Zoom Fatigue for People with Hearing Loss

Zoom fatigue is real, as an article in National Geographic lays out very clearly: “‘Zoom Fatigue’ may be with us for years. Here’s how we’ll cope.

But let me just say that the author of this article has no idea what Zoom fatigue is like for people with hearing loss. We don’t just endure those long sessions, we read them, one word at a time.

It reminds me of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers quip: She did everything he did, but backwards and in high heels.

The image below is a screenshot of a webinar I attended this week. There was PowerPoint (the big box), the speaker (postage stamp, right), live captions (bottom three lines), and captions in context (called “full transcript,” box at the right). This is an example of good captioning — and it’s probably still making you feel just a bit dizzy.

Last week I was on a two-hour Zoom meeting with less than adequate captions. Bad captions, actually. The captions appeared — as these do — as three short lines at a time, at the bottom of a text-heavy powerpoint, but they were much shorter, and pretty meaningless. (I wish I’d taken a screenshot.) To provide context for those free-floating three lines, I clicked on “full transcript”. Full transcript was also three lines at a time, though it gave me five or six segments of three-line text. These three lines are not three sentences. They are arbitrary selections of a certain number of words that would appear on a screen. An arbitrary 10-15 words, whether or not they are complete sentences.

At the meeting last week, I supplemented the provided captions with my own IPhone caption app, Otter. (If you have an Android phone, you can do the same with Google Live Transcribe.) It was a little better, with enough text to provide context. But even Otter was not up to a speaker who spoke too fast, used too many unfamiliar technical terms and acronyms, and was not thinking about who was listening. This was a meeting for people with disabilities, so there was also an ASL interpreter on the screen.

Recently Zoom announced that it would provide free captioning if the originator of the meeting asked for it. This is thanks in part to Shari Eberts’ petition to get Zoom to provide captioning for people with hearing loss. Thank you again Shari. A host can also add Otter captions to a presentation.

Google Meet provides free captions, in a dedicated black box at the bottom of the screen. The captions appear in more or less full sentences. It’s a good ASR system. But Google Meet hosts only smaller meetings.

If a Zoom speaker uses PowerPoint, that adds to the burden for the attendee with hearing loss. The PowerPoint occupies most of the screen, the speaker is postage-stamp size and it’s hard to speech read. Often even after the formal presentation has concluded, the speaker leaves the PowerPoint up, on the screen. So there’s no relief for the hearing-compromised attendee.

Help! We need some new protocols for on-line presentations.

Here are some suggestions for speakers and hosts: Speak slowly and clearly. If you are using PowerPoint, make it text light, not text heavy. If you must repeat the words on the slides in your oral presentation, then make sure you say the same thing – otherwise our eyes are shifting back and forth between the slide and the captions. Provide key words and names to the CART captioner in advance of the meeting. Take down the Power Point when the formal presentation is over, so it’s no longer covering the majority of the screen. CART captioners should set their output directly to Zoom and (this is technical) not use the API third party token.

Despite these troubles, I love ZOOM. Even bad captions make meetings accessible to me that would otherwise not be. Any Zoom meeting is much easier to follow than an uncaptioned in-person meeting.

I want to thank Ann H. Logan for pointing out the National Geographic article in a post on her blog AbyCats’ Thoughts.


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.

Back to Basics

I sometimes forget how surprised and dismayed people are by the loss of their hearing, how much of a hidden disability it remains. I was reminded of this when I attended a virtual meeting this week of the New York City Chapter of The Hearing Loss Association of America. The speaker was Michael A. Harvey, a clinical psychologist whose books include Listen with the Heart: Relationships and Hearing Loss and The Odyssey of Hearing Loss: Tales of Triumph. Dr. Harvey’s talk clearly resonated with a lot of people, and during the question and answer session I saw how many in the audience were struggling as I had back in 2009, when my hearing loss derailed me.

My first blog post was published on February 11, 2013, on the Psychology Today website. I called the blog What I Hear, and it was intended both for people who had hearing loss and for those who didn’t. I didn’t realize how great the need for information was until I published my book “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You.”

This was one of my very first readings, and possibly the first time I ever saw CART captioning.

