Seen & Heard: David A. Bitters, Sr.

16 12 2016

Dave A. Bitters, Sr. was our Seen & Heard profile in the November/December 2016 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met and photographed him at HLAA Convention 2016 in Washington, D.C. this past June. Dave started the HLAA Midlands Chapter in Columbia, SC.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

sh-dave-bitters

DAVID A. BITTERS SR. / Columbia, South Carolina / Born 1957 in Pittsburgh, PA

DO YOU BELONG TO A CHAPTER? Yes, HLAA Midlands Chapter in Columbia, South Carolina.

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT HLAA? I knew about HLAA and joined this past January, but there was no local chapter or even one in the state. With the help of the Lexington, South Carolina Sertoma Club I was able to start the Midlands Chapter. Being a chapter founder and president has allowed me to develop skills that I never envisioned. Sharing my knowledge with others and helping them find support is a feeling I cannot describe.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT HLAA CONVENTIONS? I like the State/Chapter Development Workshops and learning about how other chapters are run. As a first-time attendee, I found it overwhelming, but in a good way. All the information I received has motivated me even more to work and improve our town.

MY HEARING LOSS… was diagnosed when I was three years old. It was caused by a high fever from the measles. I got my first hearing aid in first grade and a cochlear implant when I was 45.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT…  I found that my new puppy had chewed up my [cochlear implant] processor and I was completely deaf for three days.

MY FAVORITE LAZY DAY IS… watching three football games back-to-back-to-back.

MY BEST ROAD TRIP EVER WAS… Route 66 to the Grand Canyon.

MY FAVORITE THING TO WEAR IS… anything with the Pittsburgh Steelers colors and logo.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… going to a deaf college.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… golf, listen to music and watch sports, live or on TV.

MUSICALLY INCLINED? I used to play the trumpet. Now, you would beg me not to try.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Rochester, Binghamton,
and Poughkeepsie, New York; Columbia, South Carolina

I COLLECT… Pittsburgh sports memorabilia and small Hallmark train engines.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… work out problems with computers and personal
devices, and not get lost when traveling.

MY FAVORITE SEASON IS… fall, for the colors of leaves and football.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… coaching baseball.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… football and baseball.

I AM… funny, friendly, and knowledgeable.

IF I RULED THE WORLD… the U.S. would have one political party where everyone works for a common goal. I hate the bickering, nothing gets done!

MY MOST-LOVED POSSESSIONS ARE… my dog and my cochlear implant.

I REALLY SHOULD START… painting my man cave.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… a house painter.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE… having a son, a good job, and surviving a hearing loss and now being able to help others on that journey.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… peanut butter.

FAVORITE COLOR? Black and gold

PETS? A dog, she’s a daddy’s girl

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to get the state of South Carolina in compliance and work together to understand the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people in emergency situations.

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?  For helping to make a difference on earth and putting a smile on people’s faces.

A LITTLE BIT MORE… I was mainstreamed in a hearing school and then attended a deaf college. I am one of only two deaf people who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Photo Finishing Management—ever! I worked at IBM for 20 years. I received my first cochlear implant on my last job assignment and was laid off after it had been activated for just one month.

My current projects include starting the HLAA Midlands Chapter, and I also teach ASL three times a year to different senior groups. I volunteer teaching several topics related to computer technology in security and digital photography, and offer a computer help desk once a week in a senior center.

I currently teach a deaf sensitivity class twice a week at a local sheriff’s department. I work with fire departments to provide smoke alarms free of charge to people with hearing loss. I have designed a visor card for people with hearing loss in the state and for police officers.

 

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Seen & Heard: Mike Gannon

6 09 2016

Mike Gannon is our other Seen & Heard profile in the September/October 2016 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met and photographed him at HLAA Convention 2016 in Washington, D.C. this past June. Mike is an inspirational speaker, motivational trainer, success coach and CEO of Fit for Success in Northern Virginia. His book, If These Ears Could Sing! The Living Law of Attraction in Action, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Mike Gannon

MIKE GANNON / Reston, Virginia / Born October 9 in Livonia, Michigan

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born profoundly deaf in both ears and wore very crude hearing aids (in the 1960s as a child). I never learned to sign, but learned to speak and read lips to communicate.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT…  At the first birthday party I attended at age five, I observed all the kids moving their lips at the same time and I knew you were not supposed to speak when others were talking. It seemed like they were all saying the same thing. In actuality, they were singing “Happy Birthday.”

