Hearing loss is difficult to understand unless you have experienced it yourself.
When you have hearing loss, friends and family often wonder why you can hear well in certain situations, but not in others. Or why you want to crank up the volume on the television but are bothered by other loud noises. Sometimes we don’t fully understand it ourselves. And unless they have hearing loss too, neither do our audiologists, which creates a barrier to person-centered care.
When clinicians have a better sense of the emotions and frustrations that accompany hearing loss, it is easier for them to identify with their patients. And when they see the ways that hearing loss impacts their clients at work, at play, or in a medical setting, they can better tailor their recommendations to each person’s situation.
This is where 'We Hear You' comes in, a documentary released in April 2021 about – and produced by – women with hearing loss, including myself.
We hope the film will allow audiologists to develop a deeper understanding of the lived experience of people with hearing loss, giving them insights and inspiring empathy that they can use to make their practice more person-centered.
Illuminating the hearing loss experience
'We Hear You' touches on stigma and the challenges that people with hearing loss face in everyday communication, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But it also shares the silver linings of hearing loss, such as meeting people you might not have otherwise met and the power of peer support.
Conceived, filmed, and directed across two continents, all during the pandemic, the documentary features four women, each navigating stigmas, setbacks, and successes as they strive to live well despite the challenges of hearing loss.
Toni lives in the hearing world, but due to a profound hearing loss she does not hear enough to discern speech. She lipreads very well, except for the one time it mattered most.
Roxana began losing her hearing when she moved to the US from Venezuela to start her own film and TV distribution company. Hearing aids worked, then didn’t. Cochlear implants allowed her to re-engage with her business and her life.
Holly was in her early twenties when she was diagnosed with hearing loss. She lived in denial for ten years, until one work meeting when she could not follow the discussion. Wearing hearing aids changed her life. Hearing loss has formed her, not defined her.
And me. I grew up watching my father struggle with his own hearing loss. Stigmatized, he never asked anyone to repeat or speak louder. I vowed I would face my own hearing loss differently, and I have.
Recognition from the film industry
Since its release, 'We Hear You' has been attracting attention, not only in the world of hearing loss, but also on the international film festival circuit.
It was recently named Best Film on Disability at the June 2021 awards of the Cannes World Film Festival. As a monthly winner, the film is entered into the annual competition for a chance to become a grand winner and be screened in Cannes during the festival’s annual Award Ceremony in 2022.
In August, 'We Hear You' also received an Award of Merit for Disability Issues in The IndieFEST Film Awards.
We continue to seek opportunities to raise awareness about hearing loss and are marketing the documentary to television stations and streaming services and submitting it to other film festivals.
By shining a light on the hearing loss experience, we strive to build awareness, community, and a more inclusive world for all.
Learn more about the film at www.we-hearyou.com.
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker, and avid Bikram yogi. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus. She also serves on the Board of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Her e-book, “Person-centered Care from the Patient’s Perspective”, details her experience living with hearing loss. She hopes the book will provide audiologists with valuable insights they can use to make their practices more person-centered. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.