari and Gael detail them all. They also share their own personal stories and struggles with hearing loss, and their journeys to improve communication.
Shari and Gael then dissect the many counter-productive beliefs and attitudes that hearing loss patients struggle with and provide helpful ways to reframe these limiting beliefs into actionable goals that can help a person live well with hearing loss.
In the section on technology, Shari and Gael provide an overview and assessment of all the currently available hearing aid technologies and offer a comprehensive roadmap to finding the best possible hearing care professional, and the most effective hearing technology solutions.
But the most valuable part of the book, at least in my opinion, are the strategies for improving communication, most of which have nothing to do with technology at all.
Shari and Gael break down many important strategies here including:
- The importance of self-identifying, and not hiding your hearing impairment when struggling to communicate
- Ways to explain your hearing loss to others, in many different situations and contexts
- How to be open and clear about your communication needs
- The basics of speechreading/lipreading, and how to use visual cues to improve listening and communication ability
- How to advocate for yourself to improve communication ability in different environments
- The HEAR framework: Hearing check, Evaluate, Articulate, Revise and Remind
- This is Shari and Gael’s unique strategy for improving communication in any situation.
My personal Journey with hearing loss:
For more than a decade, I’ve personally lived with fluctuating hearing loss and the looming risk of permanent deafness.
It all started with a Meniere’s disease diagnosis back in 2011. For the uninitiated, Meniere’s disease is a chronic inner ear vestibular disorder with no known causes or cures. It is characterized by violent attacks of vertigo, intense pressure and fullness in your ears, loud tinnitus, and progressive hearing loss.
It’s a terrifying chronic illness that can completely devastate your quality of life.
When I was first diagnosed, my hearing test showed mild low to mid-frequency hearing loss, and my ENT told me I was going to lose a little bit more of my hearing with every attack.
I was terrified. To make matters worse, the one other person I knew who also suffered from Meniere’s was completely deaf in her one affected ear.
I have it in both ears. And even though I have yet to experience any significant or permanent loss, hearing loss has long remained one of my greatest fears.
I remain lucky to still have most of my hearing, but I’m not out of the woods, either. Over the years, as my symptoms wax and wane, I have experienced varying degrees of fluctuating hearing loss for differing lengths of time.
This includes many periods of days to months of fluctuating (albeit temporary) hearing loss when my Meniere’s symptoms are very active. It also includes a terrifying incident of sudden sensorineural hearing loss where I lost 60-70% of the hearing in my left ear instantaneously while watching TV.
(Fortunately, my hearing recovered fully over the following 6 hours, and I did not require medical attention. But if something like this ever happens to you, go to the doctor or hospital immediately.)
From that first day I received my diagnosis, hearing loss was my greatest fear. But I’m not afraid anymore.
In my work as a Meniere’s Coach, I have already started sharing and implementing some of the strategies I learned in “Hear & Beyond” with my clients, many of whom suffer from hearing loss. And I’ve been recommending it far and wide to everyone else I know with hearing loss my personal life.
Whether you suffer hearing loss yourself, know someone who does, or if you are at greater risk of hearing loss like me, I cannot recommend “Hear & Beyond” enough!
About the authors:
Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Gael Hannan is a renowned humorist, writer, and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is a leading international hearing health advocate, who creates awareness campaigns, school programs, and award-winning presentations to help people better understand the life with hearing loss, including her ground-breaking one-woman show Unheard Voices. Gael’s critically-acclaimed book The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss, written as part memoir and part survival guide, has helped readers around the world to embrace their own hearing challenges. Gael has profound hearing loss and is bimodal, using both a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. Connect with Gael: Blog, LinkedIn and Twitter.