The response from the hearing community was gratifying. There was a lot of curiosity about the hearing-loss experience. I did many interviews and the book got good mainstream-media reviews.  The response from the hearing-loss community was also gratifying but in a profoundly different way. People reacted to my book emotionally. My experience was theirs. We shared the confusion, anger, distress and depression of learning to live with hearing loss.

When I was writing Shouting Won’t Help, I interviewed dozens of people across the country with hearing loss, I talked to doctors and researchers about the causes and treatments for hearing loss, and to psychologists and psychiatrists about the emotional effects of hearing loss. Their stories — and their wisdom — complemented my own story.

The two most important things I learned were 1) Most people with hearing loss feel isolated and alone. And 2) Most people who know people with hearing loss have no idea what they are going through.

In recent years, I’ve lost sight of that basic response to hearing loss and I realize I need to go back to some of those essential issues, to help others with hearing loss understand that their experiences are normal and shared by many. And to offer suggestions for living with hearing loss — practical suggestions from how to explain your hearing loss to someone, to the many apps and devices that help minimize the affect of hearing loss, to asking for and getting accommodations in public places.

Hearing loss affects 50 million Americans of all ages. It’s not just for the old. Sixty percent of men with hearing loss first lost their hearing between the ages of 19 and 44, according to the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the NIDCD. For women the peak age of onset is between 40 and 59.  Even teenagers are affected at an alarming rate. One in five teenagers has some degree of hearing loss.

I began to lose my hearing at age 30, from unknown causes. Today I have a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. I went through difficult times, and in fact my day still involves overcoming one hearing obstacle after another. But I’m no longer devastated by my loss, and most of the time I’m no longer angry. I live with hearing loss every minute of every day. But I’m no longer “hearing impaired.” It no longer defines me. Now I’m a person with hearing loss. A person first, who happens to have hearing loss.

I welcome comments and suggestions for topics readers would like to see addressed.


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.

Seeing Hearing Loss

This week I’m going to refer you to a post by my friend and colleague Shari Eberts:

A New Take on the Audiogram Designed by Someone with Hearing Loss.

Her post is about Jay Alan Zimmerman’s new way of measuring hearing. He calls it the Hearing Visualizer. Jay’s idea is brilliant, simple, and emphasizes the positive. It focuses on what you CAN hear. Not on what you CAN’T.

If you’d like to watch Jay’s captioned presentation (it’s short and very entertaining, as well as informative. … Click on the video and then click on “Watch This Video on YouTube.”


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.

“Crip Camp”: When Disability Rights Became Civil Rights

Last July I wrote about the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George Bush in July 1990. I wrote about how dramatically it changed life for people with disabilities, and how fortunate I felt to be a beneficiary of this act. My post was called What the ADA Means to Me.  

Now a stunning documentary, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, charts the origins of the disability-rights movement, which culminated (but did not end) with the signing of the ADA.

The story begins in 1971 at Camp Jened, a summer camp in the Catskills for teenagers with disabilities. Many of them had severe disabilities, but the loose, free spirit of Camp Jened allowed them to act like teenagers – dancing, smoking pot, making out. Their exuberance is contagious. It also gave them a chance to discuss the experience of disability in its many forms.

The opening scene of the movie is a home video of a toddler, James LeBrecht, born with spina bifida, literally catapulting himself around his parents’ home, throwing himself up stairs, metaphorically swinging from the chandeliers. We next see him in 1971 at Camp Jened, wheeling himself with the same jubilance he had as a toddler. LeBrecht, who directed, produced, wrote and is a central character in the documentary, is just one of the activists who got their start at Camp Jened and went on to change the world.

Judith Heumann lost the use of her legs to polio when she was two. Even at camp, she was clearly a leader. She would later become a noted disability-rights activist and was named Special Advisor for International Disability Rights by President Obama. (Barack and Michelle Obama are executive producers of “Crip Camp.”) Denise Sherer Jacobson, born with cerebral palsy, met her future husband, Neil Jacobson, who also had cerebral palsy, at Camp Jened. “Why do you have to marry a handicapped girl?” his parents asked when he told them he and Denise were getting married. “Why can’t you find a polio?” Heumann and the Jacobsons, as well as James LeBrecht, the force behind this film, are just a few of those whose independence and spirit were fostered by Camp Jened.

