During the month of September Healthy Hearing is featuring an author who published a book about hearing loss every Friday! Last Friday we interviewed Shanna Groves, author of Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. Tune into Healthy Hearing's Facebook and Twitter every Friday in the month of September for a chance to win a copy of our featured author's book!
Katherine Bouton, former editor of the New York Times and author of Shouting Won’t Help: Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You, has had to communicate with people her entire life to do her job. Whether she was telling their story or her own, a career in journalism relied heavily on her ability to communicate.
Which is why when she started to suspect a hearing loss nearly 30 years ago, she did everything she could to ignore it. And while she was able to skate by for the first 20 years, by the age of 50 she suffered from profound bilateral deafness. Even when her hearing was deteriorating quickly, she chose to ignore it as much as possible, because if she did acknowledge it, what would that mean for her career?
"I’d say that in the past decade my hearing loss did drastically affect my professional life," Bouton said. "I ended up leaving my job as an editor at The New York Times because I couldn’t hear well enough to do the work I was doing."
For several years, Bouton said she got by making as many small changes to her professional life as she could. After years of suffering from her hearing loss, Bouton found herself avoiding phone calls, group settings and loud environments. This limited her career in journalism drastically.
"Initially I did simple things like use email as often as possible instead of the telephone, position myself in meetings in the best place for me to hear, having people I was talking to sit or walk on my “good” side," said Bouton. "I was not open about my hearing loss. In retrospect, that would have made an enormous difference. I could have asked for accommodations like a captioned phone. I could have used my FM device in small meetings. I could have requested a CART operator in larger meetings."
It was soon after coming to grips with her hearing loss that Bouton penned her book, Shouting Won’t Help: Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You. Despite having a hearing aid and cochlear implant, her memoir details her struggle to acknowledge her hearing loss, accept it and overcome it. Bouton had a plethora of resources available to her; however, she didn't feel any of them appealed to the particular emotions she was going through.
"When my hearing loss first reached a serious point I was devastated, confused, depressed and angry. I read several books about adult onset hearing loss," Bouton said. "Most of them were fairly upbeat, and I thought it was important for people going through experiences like mine to understand that severe hearing loss is a devastating psychological event, but also that it is possible to recover from it."
In addition to chronicling her own experience with hearing loss, she discusses openly public opinions, stigmas and issues facing hard-of-hearing individuals. Bouton wants her book to be a source of comfort and information for individuals going through hearing loss, with a loved one who suffers from hearing loss or those simply seeking information.
"I hope my book has two kinds of readers. The first are those with hearing loss who may be isolated and depressed and feel that their hearing loss and the psychological impact are something unique to them," said Bouton. "The second kind of reader is those who know someone with hearing loss. Given the statistics, that means most of us. These people – whether spouses, friends, employers, social workers or medical personnel – need to know what serious hearing loss is like. They need to know what their spouse or employee or client or patient is experiencing so that they can better respond to it."