Gael Hannan is a writer, actor and public speaker who grew up with a progressive hearing loss that is now severe-to-profound.
Although she was diagnosed at age three with a sensorineural loss, Gael’s specialists told her parents that a hearing aid would not help her. Gael kept asking and, switching doctors at age 20, she had her first hearing aid within a month and life changed.
Fast forward to age 40. Expecting her first child, Gael’s hearing loss took on a new urgency. What if she couldn’t hear her child crying in the night? What if she couldn’t hear the baby burp – would it blow up? Who tells you these things?
For the first time, and for answers that were beyond her own experience, Gael reached out to others with hearing loss. When she contacted a hearing organization, life changed – again. With one baby step, and with one baby, she entered the world of hearing loss advocacy and activism. Hearing loss is now a passion and a career.
At the 1995 Canadian Hard of Hearing Association conference, Gael met other people with hearing loss and realized that many had difficulty expressing how their disability affected them. Gael approached her close friend Dalene Flannigan, a fellow actor and a brilliant writer, to write a one-woman play that would creatively convey the impact of hearing loss on a person’s life. The result was Unheard Voices, a dynamic one-woman show that looks at hearing loss from the point of view of adults, children, service providers, men, women.
From its very first performance, Unheard Voices has inspired a passionate response, from audiences that include hard of hearing, deaf and ‘hearing’ people. As one young Newfoundlander said after seeing the show, “you walked through my life”. Since 1999, Gael has performed Unheard Voices to thousands of people around North America and in New Zealand. Her repertoire has expanded to include other monologues, spoken poems and rap songs, and a performance workshop, Ear Rage! Gael also presents a number of informational workshops for both consumer audiences and the business world. She is regularly invited to deliver her and performances that raise the bar on awareness of hearing loss issues.
Gael is a Director on the national board of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA). She is a speechreading instructor and volunteers for many hearing-related programs. She developed the Hearing Foundation of Canada’s Sound Sense hearing awareness program which is delivered to elementary students across Canada, and in 2002 she created a national awareness campaign on infant hearing screening for the same organization. Her articles and reviews have appeared in magazines such as Hearing Health, Vibes and Abilities. Gael also wrote employment-related manuals for both the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and The Canadian Hearing Society.
In 2011, began writing a weekly column for the renowned website HearingHealthMatters.org. She also writes consumer hearing loss columns for Canadian Audiologist and Signal magazine, two professional hearing healthcare journals. After years of talking about doing it, in May 2015, Gael published her first book The Way I Hear It part memoir, part survival guide.
She has received several awards for her work, including the Consumer Advocacy Award by the Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists, and several awards from the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.
Gael and Doug, the Hearing Husband, have one son, Joel, and they divide their time between Ontario and Canada’s west coast.