In 1977, Judith Heumann led a groundbreaking protest in San Francisco, called the Section 504 sit-in. Disability activists occupied a federal building for almost a month, demanding greater accessibility for all. Their victory was euphoric, but very soon they realized it wasn’t enough.

“I’m tired of being thankful for accessible toilets,” Heumann says. “If I have to be thankful for an accessible bathroom, when am I ever gonna be equal in the community?”

Two years after the Section 504 sit-in, Judith Neumann led people with disabilities from all over the country to Washington D.C. to stage a protest at the Capitol. The footage of demonstrators pulling themselves up the Capitol steps, because there were no wheelchair ramps, made me gasp.

In a 2016 Ted talk, Heumann told some of the stories behind the protest, including her own. As a child who lost the use of her legs to polio, she was told by a school official that she could not go to school because she was a “fire hazard.” Don’t worry, the principal said, we’ll send someone to your home, which they did, for a total of two and a half hours a week. Judy was eventually allowed to go to school, but when she got to high school, not one New York City high school was accessible. Her friends carried her up the steps. After she got a degree in teaching, she easily passed the written and oral tests to apply for her teaching license. But then came the physical test. “How do you go to the bathroom?” an interviewer asked her.

In her Ted talk, Heumann reminds us that, 40 years on, there’s still work left to do. Denise and and Neil Jacobson are still married and still activists, whizzing around Oakland in their mobilized wheelchairs, Denise’s graying hair highlighted with purple. What an extraordinary group of people. The movie is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It’s now available on Netflix.

The fight for equality is not over. Last week, Edith Prentiss, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, died in New York at age 69. A fierce activist, Edith seemed to be everywhere in her motorized wheelchair, making her voice heard – making all our voices heard. In the words of Victor Calise, New York City’s Commissioner for People with Disabilities, she was an advocate “for everyone and anyone, understanding that the disability rights movement was not just for people who use wheelchairs but for every person with every type of disability.”


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.

The Return of Social Anxiety?

Tips for Post-Pandemic Life.

On the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of Covid as a pandemic, we are beginning to see the light ahead. Vaccine numbers are soaring, restaurants are offering indoor dining, people are traveling. Pandemic “pods” are expanding to include more than the two or three friends or family that many have depended on for company. Soon enough, there will be weddings, awards ceremonies, even private parties. Are you ready?

I’m not. But I’m working on it.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Re-entry anxiety is not just for people with hearing loss. There are dozens of Google entries discussing the phenomenon, some of them a little premature, like one back in August in Psychology Today, which suggested starting small and working with a re-entry buddy to help build confidence. Emma Warnock-Parkes, a clinical psychologist and researcher on social anxiety disorder at Oxford University, says this anxiety is perfectly normal: Quoted this week in the Guardian, she said, “We’ve all been social deprived this last year, and when you haven’t done something for a while, it can be a bit strange going back into it.” Don’t avoid social situations, though, she advises: “Avoidance incubates anxiety.”

But my social anxiety– and yours too probably, if you’re reading this – is compounded by my hearing loss. Even one-on-one conversation in a relatively quiet space can be difficult, especially if people continue to wear masks. For most of us, conversation of any sort in a group or social setting is a challenge, and an even larger one when we can’t read lips.

So what can we do to prepare?

I like the idea of a re-entry buddy. Take your first steps with someone you trust. That could be another person with hearing loss, or it could be a hearing person. But whoever the buddy is, and however well they hear, focus on your own ability to communicate. Don’t let them do it for you. They’re just there for moral support.

Use your assistive devices. If you have a Roger Pen or one of the excellent clip-on or mini-mics made by other manufacturers, don’t be shy about using it. If we are all still wearing masks though, the assistive device may amplify sound but not clarity. Masks muffle sound even when amplified by a mini-mic. See-through masks help with speechreading but also muffle sound.