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY…  Being the only deaf child in the school I attended,
I performed in the school choir with no one in the audience guessing I lip synced.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER GOT… my cochlear implants at age 40

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… Arnold Schwarzenegger’s
first edition of Muscle and Fitness.

BEST ROAD TRIP EVER WAS… my trip to the Grand Canyon, where I heard the echo
of my own voice for the very first time

I LOSE ALL TRACK OF TIME WHEN I’M… coaching my clients.

MY LIFE IN CHAPTERS… A Prelude to Sound, If These Ears Could Sing, and Song Without
End (which happen to be actual chapters in my book, If These Ears Could Sing).

PETS? I have 19-year-old cat who believes I am her designated servant, which of course I am.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… to understand at age nine that my little brother who died from complications during heart surgery was never coming back.

I LOVE THE SOUNDS OF… nature—especially hearing geese flying over the lake at dusk.

FIVE PLACES I’VE LIVED… Michigan, Connecticut, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and in my imagination

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… a dash of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua in my morning coffee—to honor my heritage, of course.

MUSICALLY INCLINED? I play the drums, keyboard and create music on the computer.

FIVE JOBS I’VE HAD… author, personal trainer/nutritionist, hypnotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner, success and life coach

GET ANYTHING GOOD IN THE MAIL LATELY? Notice of my last mortgage payment

FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… on my deck at sunset with a cold beer

HAPPINESS IS… connecting each morning to sound. Thank you, bionic ears!

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… being a relentless questioner.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… a recluse or an introvert.

I AM… unrelenting, introspective and purposeful.

MY FRIENDS SAY I AM… the energizer bunny!

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… listening to my inner critic.

I REALLY SHOULD START… taking the advice others pay me for.

WORDS I OVERUSE… drop down and give me 20

I HAVE A FEAR OF… losing electricity and being unable to recharge my batteries for my implants.

THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD IS… more of it!

IF I RULED THE WORLD… there would be no calories.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS… being able to speak as well as any hearing person.

I was amazed at the innovations that were showcased at HLAA Convention 2016. I stand in awe of the dedicated professionals who continue to give of their time and energy in service to others and making the world of sound richer than ever before.





HLM Cover Feature: Gael Hannan

3 09 2016

Writer, actor, hearing loss advocate and public speaker Gael Hannan is our cover feature for the September/October 2016 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine! I design and photograph for this bimonthly publication of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Gael is such a lively spirit and wickedly funny. It was so much fun photographing her at HLAA Convention 2016 in Washington, D.C. this past June. (She mentioned she doesn’t live very far from enchanting Butchart Gardens in beautiful Vancouver—one of my favorite places to photograph. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m campaigning to be her new best friend!)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

WEB Gael Cover

Hearing Loss Isn’t Funny 

by Gael Hannan

Keep your sense of humor. Experts say this is the trick to living well with hearing loss.

But—what if you don’t have one?

Well then, they say, you can learn to laugh at yourself.

What if you don’t know HOW, or CAN’T, or don’t WANT to? What if hearing loss has amputated your funny bone?

WEB Gael TOCHearing loss just isn’t funny. Quite the opposite; it drains us physically, emotionally and often financially. It’s not easy to guffaw at malfunctioning hearing aids, confused conversations and irritated relationships. Giggles don’t bubble from our lips when we make a comment that makes other people stop talking and give us the “you’ve got two heads” look—which of course means the discussion has moved on to something else while we’re stuck in five minutes ago. (I wish someone would announce a new topic—“And now we shall talk about politics.”)

Even people who are natural rays of smiling sunshine find it challenging to deal with a life-changing hearing loss. How many people, reeling from a 20 decibel drop in hearing, would say, “Gosh, isn’t that just my luck? Say, did you hear the one about the guy who couldn’t hear his wife…”

How was I supposed to laugh when a goofy mutt woke me up to show off his breakfast: my hearing aid, with bits of it still clinging to the doggy-curls of his chin? How to cough up a chuckle at embarrassing mishears such as accepting a date, only to find the man had asked something quite different? Or when I delivered one of my famous non-sequiturs: “Mom, can you help me with an essay?” “That’s great, say hi to him for me.” (Below: Gael and “Hearing Husband” Doug)

WEB Gael HusbandAlmost every hearing loss joke is a variation on one or two basics—which the average person with hearing loss will hear about a thousand times in their lifetime. The first goes something like this: “What day is it?” “Thursday.” “Me too, let’s get a drink.” And I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve asked, “Would you mind speaking up, I have hearing loss,” and the answer shoots back, “Pardon?”

