From: New York, NY
Shari first noticed that she had trouble hearing when she was attending business school in her mid-20s.
"Students were participating in class," she says, "and I would sometimes miss their comments; particularly the funny ones that were made almost as an aside."
Knowing that her father and his mother had both experienced adult-onset hearing loss, she decided to get her hearing checked. Her evaluation revealed that she had mild hearing loss in both ears, which has progressed to moderate loss today. She was fit with hearing aids, but didn’t yet embrace them.
"Despite my family history of hearing loss, I remained in denial about the realities of my own hearing loss for many years; hiding my hearing aids or refusing to wear them, even when I needed them," she says. "I began to withdraw socially and at work, worried that I would be put in situations where I would not be able to function well or would need to tell others about my hearing issues."
Once Shari had children of her own, she began to look at her hearing loss differently. Knowing they may be genetically inclined to develop hearing difficulties, she decided to become a hearing health role model for them and embraced hearing technology.
"If they did have an issue, I didn’t want them to feel embarrassed of it the way I did," she remembers. "I wanted them to seek treatment and to live positively despite the challenges of hearing loss. I began wearing my hearing aids all the time and talking about my hearing loss with them and other people."
Accepting and overcoming her hearing loss has benefitted Shari’s life in various ways. "I no longer avoid social interactions, which has helped strengthen my relationships with family and friends. Coming clean about my hearing loss has given me the courage to ask for the assistance I need to hear my best in a variety of situations. Plus, I find that being open about my hearing issues takes the pressure off of having to hear everything perfectly all the time—and what a relief that is."
Since addressing her hearing loss, Shari's hearing devices have helped her become an advocate for herself and others. She began her own blog, LivingWithHearingLoss.com, which is widely read today. She serves on the board of the Hearing Health Foundation, where she helped launch their Hearing restoration project, a "consortium of scientists working on a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus." She's also active with the Hearing Loss Association of America's New York City chapter.
"I have come to understand how important it is to advocate for yourself when you have a hearing loss," she says. "Because hearing loss is invisible, people may not know that you need help unless you ask for it."
Shari serves as a hearing health role model by:
Shari seeks to show anyone with hearing difficulties how accepting and embracing hearing aids can change their lives.
"Unfortunately," she says, "there are very few [high-profile] role models for living successfully with hearing loss. While many of us are doing it, not many prominent people are willing to speak out about their hearing loss, perhaps due to the associated stigma that still exists." Shari hopes to help people see past that stigma and create a world where no one is embarrassed about their hearing difficulties.
"[If my children develop hearing difficulties], I am confident that they will understand the strategies for success."
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