Hearing Matters Podcast

Self Advocacy. Increased Awareness. Let Hearing Inclusion Begin feat. Nicole Behne

March 21, 2023 Hearing Matters
Hearing Matters Podcast
Self Advocacy. Increased Awareness. Let Hearing Inclusion Begin feat. Nicole Behne
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Show Notes Transcript

Nicole Behne is an expert in creating workplace solutions for people in business who are hard of hearing.

As a marketing executive with a significant hearing loss, she has learned how to adapt to challenging situations in many corporate environments utilizing technology, spatial awareness and educating her peer group on best practices for engaging with her.  Nicole is passionate about generating awareness and providing practical solutions to the ever-growing class of business professionals with hearing loss.

It’s not easy to navigate the business world with a hearing loss. It can be exhausting and cause reduced productivity due to depression, social isolation, and listening fatigue. For coworkers it can create confusion, and reduce collaboration.

Awareness, education, and customized solutions are the keys to improving retention and employee engagement with people who are hard of hearing.

Hearing Inclusion creates workplace solutions for people in business who are hard of hearing.

Connect with Nicole:

Website | TikTok | YouTube | Facebook | LinkedIn

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Connect with the Hearing Matters Podcast Team

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Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (00:00):
Thanks for listening to the Hearing Matters podcast. To stay up to date with the latest news from our team, be sure to head on over to Instagram and hit that follow button. After this episode, head on over to the Apple Podcast app and leave us a review. Your support allows us, help our community hear life's story. Now, enjoy the episode!

You're tuned in to The Hearing Matters podcast. The show that discusses hearing technology, best practices, and a growing national epidemic: Hearing Loss. Before we kick this episode off, special thank you to our partners. Weave - the all in one patient communication and engagement platform. Redux - faster, drier, smarter, verified. Fader Plugs - the world's first custom adjustable earplug. Welcome back to another Hearing Matters Podcast. And joining me today is entrepreneur, marketing guru, and hearing aid user, Nicole Behne. Nicole Behne creates workplace solutions for people who are hard of hearing, and her work transforms an invisible challenge negatively impacting 12% of America's workforce into environments where employees are more engaged, included, and productive. It is not easy to navigate the business world with hearing loss. Studies prove hearing loss can often cause reduced productivity due to depression, social isolation, and listening fatigue in the workplace. As a Fortune 300 marketing executive with significant hearing loss, Nicole has learned how to adapt to challenging situations in many workplace environments. From boardrooms to manufacturing floors, Nicole's learned how to utilize technology, spatial awareness, and education to help her peer group achieve best practices when engaging employees who are hard of hearing. Nicole is passionate about advocating for and providing practical solutions to the ever-growing class of business professionals with a hearing loss disability. Each space and situation present unique opportunities to find efficient and effective ways to navigate the hurdles that affect individuals with hearing loss. And joining us today is Nicole Behne. Nicole, welcome to the Hearing Matters Podcast.

Nicole Behne  (02:34):
Thanks so much, Blaise. It is great to be here today. It's so nice to meet you and I can't say enough about all the wonderful things you're doing to bring awareness to the hearing community, so keep it up. You're doing great things.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (02:45):
Thank you so much, Nicole, and what can't you do, because that bio is so incredibly impressive. We are so honored to have you on the Hearing Matters Podcast, and when we were talking before we started to record this episode, we just love the work that you're doing. We really support it. And for our listeners tuned in, you know, I'm sure they wanna learn a little bit more about you, so share with us a little bit about your background, professional journey and the launch of hearing inclusion.

Nicole Behne  (03:17):
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Blaise. I'll do just that. I have been in business for over 20 years, and that whole time I have been working with a low frequency, moderate hearing loss, that's really impacted me since the fourth grade. So, for listeners that don't know, um, the sounds, I can't hear our men's voices like thunder, my car running. On the car running side of it, Blaise, I have to tell a little story there. I don't know how many times I pulled into the parking lot at work and forgot to push the button, you know, to shut the car off. And I'm grabbing all my stuff, thinking about my to-do list and the meetings I need to get into, only to have a coworker come in hours later and say, "Hey, why is your car still running out in the parking lot?" And it's just, it's that sound, you know, we don't have a key to turn the car off anymore and take with you.