Use a captioning app. Otter.ai and Google Live Transcribe are both free to people with hearing loss and easy to use. They’re also accurate. Show it to the person you’re talking to and briefly explain. Usually, “I don’t hear very well and this captioning app helps me follow conversation,” is enough. I find that hearing people are often fascinated by the app and want to get it themselves for recording conversations. Readers, if you use other captioning apps, please let me know about them in the comments section.

Start small, preferably with people who also have hearing loss. Practicing with people who know exactly what you’re going through may give you confidence to try out communication with a group of hearing people.

If you’ve been comfortable in your pandemic cocoon, re-entry may be hard. But it’s important. Isolation can lead to depression, and both contribute to cognitive decline. Those of us with hearing loss are already at higher risk of early onset and more severe cognitive decline. It’s important that we take the steps available to us – like being part of a close social network – to offset this risk.

If you’re concerned about re-entry, please share your thoughts. If you have ideas about how to make it easier, please share them too.  


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.

On World Hearing Day, A Joyful Song and a Somber Accounting.

Today, March 3, is World Hearing Day. And today the World Health Organization released its first ever Report on World Hearing.

Awareness of hearing loss as a global problem has been slow in coming. That this is the first report on hearing loss from the prestigious WHO is evidence of that. One explanation for the delay is the invisibility of hearing loss – the vast number of people who hide it. And one explanation for the invisibility is the stigma of hearing loss.

And a powerful stigma it is. WHO predicts that if current trends go unchecked by 2050 (a date that used to seem so long ago and now seems perilously on the horizon) one in four people worldwide will have hearing loss.

That’s an alarming number, but perhaps even more alarming is that 430 million people right now have disabling hearing loss. “Disabling” — as I wrote in my previous post, quoting the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act — means that an impairment “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Not all hearing loss is disabling. Disabling hearing loss does not include the signing Deaf, who have a perfectly good language, and are not disabled as long as society doesn’t throw obstacles in their way. “Accessibility alleviates disability,” as I wrote in a presentation recently. (I’m not sure I coined that phrase, but it’s a good one so I use it.)

Learn to hear better!

But the vast majority of those with hearing loss are not sign-language users, and in many of them, including me, the loss is a disability.

The report notes that 60 percent of hearing loss can be prevented. In children, prevention includes immunization, especially against rubella and meningitis, and better maternal and neonatal care. In adulthood, it means limiting exposure to noise and ototoxins. There are other causes of course, including heredity, which can be exacerbated by these.

Universal vaccination and screening, better maternal and prenatal health care – these things are expensive, right? In the short run, yes. But in the long run it is money well invested. The report calculates that governments can expect a return of nearly $16 (US) for every $1 invested.

WHO invited me to speak at their launch ceremony this morning. It was a wonderful event (except that it was held at 5 am EST). Sandile Majola and the Ndlovu Youth Choir of South Africa kicked it off – and woke me up — with a rousing performance sung and signed in a sunny outdoor setting. I was asked to talk about my own loss and what role stigma played in how I dealt with the loss.

As I wrote my talk, I realized that stigma has affected me in ways I’d not realized before. I’ll post a version of that talk separately. World Hearing Day celebrates hearing, but it also is an opportunity to remind ourselves that hearing is easy to lose and hard to get back. As individuals and as countries, we need to protect this precious resource.

Defining Disability

Do I have a disability?

It depends on when you ask.

If I am alone at home with no noise except my breathing and quiet tapping on the computer keyboard, and I’m wearing my hearing aid and cochlear implant, then No, I don’t. Or at least I don’t perceive the disability. If the phone rings and the captioning service works, then No, I don’t. If I join a Zoom meeting that’s captioned, No, I don’t. If I’m watching TV with captions, No, I don’t.

TV Captions

That doesn’t make me a person without a disability. It just makes me feel like one.

Under the ADA, there’s no question about my status. “An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

The accommodations I describe  – a quiet home, hearing aid and cochlear implant, captions on my phone, captioned Zoom meetings and TV – alleviate the hearing deficit to the point that I forget I have it. And that’s what we aim to do when we advocate for accommodations in the outside world.

