What Drives Your Success with Hearing Loss?

At the recent conference of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) in Montreal, I was one of several people asked to give a sort of TED Talk, which we creatively called CHHA Talks.

As I sat down to prepare my speech, the session description made me almost spew my coffee over my laptop.  “Professional speakers devoted to spreading revolutionary ideas will share their exciting and cutting-edge experiences in their own hearing loss journey.”

Whoa! My journey is not much different than anybody with hearing loss. Revolutionary ideas? Innovative and motivating discoveries? Perhaps I could make up some stuff. How about the cutting-edge discovery of realizing that the dog would not have chewed my hearing aid to bits if I put it safely in the drying aid at night. (The hearing aid, I mean, not the dog.)

But then – yes! I had made a discovery, in a kind of Oh Duh!/Eureka! moment. The best thing ever to push and drag me through a condition that chews up communication between me and the universe was indeed something revolutionary.

It was ME!

Ever since I left home at age 18, there has been no one running after me reminding me to get my annual hearing test, get my hearing aids cleaned, and be open about my needs. Even the Hearing Husband, my long-suffering spouse, doesn’t have that supreme power to make me succeed. Only Gael Hannan can.

When this moment of discovery occurred, I felt the invisible grip of hearing loss loosen. I was able to shake off the hidden shame of thinking that I was somehow less capable, needy, and imperfect. The kick-starter was meeting other people with hearing loss for the first time – at the same CHHA conference, 24 years ago. I was expecting a baby and I was terrified, envisioning all sorts of ways that a mom with hearing loss could damage her child.

But at the conference, a woman named Cindy Gordon sat down with me, with her latest baby in her arms, and told me that I could do this. I don’t remember Cindy’s exact words, but they calmed me, thrilled me. I looked around and saw all these other people dealing with hearing loss, who weren’t ashamed of their hearing aids or the need to ask for multiple repeats. A huge, bright light bulb went off in my head.

Life had changed. I became passionate about hearing loss issues. Today, I’m an advocate, writer and public speaker and I can talk hearing loss until the cows come home. And, oh man, I’ve learned a lot of stuff along the way, although the technical stuff refuses to stick. I still don’t understand how the decibel scale works. If 80 dB is loud, then twice as loud should be 160 dB! It’s not, but it doesn’t matter that I don’t understand how hearing aids, telecoils, loops, cochlear implants or Bluetooth work (or even how the picture gets on the TV screen), because other people do. But I have learned what I need to know as my hearing changes and technology improves. I know where to go for help.

I am driving this ship, and the operation manual includes a new code of living and acceptance for my hearing loss. My article, A HoH’s Credo, goes into more detail, but here are the important bits:

I believe there is no shame in having hearing loss. The person whose insults and impatience have the most power to hurt me is me. We have the right to be included and participate in life’s conversations. By being open about our hearing loss and our needs, we become better communicators. Technology is my friend, not my enemy, and everyone should be able to afford hearing aids. I need professional help from a hearing health care provider who works with me to find solutions. I am supported by other people with hearing loss. Hearing loss affects us all—me, my family, my friends – and I must celebrate their efforts to make our communication successful.

Not all revolutionary ideas turn the world upside down. They can be deeply personal as well. When I looked in the mirror and said to the person I saw there – “YOU are the power behind a successful life with hearing loss” – that’s when life changed.

If it hasn’t happened already, this might be an exciting discovery for you, too. All you have to do is look in the mirror.




About Gael Hannan

The Better HearingConsumer addresses the personal experience of living with hearing loss. Editor Gael Hannan and her occasional guest bloggers explore every corner of the hearing loss life with humor and poignancy. Comment Policy   Gael Hannan, Editor Gael Hannan is an author, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog at the Better Hearing Consumer, which has a passionate international following,Gael has written two acclaimed books, “The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss”and “Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss”, written with Shari Eberts. She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work that advocates for individuals to become more knowledgeable and successful at dealing with their hearing loss and a more inclusive society for them to live in. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, Canada. Books and other media Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss. Written with Shari Eberts and available anywhere books are sold. The Way I Hear It: A Life With Hearing Loss. Available through online bookstores. Unheard Voices, DVD, vignettes from the hearing loss life. Contact Gael Hannan to order.


  1. Gael, Thank You for sharing this powerful message. I have hearing disability since I was small, I suffered not only hearing loss, but also humiliation and insecurity because of this. Little by little, I am learning to overcome my fear, I brave myself to pursue nursing. Right now I am having great big challenge to use stethoscope, because i don’t hear all the sounds from heart or lungs. I choose to win over my weakness and learn as much as I can.

  2. Excellent article Gael! My experience mirrors yours. The day I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and make the most of my capabilities was the day my journey with hearing loss became a whole lot easier.

  3. Totally agree with Gael, the moment I embraced and owned my hearing loss I felt so empowered.

    Then days like today happen and I just wanted to scream. One of the worst places for a person with hearing loss to go to for a sandwich is Subway, that darn counter falls right at the mouth level of most employees, which means lip reading is next to impossible. I asked the extremely soft spoken young lady if she could please repeat herself as I am hard of hearing…and I had to ask her a minimum of 20 times, no kidding…even joked and said she needs a microphone to project her voice. As a hard of hearing person, who was owning her loss and begging for the employee to speak up, what can we do to improve these situations for all of us? We need advocates for US to go into the food and service industry and offer some education for them on how to offer superior service to folks that are deaf or hard of hearing.

    Your thoughts?

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