You just push that button. And I, I, I have now learned to form a new habit and make sure the tachometer is at zero <laugh>. Um, before I get out of my car, so my car running, I don't hear, and my hearing loss is, is also coined reverse slope hearing loss. And only about 10% of people with hearing loss have reverse slope. So, that's just a little about my hearing loss. And my journey, my journey on my hearing loss, I actually started out really in denial and hiding, which I think a lot of people do in school. I would always be the one sitting in the front of the class intently watching the teacher, not because I was a teacher's pet, but because I needed to see their lips and read their facial expressions to hear what's going on. In college that got a little bit more difficult, right? With big auditoriums.

I was still in front of the class, but I did get hearing aids then. And I would slip them in, um, when class started and pull them out when class was done. And my long hair kind of covered them up, and I just wasn't ready to let others know that I was a little broken, if you will. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And that carried into my professional journey and the start of that as well. And with that, as a, as a young salesperson, I was calling on a very important customer and we started to have some tension in our meetings. And, um, my regional manager attended a meeting with me and afterwards he said, "Do you know you're answering his questions wrong, the buyer's questions wrong, or it feels like you're sidestepping things?" And I'm like, "No, I'm answering what I hear." Right. And then I was honest with my regional manager and I said, "Here's the deal.

I have a hearing loss. I'm wearing hearing aids." And, um, he said, then own it. Like right now is the time for you to own it. So, the next day I pulled my hair up, I went back to the buyer's office, said, here's the deal. I need to make a confession. This is why we're not communicating effectively. And from that point on, he was really clear with his communication to me. Instead of looking down at the computer or writing notes, he made sure he was looking at me. If I answered a question wrong, he would let me know. And that relationship really was super important moving forward. We did great things at that account. Most importantly though, it gave me the confidence to own the situation and to be okay with my hearing loss, understanding that people truly wanna help you and they can't help you if they don't know what's going on.

Right. So, with that, that asking for help piece of it was a little challenging throughout my professional career as well. Um, I went into our HR department and I said, I'm struggling in meetings. And they said, "Okay, what do you need? Tell us what you need and we'll do it." And I'm like, "I don't know. I'm a marketer, right?" <laugh>, I didn't quite know what I need, um, but I can't hear in these conference rooms, and some of them are worse than others. So then, um, they said, well, talk to our tech team and the AV team. See, see what they can do. And they're like, we don't know, you know, um, what do you need? So I went, went to my audiologist, and I'm like, I'm having problems in business and I really need to hear what's going on in these meeting rooms As, as I advanced in my career.

Um, the meeting rooms got bigger, the conversations more robust, and I really couldn't be filling in the blanks as much as I had been. So, I did try some assistive listening devices, and this was before Bluetooth was easy with things. And I vividly remember one of the things that we tried was a microphone, if you will, that was set in the middle of the conference room table. And then I had to wear a loop with the receiver on it mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then that would feed the sound into my hearing aids. And it sounds great in practice and it may work well for some people, but what happened to me was a very negative experience because I was using this product and it was a large meeting and someone at the other end of the table said a joke that I, um, of course didn't hear.

And the whole room erupted and laughter, and it was so loud. I remember ripping my hearing aids outta my ears because of the amplification that was going on. It was just painful and, and it didn't work, right? So we continued to try different things, um, looping and, and it was, for me, it really wasn't about volume. I was missing the clarity, right? And so that was, that was really something that I had to be okay with understanding. And, and I think a lot of times when you go through your hearing journey, um, you go through areas of disappointment and then triumph, right? And then you're disappointed, and then you, you get okay with that again and learn. And I've learned along the way that the number one thing that has helped me to be successful in business is to be honest about my hearing situation.

And so, even when we think about introductions, when you introduce yourself in a meeting, my intro now includes the fact that I have a hearing loss. So it's like, "Hi, I'm Nicole. I need everyone in this meeting here to know that I have a hearing loss. So, what that means is I really wanna hear everything everyone has to say. You may hear me stopping the meeting to have you repeat something or rephrase something. You might even see me walking around the meeting so that I can have clear view of where the conversations are taking place." And just by giving that intro in the beginning of the meeting, everyone's on the same page. And no one's surprised when, when I do get up and move around because I do <laugh> or when I stop and I give the timeout signal and I, and I ask for that repeat.

