Chameen Stratton is our Seen & Heard profile in the September/October issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed Chameen at Convention 2014 in Austin, TX.
Denver, Colorado / Born March 10, grew up in Freemont, California
“The HLAA Convention is one of my absolute favorites to attend! HLAA provides a unique experience that brings together people of all ages with one thing in common—hearing loss. I like the resources, the communication access and the people!”
CHAMEEN, WHY ARE YOU WEARING A COWBOY HAT? They just put it on my head for the Seen & Heard photo, no special reason other than we are shooting this photo in Austin, Texas at HLAA Convention 2014.
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT HLAA? through working at Sprint
MY HEARING LOSS… I was born without any signs of hearing loss. Around age two my parents noticed that I wasn’t responding to them or any loud sounds when my back was to them. Even after several visits to various doctors the results were the same: my hearing was fine and that I was ‘just a kid being selective to what I responded to.’ My parents didn’t agree and took me to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA. The doctors administered a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test. The results surprised the doctors and my parents. I had a 90 dB loss in my right ear and a 70 dB loss in my left. I was fitted for my first hearing aid shortly after.
Back then (late 1970s) no one knew why I had experienced a hearing loss. Genetics and pregnancy complications were ruled out immediately. Overall I was a healthy child so it was puzzling to many as to what caused my hearing loss. In 2004, I met with an ENT who administered some tests and diagnosed Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome, one of the most common inner ear deformities which results in hearing loss during childhood.
WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL? I communicated well using my hearing aid—sitting in the front of classrooms and didn’t use any special services. It wasn’t until I went to college at California State University, Northridge, that I began to use note takers, CART, services and, once in a while, sign language interpreters.
ANY CHANGES IN YOUR HEARING LOSS SINCE THEN? In 1998 I woke up one morning, put my hearing aid on and nothing sounded right. I had tinnitus in both ears, sound was muffled and I couldn’t understand a thing! My parents quickly called the House Ear Institute (now known as House Research Institute) in Los Angeles. I met with the doctor that afternoon and was diagnosed with a sudden hearing loss (yes, one with hearing loss can also experience sudden hearing loss!). It was crucial that I begin Prednisone to reduce the inflammation of the ear immediately. After about ten days, I could hear some sounds again with my hearing aid and, by the time I was done with the medication, my hearing was restored back to its ‘before’ state. Since then, I’ve had eight episodes of sudden hearing loss and each time I must get to an ENT doctor within 24 hours to get medication. After the medication my hearing has been restored each time. Today my hearing loss is stable.
DISADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… It confuses people. I can hear well enough to have a conversation in most environments and I speak well. As a result, many people forget that I have a hearing loss which causes frustrations, many misunderstandings and a lot of assumptions!
ADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… peace and quiet when I take out my hearing aid!
WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP? a teacher
FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… babysitting. I loved the Babysitters Club books and actually started up a similar business with a few good friends. Parents would call me and let me know the date/time/location they needed a sitter. If I couldn’t take the job, I would reach out to five others to find a babysitter who could work at that time and then report back to the parent on who was assigned to that job. It was a one-phone-call-away approach to finding a babysitter. The parents LOVED it!
A YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR, WHAT ELSE? Each of us babysitters had a Babysitters Kit that we’d always take to our assignments. The kit was filled with various activities, simple toys and a stopwatch (because every kid knows that other kids’ toys are a lot more fun than their own!). Just before parents would arrive home from their outing, we would pull out our stopwatch and document how fast the kids cleaned up the play area. The next time we were asked to babysit, we’d encourage them to beat their previous times. The parents loved this (clean house), the kids loved this (a challenge) and we loved it too (being called back to babysit again).
ANY PETS? Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix named Jade
HARDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE? delivering my first child
FIRST MEMORY OF BEING REALLY EXCITED… holding my first-born son for the very first time
I LOVE THE SOUNDS OF… my kids’ giggles and laughter, music, the ocean.
IN MY SPARE TIME, I… spend as much time as I can with my kids and husband outside hiking, running around and enjoying all that Colorado has to offer! When not with the family, I love creating photo albums to preserve all the amazing moments in life!
I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… shy.
HAPPINESS IS… being surrounded by family and friends!
IF YOU COULD LIVE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD FOR A YEAR, WHERE WOULD IT BE? Wellington, New Zealand
WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? My mom. She’s always been my rock, my role model and best friend.
CITY, BEACH, COUNTRY OR MOUNTAINS? All of the above! That’s one of the best things about Denver—we get three out of the four all within driving distance.
FAVORITE PLACE… outside doing anything from hiking to running to playing around in the backyard with the kids and the dog
FAVORITE SEASON… fall—the colors, the crisp cool air and football
I COLLECT… memories. From photographs to keepsakes, I enjoy preserving my family’s moments in albums for future generations to see.
FAVORITE COLOR? pink
HIGH SCHOOL JOB… stage crew for the Mega-Mess-a-Mania Show at Paramount’s Great America Theme Park. I got to dump slime on contestant’s heads and throw whipped cream pies in their faces.
ANY JOBS IN COLLEGE? I worked for the National Center on Deafness, California State University, Northridge. I researched and wrote sections of curriculum.
JOBS AFTER COLLEGE? marketing manager for Sprint Relay/Sprint CapTel and program manager for Wyoming and South Dakota Relay Services. I started as an administrative assistant and have been with them for 12 years—an amazing journey!
FAVORITE FOODS… tuna melt sandwiches, chocolate milkshakes and strawberries
FIVE FAVORITE MOVIES… Rock of Ages, Where the Heart Is, Footloose, Men in Black, The Blind Side
FIVE FAVORITE SONGS… Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen; Happy, Pharrell Williams; Dizzy, The Goo Goo Dolls; Patience, Guns N’ Roses; Counting Stars, One Republic
I AM… adventurous, energetic, and sympathetic.
MY KIDS HAVE TAUGHT ME… the meaning of patience and how to see the world through a child’s eyes!
MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… about the bond of a family and how to cherish every moment.
MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… punctuality; importance of being on time (if not early) when someone else is expecting you
WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? Sprint CapTel Services and having access to everything in the palm of your hand (smartphones).
I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… my amazing circle of family and friends.
THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… DSLR Camera, CapTel Phone, Hydro Flask Water Bottle
EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Morgan Fairchild
BIGGEST PET PEEVE… people smoking near me and my kids
RIGHT NOW I AM CRAVING… a good hike in the mountains!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT?… my kids (both birth and stepchildren). They are growing up to be such amazing people!
“I enjoy the articles and stories about others experiencing hearing loss in Hearing Loss Magazine. Hearing loss comes in so many different shapes and sizes. No two people are exactly alike, nor are their experiences. Reading about the different causes, experiences and solutions available help me make choices and decisions about my own hearing loss and the technology available to me.”