When I learned Katherine Bouton would be coming to Seattle to promote a book she had just written about hearing loss, I got busy. I knew that this gifted, well-known author and former New York Times book editor would draw a crowd. Her personal stories would get Seattle talking about hearing loss. When Katherine reached out to us at HLA-WA, we arranged for her events to be fully hearing accessible, excited that so many people would be able to experience hearing accessible events.
Book tours and author readings are not held in hearing friendly venues. Keenly aware of how disappointing it is to attend an event and not be able to hear, and afterward, not be able to contribute to meaningful follow-up discussion, Katherine wanted to be sure everyone who came would be able to hear and participate. She requested assistive technology so all who attended would be able to do just that. She wanted a hearing accessible venue. Town Hall listened and Spencer Norby of Hearing Loops NW volunteered to install a temporary Hearing Loop for the event.
Katherine has experienced using a hearing loop; yet, the thrill of hearing clear, intelligible speech easily, is remarkable and empowering. This would be the first time she had given a Looped presentation where could hear and interact with the audience through the hearing loop.
Hear It Your Way
We arranged a HEAR HERE program format, which included a hearing loop, real time captioning, and an ASL interpreter. This trio of accommodations is essential to ensure all people and all degrees of hearing loss can have clear understanding. Hearing loss is a spectrum; there is no single solution that will accommodate everyone in every environment. This was truly a hearing accessible event!
Katherine Bouton’s reading of Shouting Won’t Help, Why I and 50 Million Americans Can’t Hear You drew over a hundred people at the downstairs Town Hall venue. To a full house, Katherine shared her secrets and told a story many might call their own. Too busy living, stunned by the stigma, she, like so many, allowed her pride to get in the way of taking care of herself. Unaware of what she was missing, mingled with denial and shame, she dismissed the severity of the problem as she bluffed colleagues and strategized to keep the secret.
The reading at the Bellevue Arts Museum looped auditorium was smaller and more intimate. In both talks, Katherine was open and genuine as she revealed how difficult hearing loss had been for her, largely because of her own inability to come to terms with it. Katherine explains that she spent years at The New York Times trying to hide her hearing loss. Her denial, combined with the associated stigma, kept her from asking for the help that she needed, and led her to withdraw from her life at her job, with her friends, in our busy—and noisy—world. She realizes now, that everyone would have helped—all she had to do was to ask.
Self-denial, lack of peer support, and fear of rejection was what Katherine kept coming back to, and one that many with hearing loss experience. Because hearing loss is silent and invisible, because it’s associated with old age, because people don’t want to be different or to ask for special accommodations—many with hearing loss suffer in self-denial and silence, cutting themselves off from the world.
This made me think of a post of Penelope Trunk’s on asking for help. What struck me as so relevant to Katherine’s story, are the first and second points that Penelope makes:
- Remember that people like to help. It feels good if it’s a defined task.
- Ask for help when you need it, regardless of when people typically need it.
Katherine describes the relief she felt when she finally came out to reveal her hearing loss. She was able to ask for, and receive, the help that she needed in order to hear. Remember, to ask for the help you need, when you need it.
Read Katherine’s fascinating and insightful book: Shouting Won’t Help, Why 50 Million Americans Can’t Hear You. Then pack it in your suitcase as you head to the Convention, where this hearing loss celebrity advocate will personally autograph your very own copy.
To learn more about Katherine Bouton, and to learn about her upcoming events, visit her website: www.katherinebouton.com.
All photos taken by Miguel Edwards: http://migueledwardsphotography.com/.