These accommodations allow me to participate in the ADA’s “major life activities.” But not entirely, and this is why I am a person with a disability. With hearing loss as severe as mine, accommodations don’t cure or reverse the disability. They lessen the struggle. They mitigate it. But they don’t make it go away.

For those with less severe hearing loss, which is the vast majority of people who self-identify as having hearing difficulties, accommodations don’t just alleviate but may eliminate the disability. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, you might have trouble hearing in a restaurant. Accommodations in a restaurant can be something as simple as a corner table, carpeting, acoustic tiles or other noise absorbers, tables spaced farther apart. We don’t think of them as accommodations but they are. They make a built environment compatible for people who might otherwise not be able to participate. In this case accommodations don’t just alleviate the disability, they may make it disappear.

Sometimes accommodations aggravate the disability. I’d put movie-theater cupholder captioning screens in this category. They are so awkward to use, and so often mistakenly programmed, that they simply remind me that I can’t hear the movie. If all movies had open captions along the bottom of the screen, that would be an accommodation that would allow me to forget my disability.

Do I have a disability? Yes.

Am I disabled? No, because accommodations allow me to function. Without accommodations I would be disabled – I AM disabled. But only temporarily.

The “people first” preference for disabilities is correct not only in the sense we usually use it – I am a person first, and my disability is a part of me. But it is also correct because this disability I have isn’t always disabling. So it shouldn’t define me.

I welcome comments on accommodations that make you forget you have a disability, as well as accommodations that just make it harder.


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books at Amazon.com.Smart Hearing is a guide to everything about hearing loss. Shouting Won’t Help is my personal story of loss and renewal. Both are available in paperback and on Kindle. Available only at Amazon.com unless you can persuade your local bookstore to order one for you.

A Question About Sound

If a tree falls and I’m not wearing my hearing aids, does it make a sound?

One morning last week I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee when I noticed something odd out the window. We have a large, old, beautiful and very decrepit barn. From where I was sitting, a tree trunk seemed to be leaning on it. It’s a woodsy overgrown area, so at first I thought I just hadn’t noticed it before.

Later I went out to look more closely and saw that the tree trunk had pierced the barn roof, leaving a hole about six by eight feet, now filled with tree trunk. Not only that, as the tree man told me later (see photo), the trunk had snapped off, hit the sloping ground, and then flipped back up, like an Olympic pole vaulter. I’m sorry I missed it!

Downed tree, left, leans into barn.

But I’m more concerned that I didn’t hear it. It must have made a loud noise as the trunk cracked and fell and an even louder noise as it sank into the roof. It was a windless night, and quiet.

I have a dog who barks at people coming to the door and at stray raccoons and other creatures who venture too close to the house. But the cracking tree doesn’t seem to have phased him. Maybe because it was one (or two) short sharp sounds. That may be why I didn’t hear it either. I have some residual hearing, though, and it dismays me that I could miss something so dramatic.

But back to the question. It’s a play on the old philosophy trope, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” An amusing essay in Medium by John Hydrisko attributes it (or the idea of it) to George Berkeley, an 18th century Irish philosopher whose belief was summed up in the phrase: esse est percipi (aut percipere); to be is to be perceived (or to perceive). For Berkeley, Hydrisko writes, if the tree is not perceived it doesn’t exist. “If you asked George Berkeley, ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it? — he would probably cut you off, “What tree?’” No one there to perceive it. Thus it doesn’t exist.

The Oxford English dictionary defines “sound” as “Vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s or animal’s ear.” But if they reach the ear and are not heard, are they still sound?

Scientific American, back in the 18thcentury (thank you again John Hydrisko), summed it up: “Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognized as sound only at our nerve centers. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.”

Of course there were ears to hear: all the little critters in the forest have some form of hearing, and in many cases it’s far more acute than ours. So, If a tree falls and I’m not wearing my hearing aids, does it make a sound? Ask the deer and the raccoons and mice. The answer is yes.

