Gael Hannan was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Growing up in Toronto, Ontario, Hannan relied solely on spoken language since her hearing loss was mild. She acquired her first hearing aid at age twenty, and by her thirties, her hearing loss had progressed into the severe to profound range. However, Hannan did not venture into hearing loss advocacy until after the birth of her first child at age forty.
Her advocacy began when she met others with hearing loss at the 1995 Canadian Hard of Hearing Association conference and realized their struggles in expressing the impact that hearing loss had on their lives. With the help of fellow actress and friend Dalene Flannigan, Hannan drew upon her expertise in community theatre to create a one-woman play about hearing loss called Unheard Voices. By using humor and poignancy to reach the audience’s hearts, Hannan hoped to raise awareness and understanding of the hearing loss experience in a memorable way. Unheard Voices received many positive reviews, including testimonials from people who identified with Hannan’s performance.
In addition to introducing DVD copies of Unheard Voices, Hannan expanded her repertoire to include several monologues, poems, and songs, all combined into a show called EarRage! She also does educational workshops and speaking tours across North America, with an additional two tours in New Zealand. Moreover, Hannan is involved with several hearing-related organizations in various capacities, such as the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA), The Hearing Foundation of Canada’s Sound Sense hearing awareness program, and The Canadian Hearing Society; she has also received numerous awards for her service to the hearing loss community in Canada.
Hannan expresses, “Hearing loss has been a through-line in my life, affecting almost everything I do. But since I have become an advocate, performer, public speaker and writer on hearing loss issues, I do not consider hearing loss to be a negative thing. […]There is no shame in hearing loss, and people who are hard of hearing need to find ways to rise above the stigma and do whatever is necessary, including reaching out for hearing help to improve communication in their lives, [because] communication is the glue that connects us as human beings.”
At the end of the month, Hannan will be presenting EarRage! at the Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) convention. Hannan also writes a weekly blog at www.hearinghealthmatters.org. Today she resides in Toronto with her husband and son.