So, my journey has been a lot of trial and error and I've learned a lot of things along the way. But I, I decided to pause and think about what is needed for the hard of hearing community outside of just what I was doing because of that frustration of no one having the answers. And there's not this one size fits all solution out there, but I didn't really find anybody who was out there helping either, helping to raise that awareness. So, um, hearing inclusion was created for that hard of hearing community. And I do wanna give a disclaimer right now on that because this was definitely based on my experiences of someone who's hard of hearing and not deaf. And with that deaf community, although we share the same compromised organ, which is our ear, we definitely have different needs as much of your listenership knows.

So, there's an overlap of, you know, things that we do use that are the same, such as lipreading or the use of captioning. But the hard of hearing community is really burdened by this gradual loss over time. And what happens as a result of this slow depletion of the senses is really an inability to determine how severe it's become and how much stress has been added to the mental health of that person affected. So, it's kind of like the boiling frog story, but the boiling frog is an apologue describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if the frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it'll, it'll jump out. But, if the frog is put into tepid water, which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and it will be cooked to death. Now, apart from

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (11:49):
If you like frog legs, if you like frog legs, that might be the way

Nicole Behne  (11:53):
<laugh> <laugh>, now, apart from the mortality as, as you say, there is a comparison to be made with this fable. The frog in the story lacks awareness, and awareness that the conditions are degrading, and to the heart of hearing community, this slow degradation leads to denial of their impairment and a resistance to wearing hearing aids. Mm. In fact, as you know, only one in five people that need hearing aids actually wear them. And we'll talk more about that later, but I just wanna be clear and upfront with this disclaimer that this business model and solutions that are providing, um, in the hearing inclusion side of things are for the hard of hearing community and not the deaf community. And then the second part of a disclaimer that I just wanna throw out there about where I'm going with this business is not all hearing loss is the same as you know, someone in the industry, all of your listeners that are in the industry as well. So, as we approach finding solutions for the workplace, there is not a one size fits all answer or this magic wand that you can wave to fix everything. Hearing loss is different, meeting spaces are different, and the technology that each company has is different. So, when we talk solutions, it's really about being customized for that organization. So, those are a couple, couple of disclaimers before we get rolling here.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (13:21):
I think those are great, Nicole, because oftentimes not everyone does know the difference between hard of hearing and deaf. And, and there is a major difference. While you were sharing your background with me, I couldn't help but think that, and before we hopped on this interview today, we were talking about how we live in this technology age and information is being transferred so fast on a daily to even hourly basis. But hearing healthcare and hearing loss in and of itself has a lot more attention than it ever had, in my opinion, even in the past 15 to 20 years. Of course, we have more resources now, the technology is better. And I'm curious to know the difference between your first set of hearing aids to what you're wearing now, because that must have been quite a difference. And, we can either go into that now or later, but I'd just be curious to know. Yes, no. Is there a big difference? Yes,

Nicole Behne  (14:22):
Absolutely. So, those ones that I had in college, Blaise, that I would pop in and out, I had to do that because I couldn't stand them. I couldn't stand wearing them more than the time needed. Again, with reverse slope hearing, it's different, right? And if your audiologist hasn't spent time figuring that out with someone else, it's tough because it's something that is kind of a learned skill as you go with reverse slope hearing. Now, with with real ear measurements. And the technology has allowed for the ranges to change with just the click of a, a keystroke, I guess, if you will now. Yeah. That has been just so incredibly different for me. So, from the amplification of the, the first hearing aids I had, the quality just wasn't there. The clarity wasn't there. I put 'em in cuz I had to just to hear in class.

