Advocate against hearing loss

 

Gael Hannan is a name you might not recognize. But the community theatre actress has been performing across the continent and winning awards for years all for speaking her mind. With a touch of humour, this Toronto woman tells it like it is to be hard of hearing: “I’ve been wearing hearing aids for almost 40-years and they’re my favourite thing.”

Gael’s world is quieter than most. And has been all her life. The why is unknown. What is clear. Gael misses any sound under 75 decibels: “So really without my hearing aids I’m functionally deaf. With my hearing aids, I’m very connected.”

Her first two decades were spent without these tiny devices she treasures. The thinking at the time was that hearing aids would worsen her condition: “I got my hearing aids, my first one, when I was 20 and it was life changing. I heard sounds I never heard. The letter ‘s’, which even now is difficult for me to hear. But it was very life changing.”

Helping others live well with hearing loss has become a mission for Gael: “Communication is the glue that connects people together. And when you have a hearing loss, whether it’s mild or it’s profound, it affects how you communicate with your family, with your children, with your grandchildren.”

A writer with a background in theatre, Gael developed this one woman play back in the early 90’s. ‘Unheard Voices’ is an often humourous look at hearing loss. It was her first performance piece, and triggered a wave of north american speaking engagements. “It kind of snowballed from there. I became very involved. I write a weekly column, blog for hearing health matters, for different magazines. And that’s my passion.”

Beyond keynote performances, Gael does awareness training and workshops. She also is lobbying the government for better coverage: “Hearing aids are very, very expensive. And that’s something as advocates we’re constantly saying we need more support for our hearing aids. It’s a medical device. Why are we paying so much money for that.”

She points out there is still a stigma around hearing loss. And that often prevents people from acknowledging the condition: “It takes a lot of strength to say for the first time I have hearing loss. I need to do something about it. It’s a real journey. But when you do and when you can be open and say this is what I need, life changes.”

Gael Hannan is coming to Hamilton Wednesday night. She’s the keynote speaker for a meeting of the Hamilton Branch of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. The event at South Gate Presbyterian Church, 120 Clarendon Avenue in Hamilton, begins at 7pm. Admission is free for members, with a $5.00 donation for non-members. To register, contact 905- 575-4964 or email: chha-hamilton.newsletter@shaw.ca

3 COMMENTS

    • Very true, Michele. I read the accompanying article before watching the video and the interview virtually follows the script, so I was able to fill in some missed pieces. Nonetheless, the entire interview should have been open captioned. I can see no excuse for no captioning. <3

  1. Agree with comment by Michele- totally! especially for this. All media online needs quality captioning, now! And the title of the story, is more or less, well, strange!

    We know Gael and she’s a fantastic wonderful advocate for all people who have hearing loss – it’s not preventable for millions (it’s genetic), while for some others, it is (noise reduction). Yet whatever form of hearing loss we have, humor helps, and so does Gael.

    Lauren/deafened – founder of CCACaptioning.org, all volunteer advocates

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