New book helps people improve mindset about hearing loss
Q&A with Shari Eberts, co-author of "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss"
The new book "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss" is an easy-to-read, comprehensive guide packed with personal insight from two authors with hearing loss. Their main message is to sort out the emotions that keep you from confidently managing your hearing loss.
In the book, you’ll find descriptions of what the authors call “MindShifts,” the ways you can think differently about hearing loss so it’s easier to manage, and a run-down of the range of technology available, from hearing aids to speech-to-text apps.
You’ll learn strategies about how to talk to other people about your hearing loss so you can communicate better. Additional chapters cover parenting, friends, workplaces, outdoor activities, and other topics. Their book also covers tinnitus, which both writers experience. Both have found that yoga and meditation lessen the intensity of tinnitus.
The two have a light personal touch. As Eberts explains, she grew up with a father who kept sideburns over his ears to hide his hearing aids and never asked anyone to speak louder; instead he would bluff, pretending to hear.
When Eberts noticed her own hearing loss in her mid-twenties, she resisted wearing her hearing aids at first, only sneaking them in when she had to. But when she had children, she wanted to set a better example and began wearing her aids and using other assistive listening devices. She also began a blog about hearing loss, and became an advocate.
Co-author Gael Hannan’s hearing loss began at birth; it was diagnosed when she was two. Gael’s mother wouldn’t let her ignore her hearing loss, telling her teachers, who put Gael at the front of the class. She was told hearing aids wouldn’t help and had no other assistive devices. When she wore her first hearing aid at the age of 20, “life became really loud.” At 40, she created a one-woman comedy shows to explain what it was like to live with hearing loss, and published a memoir, "The Way I Hear It: A Live with Hearing Loss."
Adjusting to hearing loss
Their joint book breaks down the adjustment to hearing loss into five stages:
Healthy Hearing’s Temma Ehrenfeld spoke with Shari Eberts:
Q&A with Shari Eberts
Q: Shari, in writing this book, what did you learn from Gael you didn't know before?
A: Gael is a tremendous advocate for people with hearing loss, so I learned a lot from her during the writing process. One thing that stands out is that even though our hearing losses and journeys are both very different (hers started as a child, mine as an adult) the emotions we felt about our hearing loss were very similar. We both battled stigma and allowed our hearing loss to make us feel “less than” for many years. The experience of writing with Gael taught me how universal the emotions of hearing loss can be—no matter the degree, the age of onset or how long we’ve had it.
In our work together it became clear that there are certain skills, which include an improved mindset (we call this a
Q: Has Gael mentioned anything she learned from you she didn't know before?
A: Gael tells me that I taught her a lot about the technology side of living with hearing loss. She is bi-modal, using a CI (cochlear implant) and a hearing aid, but was less tuned in to the direct-to-consumer side, as well as apps. She likes to say, “You get hearing aids. You take care of them. You put them in and turn them on. And that, my friends, is all I need to know about how hearing aids work.” And she’s right! But there are additional devices and apps that work with hearing aids and CIs to improve understanding. We discuss many of these tools in the book.
Q: What gave you the idea to write a book together? You had both become hearing advocates already.
A: I had always wanted to write a book on hearing loss strategies. And apparently so did Gael, who already had a book under her belt, because two years ago she reached out to me and asked if I wanted to collaborate!
And speaking of what we learned, working on this book together taught both Gael and I about the power of collaboration. We were fiercely independent writers before teaming up for Hear & Beyond, but we knew that working together would help us develop a richer and more credible product. Most consumer books about hearing loss are memoirs, which are great, but we hoped to create something more—a “how-to guide” for living well with hearing loss. And for that, two heads are better than one.
Our individual and joint passions for hearing loss advocacy have only increased since writing the book. We hope Hear & Beyond will be helpful for people with hearing loss, their friends and family, and the providers of hearing care, too. We encourage healthcare providers, especially those who do not have clinic time or reimbursement for aural rehab or counseling, to use it as a tool for their clients.
Gael and I have so much more we hope to do to support people with hearing loss. For example, joint speaking engagements to both consumer groups and hearing industry partners. And perhaps even an audiobook.
Q: As someone with hearing loss, I am especially frustrated by people who refuse to use hearing aids who need them. Do you have that feeling? Any success stories of moving someone out of Stage 1 into Stage 2?
It seems like everyone is walking around with something in their ears these days, yet hearing devices themselves remain shrouded in stigma. Part of the reason may be the way hearing loss continues to be used as the brunt of the joke in mainstream media, such as in the recent HBO Max show “And Just Like That…” With this as a backdrop, it can be challenging to make the leap from debating to validating to taking charge.
Gael and I know many people with hearing loss who have successfully made this transition, including ourselves! Yet so many of the people who do get hearing aids, struggle with them and are disappointed in what they don’t deliver. That’s why understanding the "big picture" of hearing loss is so critical. If you don’t know where you are going, it is hard to get there.
In Hear & Beyond, we lay out our formula for getting past the internal debate to taking charge of your hearing loss life and living more skillfully with it. Like we say in the book, "the person with the most power in my hearing loss success is me.”