living skillfully with hearing loss hannan eberts

Living Skillfully with Hearing Loss: A Conversation with Gael Hannan and Shari Eberts

This week, host Dave Kemp chats with Gael Hannan and Shari Eberts about living well with hearing loss. They discuss the motivation behind their new book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing loss, which they wrote as a how-to-guide for living successfully with hearing loss. 

The pair believe it could not only benefit people in their hearing loss journey, but also add value to hearing professionals. 

Clinicians who pride themselves on person centered care will find the book a necessary piece of their deliverables to hearing aid wearers and prospective wearers alike. Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss needs to become required reading for any individual who might be considering hearing aids or embarking on the journey of simply better understanding their hearing loss. 

–Brian Taylor, AuD, HHTM Editor-at-Large

 

The book is now available for purchase – further details available here.

Full Episode Transcript

Dave Kemp 0:10
All right, everyone and welcome to another episode of This Week in Hearing. I am joined today by Shari Eberts and Gael Hannan – Shari and Gael, thank you so much for being here today. If you wouldn’t mind, let’s just go round and round. Each of you just introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do. We’ll start with you, Shari.

Shari Eberts 0:29
All right, great. Well, Dave, it’s really fun to be back with you. was great to see you in person a few weeks ago. And thanks for having us. So I’m Shari Eberts and I am hearing health advocate and a writer and speaker about hearing loss issues and very excited today to talk about our book, co authored with Gael Hannon Hear & Beyond live skillfully with hearing loss.

Dave Kemp 0:55
I love it. And Gael?

Gael Hannan 0:56
Well, I am the same speech except that I’m Gael Hannan. And I am a hearing health advocate. And I am a writer and speaker on hearing loss issues. And delighted to be partnering with Shari on this book. And Dave it’s just a real thrill for me to be with you today.

Dave Kemp 1:14
Awesome. Well, as you mentioned, Shari we got to all meet in person. It was so awesome. And kind of a long time coming. Shari, I know I’ve known you for a little while now. Gail, this was the first time I really got to interact with you. But Gael, you told me that I’m a good hugger. So I really appreciate that.

Gael Hannan 1:31
I think there’s a little background is needed on that. So when we met you, when we met you at the AAA convention, I had never met you before. And as we walked towards your booth, this handsome young man approaches me and gives me a hug. And I didn’t care who you were. Hug. Yeah.

Dave Kemp 1:51
That’s great. Well, anyway, thank you so much. And yes, it was great to meet in person. And we talked about, you know, your book, and what better of a platform, I guess then to talk about this on This Week in Hearing, you know, with with this book, so why don’t we just start with the whole premise. And then I would love to kind of go back in time a little bit and understand how this came to be how you two linked up, the process of writing the book. And here we are, as it’s starting. We’re about to publish it, what this process has been like, but let’s set the stage and either one of you, or whichever one wants to start just to kind of let everybody know what this book entails.

Shari Eberts 2:33
So this book, we think, is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. And it’s really about skillful living. When Gael and I first talked about the book, that was something that we really felt was missing from the landscape of hearing loss books. And we had spent so many years independently, really trying to piece things together to try and figure out how do you live well with hearing loss? And the amazing thing was that independently, we had sort of come to the same basic skills and strategies that we both used, that we had to piece together, you know, through trial and error, learning from other people with hearing loss. And we wanted to really put them all in one place to make it easier for people who were maybe new to hearing loss or had it for a while but just felt like they could be doing a better job in living with it.

Gael Hannan 3:33
Absolutely. And I remember it was literally almost two years ago, now. And I had written a first book called The Way I Hear it. A life with hearing loss. And it’s great. And it’s fun. And it’s it is wonderful book. But I did want to do what Shari mentioned, I felt that there was something missing amongst these memoir based books, and I wanted to put a skills based book. So I didn’t want to do it myself. I just been through writing a book. It’s a lot of hard work. And I thought that I wanted some extra depth to it that could come with another expert on living with hearing loss. So Shari and I knew each other not well, we have mutual friends, but when she’s the one, so I I sent her an email saying, Hey, want to talk about a writing project. And she went, sure. And I said, Great. And she goes -what? I said, well, a book. Sure. So what’s the book about Gael? I went- hearing loss? and she went, okay, and that was it. And we started and it was interesting, Dave because our and we have talked about this is that when we first started working together, we were two independent writers, speakers, all of that stuff and hadn’t really collaborated in This way, before I had done a lot of other collaborations, but not on a writing project, and we’ve kind of ya know a little circling around a little bit, and you know, starting each other out, and we eventually thought as we developed, it got more exciting. And that meshing of our philosophy, we didn’t agree on everything, we had different takes on things, but what we learned, and when we ever we hit a little, little tiny roadblock, we go, let’s trust the process, we know that it will work out. And it became, as I like to say, a very joyous experience, we became very, very close. And it just – tear coming to the eye when I think about it. But it was very, a wonderful experience, because we both went quite deep into our experiences, in some ways deeper than we’d gone before. So and here we are two years later about to come out.