We’re expected to laugh at all this?

Yes. Because it helps. (This is a good time to note that people with hearing loss are very good at laughing in group conversations. We laugh when others laugh and stop laughing when they do. Admittedly, that’s not quite the same thing as a real sense of humor, and our bluffing usually just gets us into more trouble. Just saying that we do know
how to laugh…)

Growing up in a small family—my parents, one sister and me—it was easy to understand dinner conversations because the kitchen table wasn’t big; anyone’s lips were only two dinner plates away. Even so, I would respond goofily to something I thought I heard, which amused everybody but me. We laughed a lot, en famille, because my father said the Lord loves a cheerful idiot and he felt we all qualified.

WEB Gael Hubby SonBut everything is funny, according to Will Rogers, when they happen to someone else. I can see the hearing people (especially the show-off types who claim they can hear a pin drop two counties over) almost implode as they try to suppress a smile or laugh at something we misheard. But later, when we’re out of earshot—which is usually not too far away—they tell these stories about us. Our communication faux pas and verbal boo-boos make us the friendly butt of funny stories: “I told Gael we were worried about our son’s shyness, and she said thank heavens no one in her family has sinus trouble.” Har-de-har-har. (Right: A pea between two pods—Doug, Gael and their son, Joel)

But hey, sometimes I laugh while the Hearing Husband doesn’t. He and I were living in a condo, waiting to move into our first house. He went to the lobby for some long-forgotten reason, and I closed the door after him and went back to watching a movie, which was loud. At some point, I might have vaguely wondered why he wasn’t back, but I was engrossed in the movie. At a momentary break in the noise, the phone rang beside me.

“Hello?”
“IT’S ME!”
“Oh hi, honey. Where are you?”
“In the LOBBY using the entrance phone!”
“But what…OMG…did I lock you out?”
“YES…YOU…DID! I’ve been back and forth between the apartment, pounding on the door, and back down here, and calling up for a whole bloody half hour!”

C’mon, don’t you agree this was funny? I mean, it’s not like I locked him outside in a snowstorm in his underpants! The Hearing Husband is also not amused with the consequences when I don’t hear the water running. Our two-year-old somehow flipped on a sink tap without me seeing or hearing it, and the resulting flood knocked out our phone line and electric garage door opener for 24 hours. And we’re just starting to laugh about the recent flood in our camper when I didn’t quite turn the tap all the way off before going to bed. Mopping up at 4:30 in the morning definitely ain’t funny and it didn’t help that the cat had refused to wade to his litterbox and “went” on the sofa.

Parenting with hearing loss can be challenging. I was engaged in an up-the-stairs shouting match with my teenage son; would he please get a move on and pack his darn hockey bag! I felt a tap on the shoulder; he was behind me, hysterical at watching me yell and gesture up the stairs to an empty bedroom, while he’d been answering me from the basement—where he was packing his darn hockey bag. I hate getting caught out like that.

WEB Podium GaelAbove: Gael gave convention-goers some humorous communication
tips at the Opening Session of HLAA Convention 2016 in June.

After a lifetime of hearing loss, this stuff still happens. Even with a commitment to good communication, hearing aids, and soon, a cochlear implant, I still have occasional bad hearing days when I seem to ask for repeats with every breath I take. On these days, I could swear that somebody had just passed a law that all citizens must speak as unclearly as possible with Gael Hannan for 24 hours. On these days, I’m a self-centered, walking pity party. But the next day, I can usually manage a whimpering smile at my day of bad hearing, and a couple of days later, maybe a weak ha-ha. Eventually, the embarrassment and frustration fade to black, leaving the funny bits intact. (Okay, Digby the dog did look hysterical with hundreds of dollars’ worth of hearing aid hanging from his hairy face.)

In most cases, our hearing loss is permanent; we get to keep it—forever and ever, amen—and if we don’t find a way to laugh, all we’ve got left is frustration and tears.
The late comedian Bob Hope once said, “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”

WEB Canadian Group

Above: Gael with her fellow Canadian HLAA members before the banquet

It is absolutely possible to hone the hearing loss sense of humor, even if you think you don’t have one. The first step is understanding that you’re not the only one going through this; you share it with millions of people around the world. The next step is to connect with some of these people, either in person or on social media. Through HLAA and other consumer groups, you can share your heartbreaking and hilarious stories that turn out to be universal—only the names, dates and locations are different.

