Meet our latest guest, Katherine Bouton. Katherine is an author, a frequent public speaker, and an advocate/educator for the deaf and hard of hearing. We bet most of you remember the book that many in the Hard of Hearing (HoH) community celebrated, Shouting Won’t Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can’t Hear You. It came out in 2013 and we were thrilled that it brought more awareness to hearing loss.
Her most recent book, Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills, and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss (2018) is an update of Living Better with Hearing Loss (2015) and contains more current information on over the counter hearing aids, and other devices coming onto the market. (Find out more about Katherine’s books on her author page on Amazon.) She also has a long running blog called Smart Hearing.
Katherine is a cochlear implant user and wears a hearing aid. She’s been at the bottom of hearing loss and found her way through it all to become an advocate for others too.
During the Hearing Loss LIVE! podcast, the four of us talked about many things hearing loss:
- The stigma
- Being deaf in noise
- Over the counter (OTC) hearing aids coming out late this summer
- Assistive listening is great and so are captions. “Captions are the wheelchair ramp for the deaf.” (She credits Arlene Romoff with that quote, read more about this on her blog.)
Here in the Hearing Loss LIVE! blog, we get to expand on topics we didn’t have time for on the podcast.
Julia Loves Connections
Shall I be a broken record?
Connections get us in the KNOW! There are many technical books about hearing loss. Lots of scientific studies. But not a lot on self discovery and hearing loss. When we write about our experiences—positive or negative—we find someone who thought they were the only ones.
Katherine talked to us about her days at the New York Times and hearing loss. We don’t often talk about hearing loss, the workplace, or the ADA. Truth is, we should be talking about it.
People learn from those that came before. With their prior experience, they can share what they did right or wrong. They know why it is SO important to speak your hearing loss truth and request equal accessibility in your work setting. It’s hard to be the first to speak up. However, when we do, we expand accommodations for all that come after us. In a perfect world, business settings would stop hiding behind their interpretation of the ADA and trust their employees with the request made. This is an investment in the employee, a loyal employee. This should be the way no matter the size of the company.
I encourage you all to join hearing loss support groups. One of the best things to come out of COVID-19 is that many HLAA Chapters meet online. (Here is the NYC Chapter meeting page.) If you have a local chapter, share invites to other HLAA state chapters to join your local meeting. Knowledge and experience happens when we get together and create a community of support.
“One of us! One of us!” Chelle’s Chant
That’s the chant that goes through my head when I get into a good conversation with other advocates. We all start out at the bottom of hearing loss. We go through all the muck and mess of it. When we are able to pull ourselves together, we usually go on to help others too. Katherine does that so we enjoyed talking with her.
Katherine brought up that she thinks stress can make hearing loss worse. Yes! In 2007 I was under an incredible amount of stress and that’s when my hearing took a big dip. I didn’t notice the drop because of everything going on, a coworker did. She took me outside one day and told me she noticed I was missing a lot more than usual. She suggested going to get my hearing checked.
Stress & Hearing Loss
Curious, I went in for another hearing test. My hearing aids were two years old and it hadn’t been long since we did my annual test. The audiologist resisted doing the test. “No one’s hearing changes that fast.” I pushed him for it because I wanted verification one way or another. After the test, he looked at me defeated. “Your hearing dropped a lot. There are no other hearing aids right now that will fit that kind of hearing loss. You’ll have to make do with what you have.” That was a real crusher. I remember using the music program a lot for a better chance at undering speech. I kept those hearing aids for 6 years all together, making do.
Thinking back from there, I realized my last big drop in hearing happened while I was going through a divorce. That’s when I went from in the ear canal hearing aids to behind the ear models. So I do believe stress affects the body in all kinds of ways, including hearing drops.
Michele‘s Passion for Spreading Awareness and Advocacy
Like many, finding a tribe of Hard of Hearing (HoH) peers brought the most profound change to my journey with hearing loss. It opened my eyes to the magnitude of the HoH community and taught me I was not alone. Exchanging stories and experiences with others who understand exactly what life with hearing loss is like, because they face the same challenges of a communication barrier, proved empowering. I regained my confidence and it was the start of my becoming a better self advocate and wanting to share the same with others by volunteering.
A big part of my volunteer effort was with the SayWhatClub and in 2011 I began helping with the management of their public Facebook page. That led to searching for hearing loss-related content to share there. After Katherine’s memoir Shouting Won’t Help debuted, I began reading her “What I Hear” blog on Psychology Today, where she explored the experience of losing her hearing as an adult, and I shared those articles on social media. I still share her blog and news articles.
In looking back in my email archives, I realize I began sharing Katherine’s writing, or articles written by others about her, even before I started sharing her blog articles:
- August, 2, 2012 op-ed article in the NYT, “Sound Bites”
- February 15, 2013 NPR Author Interview, “Author Katherine Bouton Opens Up About Going Deaf”
- March 1, 2013 NYT book review by Seth S. Horowitz, “The Sound of Silence”
- March 10, 2013 USA Today article, “How to talk to a hearing impaired person? Don’t shout”
I am very thankful that Katherine chose to become an advocate and to use her platform as a journalist to speak publicly about her hearing loss experience. She has brought much needed attention to the HoH community.
We need more advocates sharing facts that clear up misconceptions that the world has about hearing loss. It is going to take more of us speaking up for our community and our needs to become more widely recognized and accommodated. It was a pleasure spending time with Katherine and collaborating on our podcast.
Meet Katherine in person online yourself…
Katherine is the president of the Hearing Loss Association of America, New York City Chapter. Their next meeting will be September 20th 6:00 – 7:30 PM EST. The meetings are online and open to anyone. In September they have Hearing Professionals with Hearing Loss. “A panel discussion featuring ENT’s and audiologists who will talk about how their hearing affects their work as clinicians. The panelists range in age (some newly minted, some newly retired) and hearing histories.” The registration link will be added late August. Hearing Loss LIVE! will share the link too.
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