Now, I wear them because I want to, I wanna hear what my kids say, I wanna hear what's being said in the meetings. I wanna be part of the conversations around me and the fact that I can just have the hearing aid technician make any changes that I need online in the program and I pop 'em back into my case and it's instantly changed the next time I put 'em in. That is fantastic because I remember, um, I have two girls, they're 13 and 16 now, and when, when my youngest was a baby, that's when I was like, I have to get this figured out, right? I need to know what's going on with my kiddos. I remember even then getting those hearing aids fitted 13 years ago, it took like 20 times of going back in and it was a commitment, but I knew that we could do better and we did. But it was that commitment and of time and the, the audiologist just like not giving up either, and we figured it out. And today, like technology and the, the ability to make those changes has made it so much better as a hearing aid wearer.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (16:18):
Absolutely. Nicole, thank you so much for sharing your story. And again, the big takeaway from you sharing your background is leaning into that vulnerability. And there's so many individuals that think, well, vulnerability, you know, it shows a sign of weakness, actually, we're all human. It's really important to, to practice vulnerability and actually be vulnerable. Yes. It's scary and it's scary for all of our patients who present with hearing loss. I will say, Nicole, you know, coming from private practice and fitting many patients with hearing loss, I have fit patients with reverse slope hearing loss. And for our listeners tuned in who are not in the industry or who don't wear hearing aids, what Nicole was saying is her hearing loss, think of bass, middle and trouble, if you will. It's those bass to low mid frequencies that she does struggle to hear. And usually we see patients in the clinic, Nicole, with that high frequency hearing loss. But your, that reverse slope is often one of the most difficult, um, hearing loss to actually fit. So, when we talk about hearing inclusion, we've all been in the workforce. There's a lot of individuals that have been to copious amounts of meetings and maybe they heard someone but they didn't quite understand someone, and were they actively listening or passively listening? So, why are we talking about hearing inclusion now and what are the statistics on this demographic that really make this a relevant topic today?

Nicole Behne  (17:59):
Those are great questions, Blaise, and I'm gonna stop or step back to inclusion and what inclusion is first. So, the definition of inclusion is the practice of making people feel a sense of belonging at work, right? And where you were just going with that is kind of the opposite of hearing loss. Someone with hearing loss, I mean, I have felt left out. I'm always filling in the blanks. I'm smiling and nodding, laughing at those jokes that I didn't hear, like we said. And I'm avoiding situations where I know where it's going to be difficult to hear and engage in the conversation. So, that's not really a sense of belonging. And when you think about it, 12 to 15% of the workforce feels that way. So, there's a huge opportunity to think differently and raise awareness around hearing inclusion with our DE and I and HR leaders in the workplace.

So, this is interesting. I found that, um, McKinsey and Company had a stat out there that said, annually in the United States there's eight, $8 billion spent on DE and I training. My goal is all about creating workplace solutions for people in business who are hard of hearing. I wanna get hearing inclusion on that list of DE and i trainings that are available today because we need to. Hmm. Um, our mission is really to provide information and raise awareness and develop solutions to support individuals in the business world with hearing loss. We aim to help create an environment of acceptance and understanding where individuals who are hard of hearing are welcomed, respected, and able to fully participate and contribute. So, that's the "why" behind hearing inclusion. And when you talk about the "who" this, these statistics are really, uh, mind-blowing to me as well. So, there's 1.5 billion people in the world that have some degree of hearing loss, and that number by the year 2050 will be 2.5 billion.

So, it's going to increase.There's 48 million people in the United States with hearing loss and 60% of them are either in the workforce or in education mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, we're not all retired and sitting at home and doing nothing. But speaking of the retirement community, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 65 plus age demographic is going to increase its presence by 35% in the next 10 years. So, that is huge and we need to be talking about that because hearing deteriorates with age. Our workforce is getting older and that 65 plus age demographic, 27% of them, 27% of them have a hearing loss. So, if we're not talking about what we need to do to accommodate effective communication across the generations within our organizations now, we're gonna have a huge issue as this workforce continues to age and people have hearing loss as they get older.

So, for those of us that aren't 65, though, there is still work to be done. As we've talked about it, there's this negative stigma associated with admitting you have a hearing loss. Right. It makes you feel less than or weak or old. And in my opinion, that stigma has to change. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you are not weak. <laugh>, as you said before, Blaise, you are human, you are not weak, you are human. And you know, why are people waiting seven to 10 years to even get hearing aids? I don't understand it. I mean, maybe it's part of the boiling frog epilogue that we just talked about. They just don't even realize it. But if people were talking about it more, like you said, we are starting to talk about it more as a society, but if they're hearing about it at work and they're seeing accommodations being made at work for people with a hearing loss, would that start to shrink that number and not make it seven to 10 years?

