Hearing loss changemaker Katrin Manella

Katrin Manella Audiologist Switzerland

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“Without a doubt, the pandemic has entirely changed all of our lives. In many cases, for the worse – but in some cases unexpected benefits and opportunities have arisen. I, at least, have a positive story to tell. Maybe you’re interested?  

Due to a congenital, profound hearing loss in both ears, I was forced to compensate for my missing sensory organ by lip reading from a very early age. In many ways, my eyes were my ears – enabling me to actively participate in a daily life very similar to that of people with normal hearing. And in noisy situations, my perception was sometimes even better.   

I was lucky to have parents who strongly supported me living a ‘normal life’ as a child and teenager. This meant that I was able to confidently attend a public school and, later, university – my entrance ticket into the working world of an audiologist. In fact, in my profession, my handicap gave me the great advantage of being able to put myself in the customers’ shoes.  

For more than 10 years now, I am proud to be working for a hearing aid manufacturer in Switzerland. And with the home office reality during the pandemic, I suddenly realized a fundamental change in my working life. In our company, everyone now uses video calls for meetings. Everybody directly faces the camera with headphones, which means that I can see my conversation partners directly from the front and close to me, simplifying lip reading and clear speech.  

In contrast to physical meetings, the loudness and distance in online meetings is always the same, and the background noise is gone. The most profound learning for me has been that I am now able to understand everything in large team calls due to the closed caption option. This means that I can make use of my ‘other ears’ and easily read what is being said.  

In this new setting, it has been very surprising to learn how loose and relaxed conversations can be. Apparently, I have been used to a very high level of stress, due to the great efforts of listening and lip reading. Moreover, I have realized how much information I must have been missing in the past. As a result, I am now full of energy in the evenings, which is highly beneficial for my private life – a tremendous improvement that I would not want to be without! I wonder if others out there share my experience.” 

Katrin is a Changemaker who supports the call in the World Report on Hearing for hearing care for all, now. Help change the world for those with hearing loss by sharing her story.