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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 🙂

    • 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!

  4. 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.

    • 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.

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