Hearing aid feedback when someone leans in close for a kiss? We’ve been there, done that. Spent a sleepless night in a hotel, staring at the alarm clock and clutching the Shake-Awake for fear of missing your flight? Yup, us too.

Had to figure out if your man really just said—at 5 a.m. when you weren’t quite awake—“Let’s get married” when you didn’t have your hearing aids in? Okay, maybe that only
happened to me (but lucky for him, I’m an ace speechreader).

Allan Klein, author of The Healing Power of Humor, wrote, “You may not be able to change a situation, but with humor you can change your attitude about it.” When hearing loss causes its inevitable daily communication breakdowns—some tiny, some big—we do what we can to get through them.

No, hearing loss isn’t funny—until you find the power to tell the joke on yourself. If you can’t, allow me to quote the famous t-shirt: “If you can’t laugh at yourself, I’ll be
happy to do it for you.”

We can laugh at our hearing loss. Just give us some time.

_____________________________________________________

Gael Hannan’s The Way I Hear It

WEB Gael Book CoverIn The Way I Hear It, Gael Hannan explodes one myth after another in a witty and insightful journey into life with hearing loss—at every age. Part memoir, part survival guide, The Way I Hear It is an insider account of the frustrations of communicating with hearing loss: pillow talk and other relationships, raising a child, in the classroom and on the job, hearing technology and the everyday things we like to do. Gael offers advice on how to bridge the gap between consumer and professional in order to get the best possible hearing health care, as well as tips for effective communication, poetic reflections and humorous, poignant stories from the people she has met in her advocacy work throughout North America. This is a book for people with hearing loss—but also for their families, friends and the professionals who serve them.

The Way I Hear It is available for ordering from FriesenPress and other online retailers in hard or soft cover, or as an e-book. E-book also available from iTunes, Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Google Play.

Check out her website at www.gaelhannan.com.

HLAA Member Gael Hannan is a writer, actor and public speaker who grew up with a progressive hearing loss that is now severe-to-profound. She is a past director on the national board of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and created The Hearing Foundation of Canada’s award-winning Sound Sense hearing awareness program for Canadian elementary students. As a passionate advocate for people with hearing loss, she writes a weekly column for HearingHealthMatters.org and delivers insightful, entertaining workshops across the continent for people with hearing loss, hearing health professionals, and the general public.





HLM Cover Feature: Carmen Iraida Franceschi

8 05 2016

Carmen Iraida Franceschi is our cover feature for the May/June 2016 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine! I design and photograph for this bimonthly publication of the Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA).

Iraida sent me a friend request on Facebook awhile back without knowing that a) I was the designer and photographer for the magazine, b) I also have hearing loss, and c) that she lives just a few miles from me! I imagine the friend request came because of my connection to several of her other hearing-loss-related friends on Facebook. I had no idea who she was or where she lived. After our big “Snowmageddon,” I saw a photo she posted on FB of her townhouse front steps covered in massive amounts of snow. I thought, hmm…could she actually be in my neighborhood? I messaged her and learned she was in another townhouse subdivision just a few miles from me! That’s when I asked her if she would be interested in being interviewed and photographed for the magazine.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM MayJune 2016 Cover Small.jpg

Iraida Spread lorez

 

Carmen “Iraida” Franceschi: The Power of Perseverance

Interview by Cindy Dyer

Carmen “Iraida” Franceschi was born in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, the neighbor city of Ponce, located at the southern end of the island. She came to Virginia when she was 18 to live with an aunt and attend college at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Her hearing loss was diagnosed when she was in grade school and progressively worsened. When hearing aids were no longer effective, she discovered she was a candidate for cochlear implants. I sat down with Iraida and her mother, Coca, to talk about her hearing loss journey. It was a family affair as Iraida’s husband Michael and their two daughters shared their experiences, too.

Hearing Loss Magazine (HLM): When was your hearing loss first discovered?

Iraida:
I believe I was 7 years old. My first-grade teacher noticed that I was not really paying attention when she was calling me. My family was also thinking maybe there was something wrong with me, but they had doubts because I was doing so well. I was taken to the audiologist and they diagnosed my hearing loss. It was mild at first, but soon became progressive.

Coca: The doctor thought that the damage might have been caused by an antibiotic that she was given when she was a baby. He thought that the progression would end when she was in her 20s—but by that time she had lost a lot of her hearing.

HLM: Do you think you were compensating by reading lips?