Dave Kemp 5:56
I just think this is so cool. And I can’t wait to read the book. So you know, when you first started in, you embarked on this. And obviously, you share a similar, you know, passion for, you know, you both have lived with hearing loss. And so you want to be an advocate and an ambassador more or less for those with hearing loss and to try to share some of your experiences. So when you first started writing the book, like what were some of the things that, you know, were the aha moments that you had that you felt like, okay, we’re really actually starting to move beyond just a surface level into deeper things. Because like you said, Gael, at the top, you know, it’s about skills, like, what were some of those things that you really landed on with this book that you think people will appreciate, as, from a depth standpoint?

Shari Eberts 6:55
Yeah, well, I think it was really sort of coming up with what we meant by living skillfully with hearing loss, and what does that mean? So there’s really a whole bunch of parts to it. And the first step really is knowing what to expect. And we call that understanding the big picture, because if you don’t know where you’re going, it’s pretty hard to get there. And I think a lot of times, people don’t understand that hearing loss sort of has bumps in the road. And there are ups and downs in the process. For example, when you get hearing devices, you know, it takes time to adjust to them. And if we know that, then the fact that you know, we don’t put them in right away, take them out of the box, and everything’s perfect. This is not seen as a failure, it’s seen as sort of a normal part of the journey. So having that sort of outline of the typical hearing loss journey was something that definitely wanted to discuss. And then the second thing is we came up with this three legged stool of skills. And the thing about a three legged stool is that it never wobbles, even when the ground is uneven, which I think is just a modern miracle of physics or something. It’s very cool. And so our three legged stool. In our three things, obviously, the first is mind shifts, because we realized how important attitudes about hearing loss are and determining how well we can live with it, how we react to things because our hearing loss is so tied up into our emotion. So mind-shifts, this attitude changes for that first leg. The second is technology, which you know, is hearing aids and sort of the standard care, but also accessories and maybe even over the counter devices when they’re out. And also apps you know, things like speech to text apps really have changed the game, I think for people with hearing loss. And then the third leg are these non technical communication strategies, things like identifying as having hearing loss or speech reading. And just some of these things that aren’t related to the technology that sometimes get overlooked. We wanted to make sure we included that in our school. And then the third step to live skillfully is sort of putting this all together right and applying it to the most important parts of our life, our relationships, our family, our friends, our work, and really taking what we learned about the journey, and this three legged stool of strategies and living skillfully.

Gael Hannan 9:39
Well, there’s the book, there’s the book. ya know, Shari, if I can jump in Shari said something that people don’t realize the bumps in the road and I would suggest that they all they sometimes see is the bumps and they don’t realize that they’re what we have learned is for every challenge

every obstacle, there is a solution. And one of the key fundamental things that Shari and I discovered, we both fell it before, but we sort of crystallized it. And the underlying theme in our book is that things for each of us in our own separate journeys improved. When was an aha moment that said, our goal is not to hear better, but to communicate better, because communicating is more than just hearing some of us will never hear well, or hear better, but we can communicate better and that we need all these other strategies that we’re talking about. So that’s kind of a big thing for us in this book. And we think that some people may not realize it, and then hopefully, that will be a little aha moment for them for the readers.

Dave Kemp 10:51
I think that’s really neat. And I love the three legged stool analogy that you use, Shari, I think that’s a really I can visualize that in my mind. And I think that I love all three that you mentioned, you know, the various different ways of you can use apps and you can use, you know, kind of some tips and tricks around the accessories and some of the different devices on the market. And then you have like these analog skills to that have nothing to do with technology, like, you know, some of these strategies of making sure that your back is, you know, to the wall when you’re at a restaurant or something like that a lot, lots of different strategies that when I talk to audiologists like these are the things they’re imparting on to people and onto their patients and to the communities that their patients are interacting with. And so when I was hearing you describe this, and knowing that a lot of the audience here is people that work within the hearing health, you know, industry, whether it’s folks like me, or it’s audiologists and the hearing professionals, did you do you see this book being something that the that that’s written, obviously, it’s for the patient, but and for, you know, people that are living with hearing loss? But do you see this as being something that the hearing professional can use as a educational, you know, tool as well, within the clinic?