Katherine Bouton is the author of “Shouting: Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You” and “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss.” Both are available in paperback or as an ebook through Amazon.com


I have my curmudgeonly side and I don’t always like being told to see the bright side of things. I enjoy a good wallow in misery. But the misery of the Covid pandemic is sustained and severe. We share funny things to lighten the day – jokes, cartoons, animal videos, kids doing kid things. We watch streaming performances of uplifting cultural events like opera and theater. We go on virtual museum tours. We listen to live streaming of religious services, particularly in this past week when many were celebrating Passover or Easter week.

Last week the Hearing Loss Association of America, #HLAA, offered a free webinar with Michael Harvey, a clinical psychologist in Framingham, Mass. and the author of  Listen with the Heart: Relationships and Hearing Loss and The Odyssey of Hearing Loss: Tales of Triumph.

thank you signage
Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Dr. Harvey’s talk, titled “Coping with the Coronavirus (Part 2)”, was an interactive seminar on what ” Covid 19 has to Offer Beyond Hardship and Fear.” He began by discussing how some wise people like Nelson Mandela dealt with isolation. He quoted a veteran of the Bataan death march. And he also quoted some of the comments from listeners to Part 1, many of whom had their own wise observations to make.

Much of what we in the hearing loss community have focused on are the disadvantages specific to people with hearing loss: of isolation, of the difficulty of understanding people wearing masks, and so on. Dr. Harvey focused on the positives.

What Dr. Harvey was talking about, however, was a little different. He was asking us to see actual benefits from the experience of living through this pandemic. Some were predictable (though no less valuable for that): more time with family and friends, more time for books and culture. Some mentioned the particular intimacy of video chats and phone calls. One said that – as someone with hearing loss – her (or his) prior experience of isolation was preparation for this more dire isolation: “If the situation becomes more restricting, I’m prepared for it. I’m ahead of the curve.”

I live in New York City and one of the benefits for me is the quiet that has descended on my residential neighborhood. We hear a lot of sirens, but there is no plane or helicopter traffic overhead, very little car noise, not many trucks, no construction. Very few people are out and those who are out are social distancing. So it’s surprisingly peaceful.

At night, at 7 pm, the city opens its windows to cheer for our health care workers with clapping and song and banging pots and pans. In the quiet city, the sound seems to come up out of nowhere. You can’t see many other people, but because there’s no other noise the empty streets and buildings resound with the noise. Many people with hearing loss are sensitive to noise, I know I am. Being in a noisy place is exhausting. But this noise is different.  Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, the Psalm tells us. This is a joyful noise. We’re still here. Thank you, health care workers.

Some are juggling work from home while taking care of young children or supervising the remote-schooling of older kids. Some are taking care of sick or elderly relatives on their own, or worried about finances, or sick with the virus themselves, or grieving losses. And many, of course, are out doing those essential jobs, risking their health for the rest of us. But for many of us, especially people who are older, this is a time without distractions, without the daily activities that used to consume the day: without meetings, commuting, doctors’ appointments, exercising, playing and watching sports, shopping.

“We help ourselves by helping others,” Dr. Harvey said. “If we contribute to the betterment of other people’s lives, it feeds our soul as well.”

We do this by reaching out to friends and family to check on how they are. (Even more so if we reach out to the ones we dread calling for one reason or another.) We do this by sharing our experiences in webinars and Zoom meetings. We do this by observing the rules: by staying indoors, wearing a mask if we have to go out, staying well away from others, washing our hands. One friend of mine made masks by the dozens and distributed them to her neighbors. Others offer to shop for people who can’t go out. Pet adoptions are way up: let’s hope those adopters keep their commitments once the pandemic is over.

And don’t forget the power of a simple thank you. Thank your mail carrier. Thank your garbage collector. Thank the person checking you out at the supermarket. Thank your pharmacist for offering to make a delivery. Thank the bus driver. You can thank them by your actions as well: put your garbage out neatly, clear the junk mail out of your mailbox, have your money ready at the checkout counter so the checker can speed you on your way and shorten his or her own exposure to whatever germs you may be carrying.

If you have other examples of ways we can contribute to the betterment of others’ lives, please share them here. Check out HLAA’s other webinars, including Dr. Harvey’s Coronavirus Part 1.


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books, available at Amazon.com and maybe at your favorite bookstore or library. If they’re not there, ask for them.