The Spiral of the Hearing Journey

It’s some journey, this life with hearing loss. And for most of us, it’s a journey with a vanishing horizon. An open-ended spiral.

To be clear, my hearing is not taking a downward spiral – that ship sailed some time ago. Unaided and unamplified, my natural hearing levels are low on the ‘usable’ scale.

No, I’m talking about another type of spiral. A family member gave me a garden ornament with the spiral design that has been a cultural icon since people were chalking dinner recipes on the walls of their caves. 

In Maori culture, the spiral is a koru, an unfurling silver fern, that symbolizes new life, peace, perpetual movement and probably a few other things. In Celtic culture, the Triskele (Triple Spiral, pictured above) is the oldest symbol of spirituality. Galaxies are in spirals of energy. Energy moves in spirals. It’s a sacred geometric shape.

It’s a tattoo on my arm.

I got it for several reasons. About to have a cochlear implant, I wanted a tattoo to signify an important transition in my life: my hearing system was moving from natural hair cells, which weren’t working very well or had given up the ghost completely, to an electronic array. I was inspired by a similar tattoo that a FaceBook friend had etched on her body. Besides, my son asked, hey mum, want to get a tattoo with me? He knows I’m a sucker for family adventures. He got a full-color swallow, which was 10 times the size of my little cochlea.

Why is this symbol important to me? The spiral represents a never-ending journey, going forward. Some peeps with hearing loss feel like they’re going around in circles as they try to cope. But when we take charge of our hearing loss we learn that, at times, we can turn around and go the other direction, to reassess and think things through for a little while. Then, we turn around and get back on the track. My garden ornament makes me happy because it’s green and it patches up a bare spot in the trees. It also reminds me of my hearing journey and my struggles to break through communication barricades that keep popping up – and which I keep knocking down. I’m grateful for the ability to hear better and, more importantly, to communicate better..

When we have hearing loss, most of us get to keep it forever. Rather than fighting it, why not make the journey smoother by embracing tools to make our interactions with people and the universe more beautiful?

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". 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, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


  1. Wish I my on upward spiral, hopefully that will come next May when the authorities look at my progress, my seven years will be up!!!

  2. Beautiful and inspiring

    The spiritual connection


    Love the symbolism and the design of the tatoo

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