Shari Eberts 12:07
Absolutely. I mean, we think the book is, like you said, for people with hearing loss, also their friends, their family, anyone who is interacting with them, and then very much the hearing care industry, I think the book will provide a lot of empathy, you know, a lot of insight into what the lived hearing loss experience is, and that’s so important in terms of person centered care, and really delivering the right solutions for their patients. So I feel like that’s a big piece of it. And then I think a lot of it also is, you know, there are tips and tricks that they share with clients. But some of the things in the book, you almost have to know it, you have to know it firsthand to really be able to share that information. So we hope that it’ll be educational for audiologists, and also they can share it with their patients directly say, hey, you know, this, I found very interesting. Why don’t you read about it here in this in this book?

Gael Hannan 13:05
Yeah, we we also, for a while, I guess, a subtle challenge to hearing health care professionals. Theres one section, one part of one section, and I don’t know what page it’s on, because I don’t, but it’s how to choose the right hearing care professional. And that might sound familiar, but really, people should know they have a choice. And I remember a friend of mine, she said her her mother was going to an audiologist and the audiologist mumbled… I said, she should get a different health care professional, we know it very hard to change the way you speak. But you shouldn’t have to struggle when you’re sitting in the client chair. But so we talk about what we feel makes the ideal hearing care professional, knowing that no one can be perfect all the time. And but we also talk about the roles and the responsibilities that you as a client as a person with hearing loss, what you have to bring to the table and the overriding theme, one of the many themes is you need your life with your in laws will be better when you take charge of it when you drive the process. And that is when and it’s really started with those attitude shifts. You know, people say what’s the most important leg of that stool? They’re all important. They’re all important and we say that when they work together that’s when magic happens. But if you really want true good communication and satisfaction knew how to make those shifts and say I can do this and that this I’m not a victim here. This isn’t the end of the world and that I want to communicate better.

Dave Kemp 14:53
So I know that this is probably in the book and without you know, too many spoilers I’m curious like what was Is the Do you remember in your own life when you had your mindset shift? I’m sure there were many and might not just be a singular moment, but I’d be really curious to hear about that in terms of when When was your mindset shift? Or when do you kind of recall that happening?

Gael Hannan 15:18
Well, yeah, I, there were several, because these things all add up. But I remember when I first reached out to other people with hearing loss, for the first time was transformational. I was pregnant, and I needed help to understand that I wasn’t going to murder my baby, because I didn’t hear him. And don’t you laugh, I was very upset about it. And so I went to this hearing loss conference in Canada, because I’m Canadian. And I walked in that conference, one person, and I walked out another. But the aha moment that I remember is, at the end of this two or three days, I was a new person, my new group of new hearing loss friends and I, we went to a pub, to have a drink. And we walked into this pub that hardly anyone there, except this one table of four people, presumably hearing people sitting in the corner. Now, Dave, I don’t know if you’ve ever spent any time with people with hearing loss who have been drinking wine. But we are loud, we are very loud. And I became aware of, of Yeah, I became aware of some looks from this table of hearing people and I was uncomfortable, my go to reaction was, Oh, we’re making noise and you know, the, you know, and then then it happened. I went. So what? So what if we’re allowed that what it’s like to live with hearing loss, and that was, Oh, I get chills up my own spine just thinking about it. That was really a big aha moment for me.

Shari Eberts 16:53
Yeah, absolutely. And I think hearing loss peers are hugely important for everyone. My aha moment was really my children. So I first noticed my hearing loss in my mid 20s. But my father had hearing loss as well. So my journey kind of began watching him struggle with the stigma of his own hearing loss. And he really embedded that so deeply in me that when I first noticed my hearing loss, I did everything to hide it, just following in his footsteps. And because it is a genetic hearing loss, I always worried that maybe I would have passed it on to my own children. And I saw them watching me doing the same thing that my father had done, you know, avoiding conversations, laughing at jokes I hadn’t heard. And I just realized that I was passing on the same cycle of stigma. And I knew that I had to do something about it. And so they really just inspired me to do better, I needed to be a role model for them. And so I just decided to make that change, and sort of went completely in the opposite direction. Instead of being overcome by stigma. I decided to shout it from the rooftops and, you know, become an advocate. But I think it was sort of that shift, realizing that, you know, I needed to be that more that role model. And really, that applies for everyone, I think, with hearing loss, because when we advocate for ourselves, we’re advocating for everyone with hearing loss. And I think if you think about it that way, it makes easier to do it sometimes.