Because as the longer you wait to get hearing aids, the longer it takes your brain to be retrained to hear those sounds that you're missing. So we don't want that for the employees. And I think it's really ironic that we live in a society that embraces technology like our cell phones, right? To stay virtually connected. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we embrace that technology, yet we reject this hearing aid technology that can keep us actually connected in real life. And maybe this will change, as you said, with the changes in technology and more people talking about it and the availability of, um, getting hearing aids anywhere. But, you know, I think it all starts with this awareness piece.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (22:45):
Absolutely. And educating the community on the number one importance of getting your hearing tested on an annual basis. Number two, even raising awareness as young as kids in elementary school. Because I do remember the first time I actually got my hearing tested in school now. Yep. You know, I come from a, a hearing family that has an office in the home, so I was getting my hearing tested ever since I was really young. But Nicole, my point is this is, even in elementary school, we only got our hearing tested in fourth grade and that was it. And I don't even think we got our hearing tested even in high school. So, we went all of these years. Okay. And obviously going to college, I studied, uh, speech language pathology, so we got our hearing tested there. But, how many students are going through the school system not getting their hearing tested.

But of course, we have the amazing teachers and speech language pathologists who are able to see if, you know, if a student, uh, performs poorly on a test or activities or something of that nature, um, they will often refer to get the hearing tested. So, there's definitely more awareness now. But I love the, uh, implementation of raising awareness of hearing loss in the workforce because those statistics, they're real and 10 years isn't too far away from us. So, what can we do today to set that foundation to make sure that hearing loss is being discussed in the workforce? I'm curious to know, oftentimes, and we actually had, uh, her name is Dr. Caroline Leaf on the Hearing Matters Podcast. She talks all things, uh, mental health and hearing loss can really isolate you. You can feel lonely. And really we're in a day and age where we're sort of in this, well even not sort of, we're in this loneliness pandemic. So, you have something like hearing loss that's going to separate you from friends, family, and community. Nicole, how does hearing loss impact an employee's mental health?

Nicole Behne  (25:03):
You know, there, as you said that I do have, um, even my own isolation story coming back to the office after the pandemic, I noticed that I was eating lunch in my office. I was, was avoiding the lunchroom because I didn't wanna be around my coworkers because I knew I would have to focus really hard to hear them. Not because I didn't like 'em, I love them, right. But it was because I just, I needed that break from all the meetings and I needed my, um, my time alone. But I also have been avoiding social hours and happy hours and things like that. And it was really, um, I had to take inventory before I was aware of that. So, I am an extrovert who gets my energy from people. And if someone like me can start to slip into social isolation, you know that it's a real thing.

So, there's that piece of it. But when I think about the impact on mental health Blaise, like we talked about, it's frustrating when you can't hear and you're filling in the blanks and then that leads to this social isolation because you're like, I'm just not even gonna try anymore. Right? I'm done. I'm gonna eat lunch by myself. I'm gonna go home after work, I'm just done. But the, the problem with that is that untreated hearing loss according to Reuters health untreated hearing loss, so someone that needs hearing hearing aids and does not have them, will lead to a 47% increase in depression. 47%. And this study from John Hopkins that just came out a couple weeks ago is also staggering because that untreated hearing loss also leads to a 61% increase in dementia. So, those two numbers alone, people, if you have any issue with your hearing right now, go and get it checked.

But, like I talked about in the beginning with my example as a young salesperson, it leads to strange relationships as well. And I've had situations throughout my career where there have been tensions because of not being hearing properly what the next steps or the execution really was. And then of course that leads to reduced productivity and then listening fatigue. Right? So, listening fatigue, I didn't realize how real <laugh> that was either until actually, until we were in the pandemic and we went to all virtual meetings. Yeah. So, what happened in real meetings was I was missing about 50% of everything that was happening in meetings. And we go virtual and I can read along, and now the captions aren't perfect in all of the video platforms at all. But it took me from 50% guessing to having 90% of what was said right in front of me mm-hmm. <affirmative>

On the screen. So I, I was shocked at how much more energy I had because my brain wasn't working in overtime mode all of the time to understand what was going on there. And another story I'd like to, um, to share to help others relate to what this is like, is I want you to imagine you're driving in a thunderstorm, okay? Sheets of rain coming down on, on your car right now, the only time you can see clearly out that windshield is when the wiper slides across the windshield for that split second. You get that clarity for just a little bit. Right. The rest of the time you're left guessing on what's on the outside of your car. Now, when you get home from even an hour drive in a torrential downpour like that, you are exhausted. Oh yeah. Right. Completely exhausted. That's what listening fatigue is like for people who are hard of hearing, we are filling in the blanks all of the time.

Yep. And it is so hard, um, when you get home from work and you are just drained. Now there's this statistic out there that says the average person in corporate America spends about six hours a week in meetings. I was at 30 plus <laugh> hours a week in meetings. Wow. And I was exhausted. Right. Because of, um, trying to keep up with the conversations. And I have two stories about meetings that I'd like to share, if that's okay. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. All right. So the, the next two stories are really around, around meetings. And the first one I wanna share is about having that open and honest conversation around, um, where you need to be in the meeting rooms. So, what I have learned around spatial awareness, Blaise, through my career is I would go into meetings and I would look at or think through beforehand who is gonna be doing the speaking, or who was going to be spoken to.

Hmm. Because that's where I needed to sit. I needed to be by the person. If it was a presentation and one person would be speaking to everyone, I needed to be up by them. Or if everyone was speaking to someone, I needed to be in close proximity to that decision maker. In 2014, I was promoted to the director level. And as a result, I was part of the annual strategy meetings, which were the executive team and the business unit leaders for a couple days would have of meetings around the strategy moving forward. And this meeting room, the executive team would sit around a horseshoe style table in the front. And then behind it, there were six to eight tables of classroom style seating for the rest of the participants to sit in. If you were presenting, when you were presenting your business unit was up at the front of the room, taking turns at the podium, and then you would go back to the back of the room, um, to listen to the rest of the business units present.

Well, it took me eight years before I had the confidence and the courage to pull up a chair with the executive team at that horseshoe table in the front of the room because I said, "Here's the deal. I need to hear what everyone else is saying around strategy, and I can't hear it in the back of the room. I have always made sure everyone knows about my hearing disability." And they were like, "Of course, of course you can have a seat at the table, sit down, join us." But it took me eight years to do that. That is crazy. Right? It shouldn't. And so part of Hearing Inclusion, I wanna give others the confidence to be able to say, you know what? To be my best self and to contribute my, my best work to this company, this is where I need to sit. So, spatial awareness is key.

And the second story on around meetings that has helped me tremendously in my career started about this one was about 15 years ago, I was doing a brand presentation again to a different leadership team. But I had one of the leaders ask a question and he had a really low voice and he did not clearly articulate his words. So, with low frequency hearing loss, that was a problem. Um, and so I asked him to repeat his question, which he did, but he didn't articulate any better and he wasn't any louder. Hmm. So, I asked him to rephrase it, and he did. And he's now getting frustrated with me and I could see it. And I'm like, I still don't hear him. Right? So I looked to the person next to me and I'm like, what did he say? And so she in close range, um, told me what the question was and I answered it right away.

Um, so after that point, it became evident to me that I needed to have a wingman at work. Mm. And so within these big meetings, the person sitting next to me, I'll let 'em know ahead of the meeting that I may need them to repeat questions that are asked. Also, the other thing that happens with extremely long conference room tables is I have to look around to see who's speaking because I'm not lip reader. Once I, once I see who's talking, I lean in and I watch them speak. Now, if they say something that I need to take a note on and I look down at my paper to take that note, I lose the next part of the conversation. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because I'm not looking at them. So my, my wingman, I'll just nod to them or tap on the table and then they'll take the note we debrief afterwards and make sure I'm crystal clear on expectations moving forward. So, two things on that meeting, the meeting spaces that have helped me the most, it's finding where you need to sit and being okay with sitting there and get yourself a wingman because people want to help. Like no one wants you to not be successful in work. So those, those have been very powerful tools, um, for me in business.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (33:28):
And Nicole, you're advocating for yourself, but again, it took you years and, and to practice that vulnerability. But thank you for leading the way and giving others the confidence and the strength to lean into that vulnerability to kind of get a, a hearing hero, if you will, in these meeting rooms to help them. And you know, I will say this, there's a few Netflix, uh, shows on that, you know, if they're speaking in an English accent, I will put the subtitles on because I have normal hearing. But I do struggle in noisy situations, but point in cases I love using captions. I really do because even though I have normal hearing the act of listening, I can get very fatigued and so can so many other individuals that do present with normal hearing, but they struggle in noisy situations. So, hearing is one of our senses and it's not going anywhere.

So, I love that more awareness is happening because of key opinion leaders and thought leaders like yourself are standing up and saying, you know what? We need to talk about this. We need to have the hard conversations. What is so exciting is in a few days we are going to be celebrating World Hearing Day. World Hearing Day is Friday, March 3rd, 2023. Super excited to celebrate. And, Nicole, Hearing Day, world Hearing Day, it's really world's Hearing day for us every day. But this is an opportunity for us to make more of an impact. And this year's theme is "Ear and Hearing Care for All. Let's Make It a Reality." Now, curious to know what is World Hearing Day and how does that apply to hearing inclusion?

Nicole Behne  (35:27):
I love this year's theme. First of all, Blaise, "Ear and Hearing Care for All. Let's Make It a Reality." And when you think about that in the business space mm-hmm. <affirmative>, where I go is thinking about that, that that hearing care piece of it. Challenging organizations to think through what they're doing to make sure their employees do have proper hearing care. One of the questions that I would say comes to top of mind just from previous experiences is are hearing aids covered as part of their insurance policy for the organization? Because I have yet to find a company that doesn't cover eye care. Right. That in, in business today. So, people are covering eyeglasses but not hearing aids and thinking about that. The organizations today, technology, I talked about the video captions that I use, it works really well when the room is already micd, right?

So, when there's microphones throughout the room, I can go into any meeting room, whether there is a virtual link or not, but tap into that meeting room and the microphones in there and still pick up the conversation that's happening around those extremely large conference room tables. So, if it's as simple as that, are the organizations doing what they need for hearing care? Because that will improve mental health for their employees as well. And then as we think about hearing care for all, making it a reality, I link that back to the 65 plus age demographic that is gonna continue to be in our workforce for the next few years. The workforce is changing, it is getting older. What are we doing around effective communication for those that have a hearing loss in the workforce? So, I think World Hearing Day is really, it's this springboard. It's about, "Hey look, everybody's talking about it on March 3rd. Let's not just have it be March 3rd." Like you said, it's every day. Yeah. But March 3rd can be the day that we say raise our hands and say, Hey, DE and I leaders, hey HR leadership team, are you thinking about us because we're here."

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (37:33):
How will Hearing Inclusion help people in business who are hard of hearing? And what can we do to communicate better with people who have trouble hearing? And before you answer that, I just had this thought I had and I've had a few patients in the past, Nicole, who were executives in companies and they traveled a lot and they're in these really important meetings and communication and we're talking about different deals and agreements and being very nervous and anxious if they were to miss something. And, if they're sharing that information with me, and there's a handful of them with, of the patients that I've worked with, there's thousands out there. So, you know, how will hearing inclusion help people in business who are hard of hearing and what can we do to communicate better with people who have hearing loss

Nicole Behne  (38:28):
So much to unpack with that question. So Blaise, um, I can't tell you how many times I've walked into really big customer meetings in different meeting spaces with this pit in my stomach. Because when you're going to present to some of the big customers, you don't know where they're gonna sit. You don't know what the acoustics are gonna be like. Is there a loud fan that's gonna be like drowning everything out? So there is definitely a level of anxiety in even the most confident of leadership team members or executives that are out there today. So, there's a lot that we have to do. But I will tell you the most important thing, I truly honestly believe it, and I'm gonna sing this song all the way, um, around my hearing lot, our hearing inclusion journey is that awareness is key. So, by making the workforce aware of what it's like to have hearing loss, what hearing loss is like the, I, I talked about a all of those DE and I trainings that are out there today, right?

And when you go through those trainings, you have a different level of understanding. You have a different level of empathy or ways that you should be thinking and working with the, the groups that the training is about. I want that same thing for the hearing impaired in the workforce, right? Those that are hard of hearing in the workforce deserve that same awareness level. So, not only that, but it empowers those that do have hearing loss to be okay with using it in their intro saying, Hey, I'm so-and-so and if I need you to repeat yourself in the meeting today, it's because I have a hearing loss. That's okay. They're human. We can say those things. And then everyone else has that understanding around, around them. And the solutions, you know, when we think about hearing inclusion, what this company does is it, it provides this awareness education, right?

So, think about it as like a keynote or a town hall to go in and, and talk about um, what it is like to have a hearing loss. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And then it's doing workshop facilitation within the organizations to figure out what technology solves do they need? What does it look like where people work in their individual workspaces or in conference room spaces. When we think about spatial awareness, how do we need to be accommodating for things differently? And then the tech can be as easy as making sure that the rooms are microphones so we can pick up live captioning. Um, right now on all of your phones on Android or Apple phones, there's uh, software built in for live captions. Yes. And I use all the time, although it doesn't work in big spaces because your phone only, um, there's limits so far, but <laugh>, but in, in the lunchroom it's great if we sit down at the lunch table, no longer do I have to have that anxiety about not even being able to converse with the people at the lunch table with me cuz I can turn my phone on with the captions.

And so there's such easy hacks, if you will, out there that people can be doing. But I think the awareness piece too, for the rest of the organization that's not hearing impaired or that that does not have a har- that is not hard of hearing. There's some really easy tips that everyone who works with someone who is hard of hearing can start to use right away. They're super simple but they have a huge impact on communication. So make sure that the person who is hard of hearing has your attention. That's tip number one. Second, speak clearly, don't mumble, but don't over articulate or shout because that also can mess us up when we're lip reading. Um, speak from the front. This one to me has the biggest impact. I cannot hear you if I can't see you. Yes. So say that one again. I can't hear you if I can't see you. So speak to me from the front and then speak one at a time. So with multiple people talking at the same time, it's a bit like reading alphabet soup and we get nothing. So we need that one at a time. And then don't cover your mouth. We are lip readers and with that, not only do I read lips, but facial expressions and I can't read them if your hand is in front of their mouth. So, those are some of the the tips that I have for working with people that are hard of hearing.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (42:37):
Nicole to dovetail off that. And thank you so much for sharing those tips and tricks. So, when I was in private practice and if we had a new team member join, for example, front office staff, which in our opinion is the most important position at an audiology practice because they are communicating with the patients every single day. If we had someone come from outside of the hearing healthcare industry, we trained them and had them watch different modules. So they knew, you know, if, if a patient is getting frustrated, it's not because of me, especially if it's a new patient, it's, you know, this is the first time they're addressing their hearing loss. So there's those anxieties tied to it. So, we always educated our front office staff on the psychology of the hearing impaired, how to communicate effectively. We are so excited for the success and continued success of hearing inclusion. We love the work you're doing. Nicole, for our listeners tuned in, if they want to connect with you and they wanna learn more about this movement, where can they connect with you and where can they learn more about hearing inclusion?

Nicole Behne  (43:50):
They can email me right away, Blaise at Nicole@hearinginclusion.com. They can go to www.hearinginclusion.com. We have a Facebook page and they can also find my LinkedIn page, just Nicole Behne. And we'll be posting things from there as well. So the easiest one to remember is probably the email with nicole@hearinginclusion.com.

Blaise M. Delfino, M.S. - HIS  (44:13):
You heard it from Nicole Behne herself. Visit hearinginclusion.com and definitely be sure to connect with her. If you have any questions, please send her over those questions. You're tuned in to The Hearing Matters Podcast. Today we had Nicole Behne join us talking all things hearing inclusion, and what we can do better to communicate in the workplace. And until next time, hear life story. Thanks again for tuning into the Hearing Matters podcast today. I'm your host, Blaise Delfino. And on behalf of our entire team, thank you so much for the support. Truly, it means so much to us. Head on over to the Apple Podcast app and share your thoughts. What did you like most about this episode and what do you like most about our podcast? Five star reviews are always appreciated. And also head on over to Instagram, hit that follow button and let's connect. And as a team we can continue to help our community Hear Life's Story.