Living Better with Hearing Loss by Bouton Katherine

Living Better with Hearing Loss by Bouton Katherine

Author:Bouton, Katherine
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Published: 2015-06-08T16:00:00+00:00

Disclosure: Once Is Not Enough

After the conversation with Adam, I never again mentioned hearing loss until I finally left the magazine in 2008.

Over this time, my hearing dropped in fits and starts. At one point, I got a new, stronger hearing aid in my right ear, and gave up wearing the one in my left because I felt it no longer helped at all. I was still able to talk on the phone fairly well with my “better ear,” but I couldn’t hear at meetings, and often I tuned out.

A few years later, when Adam left the magazine, both Gerry and I were candidates to replace him. I didn’t understand until later, but it was a preordained decision. Gerry got the job. Realizing that I’d never actually been in the running was demoralizing and humiliating.

Was it my hearing loss? I knew it had affected my ability to jump into discussions and propose ambitious projects. I sometimes couldn’t follow what was said and often was reluctant to speak up because I wasn’t sure what others had said. But more important—and it has taken me years to realize this—I was working so hard to follow conversations and meetings that I didn’t have the mental energy left over for thinking big thoughts and proposing creative projects. I was suffering from an overwhelming case of what neuroscientists call “cognitive load.”86

In 2007, the Times moved from its old building on West 43rd Street to a new glass and steel tower. The interior was an open plan, surrounding a courtyard. The acoustics were terrible. I had a very hard time hearing in our glass-enclosed conference room, I hardly ever went to the big, noisy cafeteria, and even the elevators seemed to resonate. I scurried through the main lobby with its high ceilings and glass walls so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. There was literally no place in the building where I could hear properly, not even in the small glass “privacy” conference rooms. Sometimes in frustration and exhaustion I would go across the street to the Hilton and sit in a big armchair in the lobby until I felt ready to face the office again.

By now, hearing loss was an undeniable presence in my daily life. I was not only stressed but also anxious and depressed. My confidence was undermined by the spurious search for a new editor for the magazine. I’d been an unwitting dupe in the effort to make it look like all avenues had been explored.

It was a chicken-egg situation. As my confidence plummeted, my hearing loss grew worse. Or was it the other way around? As my hearing loss plummeted, my confidence dropped.

I stayed at the magazine for another five years—in a more executive oversight role—each unhappier than the one before. I didn’t have the hands-on editing work that I enjoyed and was good at, and that I didn’t need my hearing for. I went to lots of meetings, which I did need my hearing for. The less I heard, the less I participated, the more depressed I got.


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