Dave Kemp 18:31
Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more with that, I think that we are all, we all can be better. You know, and I think this is a huge thing that I’m trying to be better about is like, I’m in this world. And I’m interacting with people that are on the forefront like you two. So I should be better about it too. Like I should, I should be more aware of the fact that the people that I’m communicating throughout my day to day life, like I need to enunciate, I want to make sure that they can see my face. And that’s part of the issue with you know, the pandemic was like with the masks. I think a lot of people realized how dependent they were on lip reading that thought I have good hearing, but then they realized that they were actually really leaning on lip reading. And so I think that there’s a lot of things that we within the hearing healthcare industry, like even if you’re just at a company that’s within the industry, you’re not a hearing healthcare professional, like you can be an advocate, too. And then I think that the hearing professionals like I continue to say this, but I think this is one of the biggest opportunities. I know some of them have been doing it. Like this is why they even got into the business. So this isn’t like a shot or anything like that. At any one. I’m just saying. There’s a really, really big opportunity about being a champion for everybody in your own community and finding ways to make all of your like local environment aware of this, whether it’s the employers that your patients might be interacting with and helping them to have things that they you know, like handouts and laminate flyers and stuff like that, like whatever it might be to make sure that you’re equipping your patients and all the people that they’re interacting with on a daily basis. You know, just just trying to make it like, bring the awareness level up. So I think that’s really cool. And the next question I have is, you know, as you were writing this, I think it’s so cool that, you know, you two like, it sounds like a lot of stuff was getting crystallized as you were writing this, what parts of this? It sounds, you know, I would imagine parts of this was probably relatively easy to write, because so much of it was first hand experience. But what were some of the challenging aspects of this book for you?

Gael Hannan 20:41
The name! haha! Wait, oh, well, yeah, who knew it’d be that hard. It took a year to get the name. And if there was any sort of tenseness it was, you know, but it I think it was the name. You know, Dave, we had both been writing for a long time, I’d been writing for 20 years on this and advocating so parts of it were easy to write. A lot of it was easy to write in that knowing what we wanted to go in there. But we did create some new stuff that was was was very exciting. But the some of the harder parts were, first of all, accepting editing. That was a process, but also the name of the book, we finally came up with a name that we think works. I don’t know, Shari, what do you think? What was the hardest part? I think

Shari Eberts 21:44
it got easier as it went along. Because first, like Gael said, we sort of are these two fiercely independent people, we weren’t used to other people sort of editing our turn of phrase or what have you. And we just really learn to trust each other. And trust the process. And I feel like, it’s hard to even see in the book, who wrote what, you know, there was a point where we actually read the book out loud to each other. And to hear what it would sort of sound like and said, Okay, we need to go in and fix that. And so it became this process of sort of really writing it jointly. And I feel like it made the concepts. Like you said, I think Dave more crystallized, right, because if we had to explain it to each other, you know, we can explain it to the reader in a much better way than if we had done it independently. So I think it was just sort of like one plus one equals three, it was really an exciting process.

Gael Hannan 22:47
Yeah, we never disagreed on the actual what was in there, it was just more process, like Shari is much more organized than I am. And she is. I think her middle name is consistency. She likes things to be consistent, just as we did. When we were working, the trade show floor at AAA. I like to go to all the booths, but she has to do it in an order, we have to go up and down. And God helped me if I wanted to go over there for a minute, right. So but on the other hand, I can be my I can be sloppy, I missed up so we sort of balanced each other out. So and you know, we did this whole thing in the pandemic. We actually saw each other for the first time in, I think three to four years in St. Louis a few weeks ago. And it was a joyful reunion. But we did the whole thing like this on Zoom. And yeah,

