HLAA Convention Recap: Feeling A Hearing Loss Connection

Have you ever been to a place where hearing loss was the norm rather than the exception? Where hearing aids and cochlear implants were on proud display as far as the eye could see? Where your hearing issues were a source of connection rather than division? I hadn’t, until I attended my first HLAA Convention last week. It was a wonderful experience to feel included as a part of a community because of my hearing loss, rather than having it make me feel separate or different. Overall, it was time very well spent. I am already looking forward to the next one.

The opening session was inspiring as HLAA presented an award to Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa for his amazing track record as an advocate for those with hearing loss. It was great to celebrate all the advances that have been made for people with hearing loss over the past 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) first came into effect, yet everyone acknowledges there is still so much more that needs to be done. While the Senator is retired now, his fight for those with hearing loss continues. We are so grateful to him for his efforts.

On Friday morning, there was an employment symposium that featured several companies that are leading the way in creating successful work environments for those with hearing loss. It is wonderful to see the strides that have been made, but many companies are well behind. I hope that people walked away from the symposium with ideas about how to ask for the accommodations they need in the workplace. At a minimum they are armed with best practices from other companies.

The most interesting part of the presentation for me was the notion that while most managers in the workplace mean well, many do not have a good understanding of hearing loss and its associated challenges. It is up to those of us with hearing loss to help guide them to the right solutions by being open about our hearing loss and asking for the tools that we need to excel in our job functions. 

The exhibit hall was interesting, with most major hearing aid and cochlear implant companies represented. There were also several niche products on display. Most were offered at discounts, but there was no pressure to buy at all. I was personally intrigued by the phones that offer live captioning and will likely order one, especially since they are free with an audiologist note. Another interesting product allowed you to install a TV speaker into a lamp. That could really help with watching TV by bringing the speaker much closer!

But far above everything else, the highlights of the convention for me were the unscheduled conversations with old and new friends with hearing loss. It was wonderful to see how we all spoke clearly, faced each other, and repeated ourselves with no sense of embarrassment or annoyance. It was just the norm. I felt proud to be a part of this community of incredibly diverse, intelligent, and fun-loving people, most of whom I would never have met if it were not for my hearing loss.

Readers, do you feel a connection to the broader hearing loss community? 

You can also find Living With Hearing Loss on Facebook and Twitter!

17 thoughts on “HLAA Convention Recap: Feeling A Hearing Loss Connection

  1. Thanks for the great report. I’m wondering if you might be able to post some more details on the phone with live captioning (brand names, websites, etc.,) either here and/or in a subsequent blog post? I’ve heard abut some apps under development to do this, but didn’t realize there were dedicated phones in the market already. Would love any more info on these that you can provide.

    And thanks again.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Thanks for the question. The phone was from Captel. You can visit their website at http://www.captel.com. I hope that helps!

      • kathimestayer – Williamsburg – My work, whether it's writing or advocacy, is all about hearing and hearing loss. From advances in cognitive neuroscience to acoustics to sounds in nature to language, it's all under my massive umbrella of curiousity.
        kathimestayer says:

        absolutely. The state agencies that do this have a hard time getting sufficient visibility. The captions are paid for by federal funds (ADA), so they are FREE to the users. And the phones, in Va at least, and dirt-cheap or free. IMHO, software-generated speech recognition just isn’t there yet. The captioners make some mistakes, but not very many, and they are not as wildly out-of-context as the robo-caption errors can be. DGMS (Don’t Get Me Started)

      • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
        Living With Hearing Loss says:

        Thank you!

  2. kathimestayer – Williamsburg – My work, whether it's writing or advocacy, is all about hearing and hearing loss. From advances in cognitive neuroscience to acoustics to sounds in nature to language, it's all under my massive umbrella of curiousity.
    kathimestayer says:

    Well, for Virginia, our state agency, VDDHH’s captel program offers phones with captioning free (captioning by real humans, not software). If you email me at kwren@widomaker.com, I’ll get you the contact in your state.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Thank you Kathi. I will email you.

  3. You said it right, being part of a large group which intuitively knows how to act with and react to a person with hearing loss. I’ve been attending since 2006 and could not this year because of a once-every-three-years family reunion being held in Louisville the very same weekend. How I missed my HLAA friends. There is nothing like loving and being loved back. I’m happy you had a wonderful time and hope to meet you in 2016.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Hope to meet you too!

  4. robthedeafguy – I'm a late deafened adult with bilateral cochlear implants. Married for 32 years to a woman who puts up with more from me than I ever would.
    robthedeafguy says:

    Thanks for the recap, I couldn’t attend this which disappointed me as I live in Missouri. Hopefully, I can make the next one.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Hope so!

  5. Hi Shari. Just discovered your blog. It’s great! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make to HLAA this year, but I’m very interested in learning more about the companies that are leading the way in creating work environments for those with hearing loss. Did you take any notes during the symposium, or are there any notes available online? Thanks very much 🙂

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Glad you like the blog! Thanks for reading! The companies were Microsoft, Ernst & Young & Northrop Grumman. The presentation was captioned so there is probably a transcript. You could email HLAA and ask them. Their phone is 301-657-2248. I hope that helps!

  6. Hi Shari. In answer to your question about attending an event where people with hearing loss are the norm , here in the UK I have been to many great events run by Hearing Link and the Ear Foundation. They make great efforts to be inclusive with things like STTR , loops and microphones. Most events are run by volunteers who have Hearing Loss so they understand the hurdles ! Its lovely to meet other people who have Cochlear Implants , hearing aids or somehow just manage on their own with their hearing loss. Its always pretty noisy too as everyone wants to chat and communicate ….we all have so much to say and share. For myself getting theses opportunities to meet other people like myself ‘feels like coming home’ , its a wonderful experience. The downside is all of this including lipreading relies on self funding and not everyone ‘newly’ deaf especially if they don’t use the internet is aware what is out there. Pages like yours though make a huge difference , keep up the good work.

    • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Living With Hearing Loss says:

      Thanks for you comment! The next time I am in London I will try to track down one of these events so I can attend.

    • kathimestayer – Williamsburg – My work, whether it's writing or advocacy, is all about hearing and hearing loss. From advances in cognitive neuroscience to acoustics to sounds in nature to language, it's all under my massive umbrella of curiousity.
      Kathi Mestayer says:

      My father, who was one of the founding members of SHHH, tells a story of an early conference he attended, where everyone was at lunch in a big dining hall. His table was full of energetic people, trying hard to communicate with each other, leaning forward, speaking slowly and clearly, etc. He glanced over at a table full of deaf people, who were sooooo relaxed, laughing and laid-back, and envied their ability to “talk” in such a noisy place.

      • Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate, writer, speaker and avid Bikram yogi. She blogs at LivingWithHearingLoss.com and serves on the Board of Trustees of Hearing Loss Association of America. She is the former Board Chair of Hearing Health Foundation. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, it will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
        Living With Hearing Loss says:

        Very interesting observation! Thanks for sharing that.

Leave a Reply