Shari Eberts – Partnering for Advocacy
My Hearing Loss Journey
I first noticed my hearing loss in my mid-20s, but my hearing loss journey began well before watching my father struggle with his own hearing issues. He would do anything to keep it a secret often isolating himself at social events and wearing his hair long to hide his hearing aids. His behaviors taught me that hearing loss was shameful and something never to be discussed. So, when I developed hearing loss myself, I followed in his footsteps. I was embarrassed and ashamed and would do almost anything to avoid admitting that I couldn’t hear.
But then I had children, and everything changed. Because my adult-onset hearing loss is genetic I always worried that I would pass it onto them. I saw them watching me do the same things that I had seen my father do and knew I was passing on the same stigma and embarrassment to the next generation. In order to break the cycle, I had to accept my hearing loss. So, I did.
Rather than hiding my hearing loss, I started being very open about it. I hoped that by sharing my story, I could help break down the stigmas surrounding hearing loss so that if my children ever do develop it, the world will be more open, more accepting, and easier to navigate.
My blog—LivingWithHearingLoss.com—started almost as therapy for myself to work through all that I was feeling about my hearing loss, but it grew from there. I began writing for other outlets too, hoping to raise awareness about hearing loss in the mainstream. I also started writing for hearing industry publications to share the person-with-hearing-loss’ perspective with audiologists and manufacturers. The better the industry understands the lived hearing loss experience, the better equipped they will be to embrace person-centered care.
Partnering with Others to Enhance Advocacy
During the pandemic I discovered the power of partnering with other advocates for greater impact. Working with others is also a lot of fun!
“We Hear You”—A Documentary about the Lived Hearing Loss Experience
During the pandemic, I worked with 2 other advocates to co-executive produce We Hear You, a documentary about the lived hearing loss experience. Our initial goal was to help the hearing loss community feel seen—we are often overlooked in media depictions of hearing difficulties. But our goals soon expanded. We wanted to educate those outside the hearing loss community about what they could do to help too. The film has even won a few awards.
Recently we screened it an aging conference where it was very well received. In July, Google hosted a viewing and discussion of the film as part of its Disability Pride events. A big thank you to Soundfair for including “We Hear You” in their terrific Unheard Stories Film Festival. We hope to continue to share the film as widely as we can. Any suggestions are welcome!
Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss
As a fiercely independent writer, it was hard to imagine partnering on a writing project, but when fellow-advocate Gael Hannan asked if I wanted to work on a book together, I jumped at the chance. We both quickly learned that two voices can be better than one. “Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss” was born.
Our life experiences are different, but once we realized that we utilized many of the same strategies to live well with hearing loss, we knew we had a winner. We hope “Hear & Beyond” is the survival guide that people with hearing loss, their families, friends, caregivers, and hearing care team will use to enhance life with hearing loss. We would love to see it incorporated into the curriculum for audiology students as well.
Women in Hearing Health Provides Network of Support
Thank you so much for including me in this terrific community of women in hearing health! Sometimes women have different challenges than men do, so it’s great to have this additional sounding board and this unique opportunity to support one other.
As I say in the podcast:
We are powerful. We are strong. We understand what it's like to be vulnerable. We have shared goals and are well positioned to move the industry forward based on empathy, caring, and quality care that is not just about the technology. It's about the full gamut of the experience of living well with hearing loss and we've got it. And we can support one another in doing it.
If you'd like to connect with Shari please do so via her socials:
Linked in: @ShariEberts
Shari's podcast on WiHH available here: