Book review: The Way I Hear It
In “The Way I Hear It," Gael Hannan boldly goes where other authors writing about living with hearing loss fear to tread - the bedroom. You read that correctly. Because people who are hard of hearing often rely, knowingly or unknowingly, on seeing the speaker's face while communicating, conversations after the lights go out can be especially challenging and potentially embarrassing. That’s just one of dozens of scenarios Hannan addresses with grace, poise and levity in “The Way I Hear It."
If this was just another book about life with hearing loss (spoiler alert — it’s not!), many people might pass it by because let’s face it, those of us who live with hearing loss sometimes feel like we “know it all” already and those who can hear just fine might not find it very intriguing. I’m happy to report, however, that definitely this isn’t just another book about hearing loss; it’s an honest, funny and informative book for everyone touched by hearing loss who is interested in not just surviving, but thriving.
Hannan is a renowned hearing health advocate who is truly a reliable expert on navigating the challenges of hearing loss with a smile. Her lifetime of experience with her own hearing loss, which is now severe to profound, includes decades as a hearing aid wearer. Hannan’s work is conversational, personal, self-deprecating, humorous and easy to digest, while also being instructional and insightful.
Her book is written in an informational format, cleanly divided into seven different sections that discuss different hearing loss topics in depth, interspersed with delightful “heareflections” that feature brief glimpses into Hannan’s creative side with witty and poignant prose. It’s a useful guidepost for those navigating a life, their own or a loved one’s, with hearing loss but at the same time, it’s also in many ways a memoir of Hannan’s own journey to acceptance and activism.
These topics are explored, with plenty of examples from Hannan’s own background and life adventures:
- Accepting hearing loss and looking at the big picture
- Communication for and with people who have hearing loss
- Hearing aids and assistive technology
- How hearing loss impacts family and friends as well as relationships, including parenting and spouses
- Special challenges like music, travel, nature and even the bedroom
- Stressors specific to people with hearing loss
- Important relationships that make life easier for people who are hard of hearing
Hannan’s writing style is informal, genuine, optimistic and droll, yet accurate. Although the book offers practicable advice for developing solid communication skills and avoiding common pitfalls, it’s no textbook; Hannan is human and real when pulling back the curtains on her life as a person with hearing loss. This book holds widespread appeal because people with hearing loss and their loved ones are everywhere; the National Institute of Health reports that one in eight people in the Unites States (that’s 13% of people, which translates to over 30 million people) over the age of 12 have hearing loss in both ears.
It doesn't matter if you’re new to the world of hearing loss or have been dealing with it your entire life, if you’ve accepted it or are still firmly in denial; you’ll laugh, groan and maybe cry along with Hannan as she shares the all-too common and sometimes painful challenges faced daily by people who don’t hear well. You’ll also benefit from her first-hand insider information and detailed tips and tricks. Hearing loss affects every facets of a person’s life and this book reassures the reader that it’s ok to laugh at oneself at least as often as you feel frustrated or isolated. I’ve had hearing loss a long time but still appreciated Hannan’s powerful reminders that bluffing when you cannot understand someone in conversation doesn’t do anyone any favors, and connecting with others who have hearing loss is extremely satisfying and edifying.
Without hesitation, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it will stay on my bookshelf as a book I’ll refer back to again. I’m not alone in my Gael Hannan fandom, either. Her book has been widely praised in recent reviews from people from all corners of the hearing loss community; here are some of my favorite reviews:
In my profession, I read quite a few books about hearing loss aimed at both the people who have hearing loss and the professionals who work with them. “The Way I Hear It” rises above the crowd as a go-to resource because it’s factual and cogent while remaining hopeful and optimistic. It exposes the secret emotions that people living with hearing loss have but may not be willing to admit in an uplifting and validating way.
In short, this is the book I hope will be under the Christmas tree this year for every person with hearing loss and everyone who loves them.