Iraida: When I was a little girl I cannot recall if I was reading lips.

Coca: She was reading lips! She was always so attentive when she was speaking with somebody. She would always look directly at them. She began speaking early and was within the normal range as she grew older.

When she was about 2 or 3 years old, she communicated without problems with us, other kids, and adults. Then there were some changes when she was in kindergarten, but we attributed them to being distracted. As she grew older we realized that her hearing was not as good as it should be, especially when she sang a song (in Spanish)—it sounded like gibberish, yet she was truly enjoying the song. We were puzzled as to why she would sing the song in such a foreign way!

HLM: Do you still read lips even with cochlear implants?

Iraida:
Yes, I always do. It’s such a habit for me.

HLM: What was it like wearing hearing aids?

Iraida:
I did not like them. I wore them to school, but when I got home I would take them off. When I was with my family, I didn’t think it was that bad, but maybe they thought otherwise. The hearing aids were so noisy. I could hear all the background noise. Everything was so loud!

Coca: She was able to hear. I was able to speak to her if I spoke slowly. I didn’t have to speak louder because her problem area was with high-pitched tones.

HLM: Did your hearing loss affect your schoolwork?

Iraida: That’s a good question. When I was a little girl I was very fun-loving and did not take schoolwork seriously!

HLM: What did you study in college?

Iraida:
At the time, I was trying to get into accounting, but that was a complete shock for me because English became harder for me to understand.

HLM: Was that because the hearing loss was progressing?

Iraida:
Yes, but English was just harder. The college environment was much more advanced to me and I just could not keep up. I always wanted to understand hearing people. I was sad about that but I did not let it stop me from interaction.

Coca: When she moved to the United States she did not speak English at all. She moved here in mid-summer and in the fall she entered Mary Washington College. Her hearing was bad and was getting progressively worse. She was wearing hearing aids but they did not help. She asked the teacher to record all the lessons so that when I came home I could transcribe for her, but he would not allow it.

Iraida: For a while I had great hearing aids, but then I wanted to give up because the hearing loss was progressive and they weren’t working. Cheap ones, expensive ones—none of them were helping at this point in time.

HLM (to Coca): How did she get into college without being able to speak English?

Coca: She was able to understand and write English. It was just a problem when she got into a conversation. It was hard for her to keep up with the teacher who was speaking far away from her without looking at her. She was not used to the language at the time, so it was not easy. It was not just reading or writing in English—it was listening to someone speak English. That’s what made it difficult.

HLM: At what point did you know you were a candidate for cochlear implants?

Iraida:
I was 28 or 29. I was trying to find information online but there didn’t seem to be much available.

Coca:  I remember once we were trying to check on some kind of device that you could wear just to watch TV. It was years ago and it was too cumbersome—there was a cable running from your head and you had to carry something in your pocket. We both said, ‘Forget it! When they invent something better, we will reconsider.’

HLM: At this point you began working. Where did you work?

Iraida:
I got a job at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. I’m a program assistant. It’s mostly data input, coordinating programs, and running the panel. It is quite a workload. I have worked there for more than 20 years.

In the beginning I wore my hearing aids because I needed to be able to hear my supervisor and co-workers. Requesting closed captioning for upcoming meetings had to be done well in advance. Although I wore my hearing aids, I didn’t like the constant feedback noise. My co-workers could hear the squeal of the feedback and they would let me know. It seems the hearing aids were always squealing. There was always a problem with the earmold. They would shrink over time and I would have to go back and get a new mold cast.

HLM: Tell me about your experience with cochlear implants.

Iraida:
As my hearing loss progressed, information was hard to find. Then we got an invitation to a seminar on cochlear implants. I almost didn’t go. I was not that curious yet, and we were still researching options. I also didn’t know anyone who had cochlear implants. Now I know lots of people who do and we have a closed group on Facebook that is all about cochlear implants. Now I have thousands of friends that I can relate to!

Coca: It was always so disappointing when we tried to get information. There were no people to contact. How were we going to be able to pay for it? How were we even going to find out the cost? I had no idea whether insurance would cover anything, and not being able to find the answers to your questions was horrible. We tried calling our health plan providers and doctor’s offices, and found no data. No one could answer our questions.
It was like there was a wall up and there was nothing available, so we decided to forget about it.

