Hard of hearing

“From experience”

face-730801_1920Section “From experience”
This section offers a platform for hearing impaired people and experts working with hearing impaired people, to share their experiences and solutions for hearing impairment in daily life.

Today I would like to introduce Gael Hannan.

Questions to Gael Hannan:

Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Gael Hannan and I describe myself as a writer, humorist and performer on hearing loss issues. I’m a Canadian but I don’t ski, skate or snowboard. I do, however, throw snowballs. My husband, Doug (aka The Hearing Husband) and I live in British Columbia on Canada’s west coast and we have four children (three of whom are my stepchildren), five grandchildren and one soon ready to be born. My son is only 22 so we don’t expect more grandbabies for a while! Lastly, we have two cats, one fat and one skinny

How would you describe your hearing impairment?
I was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss that was detected at age two. It was mild as a child, moderate through my teens, and settled at severe to profound in my early 30s. Deaf would be a better description of my hearing level, as without hearing technoloy, I can only hear the slamming of doors slam and toilet seats.

Do you wear hearing technology, such as hearing aids, CI or other?
Where would I be without my hearing technology? Up until the age of 21, paediatric ENTs, did not recommend the use of hearing aids. This was back in the Dark Ages of the late 1950s and 1960, when professionals thought that amplification might further damage what was then a mild to moderate loss. But in 1975, a smart ENT basically said, well, that’s stupid, using different words that didn’t malign his ENT colleagues. I had my first hearing aid a month later and life changed. It became LOUD but wonderful. Twenty years later, I switched to wearing binaural hearing aids and life got even better. Another 20 years later, I was implanted in my all-but-deaf right ear, and once again, I hear better than before. But along with my hearing aid and cochlear implant, I depend on all the wondrous accoutrements … telecoils and loops, the Cochleaer MiniMic2, captioning and other forms of text interpretation, and my superb speechreading skills. My only fear is that the world will run out of the stuff that you make batteries with, because I am a battery-and-electricity-operated person.

What does your hearing impairment mean to you in daily life?
Hearing loss touches every corner of my life.
All that I do is impacted in some way by the fact that I’m hard of hearing…except, perhaps, when I read a book. Although I didn’t have any resources such as teachers for children with hearing loss, or speech therapy for a pesky minor lisp (which has cleared up now that I can hear myself better with improved technology), I still developed good communication skills. Communicating well was important in our family, and my parents taught me the most important lesson – to not try to hide my loss, and in self-identifying, to let people know what I needed (face me, speak up, etc.).

How do you deal with your hearing impairment in daily life?
When I got hearing aids in both ears, I had an epiphany. I wanted to write a book about hearing loss and let the world know what it was like. How naive I was! I didn’t know one other person who had hearing loss, and when I reached out to a local group of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, my life changed again. It was an amazing event, and I found the last bits of shame about my ‘disability’ disappearing into the mist. I became an advocate, and then a public speaker, adn finally a writer on issues pertaining to hearing loss. Twenty years after my first decision to write a book, I finally published «The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss.» So I deal with my hearing loss by talking about it and writing about it – it’s my passion.

Can you describe with an example which solutions you have found for your daily challenges?
We use so many strategies, that sometimes we don’t realize we are actually using them. When I speak to someone, I engage their eyes, helping them to feel more comfortable in maintaining eye contact. I have no shyness or discomfort about letting people know what I need, and that also helps eliminate awkwardness. In social settings, I situate myself to the most advantageous position. At the dining table, I usually sit in the middle and make sure the room is lit sufficiently. At meetings, I sit close to the leader of the meeeting, because people usually direct their comments to the group leader, making it easier for me to see their face clearly for better speechreading.

If we try to bluff our way through conversations, we’re going to get in trouble. When I was younger, at least one relationship ended because I gave the wrong answer!


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