Dave Kemp 23:48
yeah, I think it’s I just think it’s really cool that you did this together. Because I think just hearing what you were saying there Sherry with reading it to each other, getting lost and who even contributed what like you kind of almost have like a mind meld like you two were so simpatico with this. And I think it’s neat. Gael, like you mentioned how, you know, you complemented each other in different ways, like things that Shari really brought to the table that maybe helped to elevate your process a little bit. And I’m sure Gael, there were things that you did that Shari was, you know, it was a little bit foreign to her. So I do think that’s like a plug for doing this kind of collaborative thing. And I guess like the question is now like, Okay, you got this book under your belt. I know, Gael, you’ve written a book before as well. But what comes next? Because I think I’m really it’s really neat to see like, one of the best things about where I sit doing these kinds of interviews is I meet people, and I stay in touch and I see what they do over the course of time and it’s just so neat to watch these just people like really blossom into whatever they’re trying to become and I look at you two as like you’re very much in that camp of this won’t be the end of it like it’s not going to be this book is done. And I know Shari, like you just went to this aging conference. And I just was mentioning to you like, right before we started recording, it was brilliant. And you said something really interesting in this, which is, you know, at this aging conference, there were, you know, 363 sessions or something like that in of which only two focused on hearing loss or anything hearing related, which is just mind blowing, given how pervasive it is as we get older. So I guess my question is, it’s a little bit loaded, but it’s kind of like, it seems like this is the precursor maybe for you, Shari of kind of what comes next. Maybe you’re going to be doing more of these speaking engagements and stuff like that, but have you given it much thought as to? And maybe it’s just too early? Because this is all still so fresh, and you’re still in this mode, but we’re where do you see yourselves going with this line of work?

Gael Hannan 25:51
Well, I think it’s important to note that we cannot be separated, we have come, we are we are like this, and we get anxious if we thought that we would be separated, we have a lot to do. There’s a lot of awareness to be done and publishing the book. It’s just just the first start of it. So we want to reach out to different audiences. We want to reach the academic institutions that offer audiology and speech language pathology, we want to speak we are we’ll probably do an audio book. And it’s the hearing people go, well, that’s kind of funny, isn’t it on audiobook for people who don’t hear? And when I don’t laugh back at them, they go, Oh, okay. Yeah. So we are going to do an audio book. And we were just gonna keep rolling major.

Shari Eberts 26:44
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the good news about hearing loss, I guess, is that it’s always changing. There’s always more things. And I think the technology disruption is just accelerating. So there will always be more things to share, and more things to learn about and become more skillful, you know, as we go. And I think, to your point about the aging, I mean, it’s, it’s such a huge group of people where I mean, hearing loss is not just for people who are older adults. But if you look at the prevalence, right, it’s much more prevalent in that age group. And so it’s another huge opportunity, like Gael said, to just raise the awareness and bring it into the consciousness, because it’s such an important part of aging well, and living well, at any age. And so it just seems like a missed opportunity for that industry. And so hopefully, we can get them to start paying attention to hearing loss in a bigger way.

Dave Kemp 27:45
Absolutely. Okay. So as we kind of come to the close here, just curious, you know, kind of wrapping closing thoughts, I want to plug the book one more time, give you every chance possible here, but just some closing thoughts about, you know, this, the release of the book, and just kind of like where you’re hoping this thing leads to across the next few months?

Shari Eberts 28:08
Well, this, like I said, at the beginning, this we think is the ultimate survival guide, you know, to living well with hearing loss. And it’s really the book that Gael and I wish we had had, you know, oh, nice scale, at the beginning of our journeys. And so we hope it’s going to be that book for people, you know, by sharing our stories, we are going to help other people live better with hearing loss. And you know, what could be better than that?

Gael Hannan 28:37
I don’t know what to add to that. Plus, I can’t remember the question. Hahah

Shari Eberts 28:44
We just want to say visit hearandbeyond.com where you are about the book that is out in May where ever books are sold. That’s what I was going

Gael Hannan 28:55
to say visit visit hearandbeyond.com out on May 3 wherever books are sold.

Dave Kemp 29:04
Perfect here and beyond.com. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Gael. Thank you, Shari. Thanks for everybody who tuned in here to the end. We’ll chat with you next time.

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About the Panel

Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss, (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. 

 

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog The Better Hearing Consumer, 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.

 

Dave Kemp is the Director of Business Development & Marketing at Oaktree Products and the Founder & Editor of Future Ear. In 2017, Dave launched his blog, FutureEar.co, where he writes about what’s happening at the intersection of voice technology, wearables and hearing healthcare. In 2019, Dave started the Future Ear Radio podcast, where he and his guests discuss emerging technology pertaining to hearing aids and consumer hearables. He has been published in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored the book, “Voice Technology in Healthcare,” writes frequently for the prominent voice technology website, Voicebot.ai, and has been featured on NPR’s Marketplace.


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