Living Better with Hearing Loss: An Interview with Katherine Bouton
Fri Jul 31, 2015 08:09 AMBy Amanda Farah Cox
Katherine Bouton lives with and writes about hearing loss. A blogger for AARP and member of the board of trustees for the HLAA, she published her first book, the hearing loss memoir Shouting Won’t Help, in February 2013. Katherine recently published a second book, on a subject dear to the Ida Institute’s mission: Living well with hearing loss. Living Better With Hearing Loss: A Guide to Health, Happiness, Love, Sex, Work... and Hearing Aids is, in her words, a one-stop point of information about everything related to hearing loss that she’s gathered over the years. “I have learned a tremendous amount about hearing loss in the past few years and through my writing I have an opportunity to share it,” she says. “I also get quite a bit of feedback from readers.” She answered a few questions for us about living with hearing loss and her new book via email. When did you first begin writing about hearing loss? I first started writing about hearing loss in 2010, after leaving The New York Times, where I had been an editor and sometime writer for 22 years. I left the Times because my hearing had deteriorated to the point where I couldn't do the work I wanted to, even with accommodations. I loved my job and liked the work routine and missed them terribly. Within a few months I began working on a proposal for my first book, Shouting Won't Help. Tell us about your hearing loss journey. I first lost my hearing in 1978, when I was 30. I lost much of the hearing in my left ear seemingly overnight. The doctor advised a hearing aid but hearing aids weren't very good in 1978 and I was young and didn't want to wear one. I managed with the good hearing in my right ear until I was in my early 50s. By then my right ear was also deteriorating and I got two hearing aids. By my early 60s, I was profoundly deaf in my left ear and had moderate to severe hearing loss in my right. I got a cochlear implant in the bad ear in 2009. I have just started to do auditory rehab with Geoff Plant at the Hearing Rehabilitation Foundation in the hope of bettering my speech comprehension. What are you hoping readers will gain from your new book? I wrote the new book because I realized I had a tremendous amount of practical advice that it had taken me years to accumulate. The book includes information that should be useful in any stage of the hearing loss journey: from first discovering you have a loss, to decisions about hearing aids and other assistive devices, to practical advice about things like job applications and airplane travel. Some chapters are for people with more severe hearing loss who may be considering a cochlear implant or who may need to boost performance with assistive-listening devices. I had the help of quite a few experts. I will edit and revise the book as technology brings new developments. What does it mean to you to live well with hearing loss? For me, it means continuing to function in the hearing world — seeing friends, going to the theater, working, being active and engaged with my family. That's accomplished partly through my hearing aid and cochlear implant, partly through assistive technology like a captioned telephone and a personal FM device. It's also accomplished thanks to accessibility in public places for the deaf and hard of hearing. Accessibility in the form of captioning (in movie theaters and legitimate theaters), induction looping, signage replacing megaphones or public-address systems. One big obstacle we in the United States need to overcome is the resistance by insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids, which can run up to $4000 for a single aid. What should friends and family of a person with hearing loss know about hearing loss? How to talk to someone with hearing loss. Among the things I stress are: - Only one speaker at a time. - Look at me when you speak and don't talk with your mouth full. I need to read your lips. - If I don't get something the first time you say it, and especially after the second time, NEVER say "never mind, it isn't important." Paraphrase it. I'll get it more easily once I begin to establish the context. - Speak in a clear normal voice. Shouting won't help! - Try to keep a sense of humor — that one's for myself as well as my family.