“Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues.” says the beginning of her “about the author” section of her new book Hear and Beyond: Living Skillfully With Hearing Loss
Ben Thompson, AuD.
Over the past few years, my focus has been on tinnitus and what I know is that for many people, tinnitus is their primary concern in the auditory hearing space. But a secondary concern that is also relevant is hearing loss. Having tinnitus usually means having some degree of hearing loss, and today, we are here with Shari Eberts who is going to speak about her personal journey and her career journey in creating resources and creating a community about how to live skillfully with hearing loss. Shari, please explain a bit about who you are and what you’ve done for the community of hearing and tinnitus.
Absolutely and thank you, Ben, for inviting me to be on your podcast. So I am a hearing health advocate, writer, and speaker about hearing loss issues. I first noticed my hearing loss in my mid-20s and I was very stigmatized by it. My father had hearing loss as well. And so I really didn’t see a positive role model in terms of hearing loss. But when I had children of my own, I realized that my job now was to be that positive role model. And so that really inspired me to go out and try and lower stigma about hearing loss, share my journey about hearing loss, and also tinnitus which I do have as well in the hopes of breaking down these stigmas and helping other people to live more easily and now skillfully with my new book (Hear and Beyond) coming out with their hearing loss and tinnitus as well.
Ben Thompson, AuD.
We’re going to talk more in detail about your process of writing this book, why it’s important, how it’s helping people. Let’s go back years ago. Tell us out that period of time between when you started to step into this space of advocacy, of creating media about hearing loss, about tinnitus, about these important hearing and brain conditions, talk us through the journey of what were those turning points, what were those influential periods of time when you took even a deeper dive into this community and you saw it helping people in their day-to-day life with their hearing.
Yeah, no, thanks for asking about that. It’s been such a rewarding journey actually, because when I first started doing my blog, I have a blog at livingwithhearingloss.com, it was almost all for therapy for myself really to sort of just get out of that period of denial with my hearing loss. I think that’s one of the hardest things for people, is to just accept that they have this new challenge in their life that’s not going away. And there are things you can do about it but it’s still just something that’s it’s hard to accept in yourself. So when I first started writing the blog, I would put things out into the ether and I was really amazed at the response.
So the first post was actually about Thanksgiving and we were heading out to my in-laws for, you know, our typical big family Thanksgiving. And I was just worried if I was going to be able to participate in the way that I would like because of my hearing loss. And I was just getting started with hearing aids. I didn’t know how they were going to work in this, you know, big table with lots of people talking at once. And so I put out my own fears and my own thoughts about that. And then, as part of writing it, I said, okay, well here are some things that I could do and sort of listed it out almost for myself and put it out there and I got so many people reading it and so many comments from people that were feeling the same way. And I just realized how much we need each other as people with hearing loss and tinnitus in terms of supporting one another.
I think that peer support is just such an incredible part of living successfully and skillfully with any challenge, and in particular, hearing loss and tinnitus. So really, it started with the blog. And then, I wanted to also help educate the mainstream about hearing loss because I think part of the problem and part of the stigma that we put on ourselves is that hearing loss is just not understood well by other people. So people turn it into a joke or they don’t know how to help us. And so I started writing for more mainstream outlets as well, just trying to get the word out that, you know, hearing loss is not this crazy thing. It’s actually very, very prevalent. There’s almost 50 million people in the United States that have some degree of hearing loss and to just raise awareness about it.
Ben Thompson, AuD.
And then, you, yourself, are living day to day with your own family, with your own life, with your own career. Would you mind telling us how hearing conditions affect your life? And then, we can transition into talking about your new book, Hear and Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss. I would like to think you, Shari, at least, are living skillfully with hearing loss. Tell us about your own life and how it becomes relevant.
Well, living every day with hearing loss is definitely challenging. But there are many ways that you can live skillfully. And that, as you said, was sort of part of the reason why Gael Hannan and I wanted to write this book together because we both have this history of times when we weren’t living well with our hearing loss and we’ve came to sort of these same tips and tricks and tools and workarounds that we both use in order to live skillfully and that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, right? So every day in my life, some days are easy. Some days are not easy and that’s just part of a normal hearing loss life, certain situations when there’s a lot of background noise or if you can’t get captions on a Zoom webinar are going to be difficult.
And then, there are other days where perhaps you’re in situations where you have more control over the environment and you can really do a better job in terms of managing that communication. And then, those are good days. And tinnitus can also impact it because when my tinnitus is sort of acting up, which for me, I’m lucky that it is mostly seasonal, sort of in that change of seasons when it starts to get colder in the winter, you know, days like that make it very difficult to live with your hearing loss and to communicate as well, because you’ve got this additional challenge of other background noise, which is, you know, in your head, it’s not even in the background which can make it very challenging.
Ben Thompson, AuD.
And did you ever feel like your tinnitus was overwhelming and you needed help or something to do to reduce it? I mean, have you been in that state with your tinnitus before?
Yeah, I mean it can be very challenging. Like I said, I’m lucky that it is seasonal. So now when it comes up, you know, in November I have that awareness that this isn’t going to be permanent and that, you know, definitely helps a lot. I also have found that meditation works a lot for me in terms of managing the tinnitus, trying to sort of keep it under control. But maybe even more importantly, managing how I react to it because it’s one of these things where it is a little bit outside of our control but we can choose how we react to it and how we hope to live with. And so that, for me, has been the most helpful thing in terms of meditation.
But also, like I was talking about before in terms of peer support, because I feel like anytime I can talk to someone about my hearing loss or about my tinnitus, in some ways, it makes me feel a little bit better because you know that you’re not alone with it, and you see how others are managing it, and maybe you learn something from them, and you can share some of your experiences too. So peer support I think is hugely helpful.
Ben Thompson, AuD.
Thank you, so Shari, now let’s transition into Hear and Beyond. The core message of (Hear and Beyond) is that there are tools. There are strategies. There are therapies. There’s technology that, all coming together, can allow us to live the best life possible with hearing loss. Tell us more about what is the core message. What is the information that you want to transfer to someone who maybe is where you were 20 years ago or 15 years ago? You know, what are those core messages or those core skills that someone should be thinking about maybe to lead to an action or a behavior change?
That’s a great question. And we have so much packed into the book that it’s hard to pick just one. But I think our primary message is that you can live well with your hearing loss and there are ways to do it. And so what we try and lay out in the book is a series of strategies. And we sort of have three main ones which we describe as a three-legged stool because we all know that a three-legged stool never wobbles because you’ve got sort of these three supports that help with the balance.
And so the first one is really changing your attitudes about hearing loss and we call that mind shifts. Because, again, the way that you approach it and the way you think about things is so critical to being able to live well with it. So we devote sort of a whole section of Hear and Beyond in terms of attitude.
And then, also technology is a big piece of it, not just hearing aids and cochlear implants, although those are very important, but also assistive listening devices. Apps can be very helpful and even external accommodations like CART or hearing loops. So we want to make sure that people with hearing loss who read this book know about the wide variety of options that they have in terms of technology.
And then, the third leg of the stool is these non-technical communication game changers we call them. so things that we can do to take charge of a hearing situation. So identifying as someone with hearing loss, learning to avoid bluffing which is a hard thing to do. And then, we’ve created a tool which we call hear which will allow you to transform any difficult hearing situation into one that’s better. And we ask people really to focus, not just on hearing better, but learning to communicate better because that’s really the point. That’s what it’s all about.
Ben Thompson, AuD.
It’s true, anything we’re doing for treating hearing loss is an avenue to improve your communication and communication is how we love, how we celebrate, how we express emotions. It’s the innate part of being human. So you’re doing really noble work and tell us how we can find your Hear and Beyond and when exactly it’s released.
So Hear and Beyond is coming out on May 3rd. We’re very excited about that but it is available for pre-order now on Amazon, and really, any online book retailer. You can visit our website which is hearandbeyond.com and there are the links to all the different places where you can pre-order the Hear and Beyond. And if you do pre-order it, you can email us a receipt at email@example.com. And then, we are going to be having on May 19th a talk back with the authors. So as a thank you gift for pre-ordering, we’ll have an invite for you for a Zoom meeting with us and we’re really hoping that the people will make it for that. Because we love to just talk about strategies with people one on one.
About Hear And Beyond
The hearing loss journey doesn’t come with an operating manual—until now.
If you have hearing loss, you already know that the conventional approach to treatment is focused on hearing-aid technology. What’s missing from this hearing care model is the big picture—a real-life illustration of how hearing loss, its emotions, and its barriers affect every corner of your life.
Now, hearing-health advocates Shari Eberts and Gael Hannan offer a new skills-based approach to hearing loss that is centered not on hearing better, but on communicating better.
With honesty and humor, they share their own hearing loss journeys, and outline invaluable insights, strategies, and workarounds to help you engage with the world and be heard.
Hear and Beyond is the how-to guide they wish they’d had at the start of their hearing loss journeys.