Iraida: I decided to go to the seminar at the last minute and drove all the way to Maryland where it was being held. When I got there I found there was a large resource of information. There were brochures and doctors and health insurance information. They guided me to a room with two large-screen TVs with closed captioning. Everybody was asking questions and they were answering them clearly and slowly. When the doctors took the stage to answer questions, I paid close attention because I planned to make an appointment with one of them. One of them got my attention. He was a doctor at George Washington University.

I’m bilateral now. I had the first implant for one year before getting one in the other ear. I just wanted to try it. In the beginning it was very difficult. It wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting sounds to be clearer. In the beginning sounds were more clutter and static, and at first voices sounded squeaky, like Donald Duck. It was horrible. When my implant was first activated, I was in shock. I told myself, ‘I made a mistake,’ but they assured me it would fade out and fade away. My brain would have to grow accustomed to it.

After six months I noticed that I could put the implant on, and if the room was quiet then it would be really quiet, but I could also hear when somebody was walking. I could hear the sound of footsteps from outside, or when somebody was opening the door, or locking the car. When I used the remote starter I could hear when my car’s engine was running, while I was in the house.

When I started to hear these sounds, so clear and so crisp and so wonderful, I thought, ‘I really want to have the other ear done!’ I wore a hearing aid on the other side but I felt that it was not working. The cochlear implant was so powerful that I had to keep checking the hearing aid and asking myself, ‘Is this on? Is the battery good?’ It was like the hearing aid wasn’t working at all, but it was.

I told my family that I wanted to proceed with a second cochlear implant and they suggested I wait. I got the second implant on January 23, 2013. The nurse pointed out that it was one year to the date from the first implant.

I believe that my second implant was easier because I knew the process of what was going to happen. Not every implantation is easy. Everyone’s experience is not the same. Other people feel differently about their second cochlear implant. They fit comfortably and there is no feedback. I hear more and I feel more confident.

HLM: How has having cochlear implants helped you at work?

Iraida:
Now that I am bilateral, I can participate in meetings even when there isn’t closed captioning available. My supervisor and co-workers have noticed that I am more productive now than I was in the past. My supervisor said, “I noticed that you appeared to be struggling with understanding what the staff was saying. Lately, I noticed that from a distance you can hear what I am saying to you. And you don’t ask me to repeat. Big improvement!”

I can turn on the telecoil, (or t-coil), which I can use in a meeting room with a hearing loop, but not many meeting rooms come with a loop. I love it because the sound streams straight to my ears and it is so easy to use.

I would like to look into an upgrade for my cochlear implants. I would like to know if it is possible and how much my insurance would cover.

HLM (to Coca): Did you notice a difference communication-wise after Iraida had the implant?

Coca:
Our dynamic has completely changed. Before, when we had a conversation and we were talking to other people, we would be looking at each other so that I could repeat what the other person said. I would speak slowly and in a tone of voice that she could understand, and then I would get lost in the conversation because I was not listening, I was talking.

She would miss a lot and we would have to repeat frequently. Or, we would say the same thing using different words and slowly, but we wouldn’t be able to retell every detail, and we had to make sure she was looking at us. Now, that’s all a thing of the past!

Iraida: They were speaking to me but sometimes I was not listening to what they were saying because I was watching my mother and not listening to the speaker.

Coca: Sometimes Michael, Iraida’s husband, would do some sign language. He could do spelling and a few words.

Iraida: Michael is not proficient in sign language and I only know a few words myself. I have taken sign language classes but only when I was an adult and thinking about getting a cochlear implant. I also have a co-worker who is deaf. He wears no hearing aids and uses sign language. It really is another language. It is a challenge to learn sign language. Some people don’t even want to try.

Coca: One difference in the dynamic with her children is that they used to lie to their father and say, “I spoke with Mommy but she didn’t hear anything.” They can’t do that now. They can’t get away with as much as they used to!

HLM: How hard was it to communicate with your husband?

Iraida: It was hard. Sometimes he was writing to me and sometimes he used sign language to spell out words. We could easily have miscommunication and misunderstandings. Sometimes our plans got broken because I would meet him somewhere at 5 p.m. and he would tell me, ‘No, we were supposed to meet somewhere else or at some other time.’ Sometimes I got details wrong.

I love to make fun of myself when I miss details like mispronouncing ‘chicken’ with an ‘sh.’ My children will mispronounce the word the way I say it just to tease me, and I laugh because I love it. It really doesn’t bother me at all. There are some other words, like ‘chocolate.’ I cannot pronounce ‘chocolate,’ and they say, ‘shock-o-late.’ Spanish words are easier to say than English words. English words have so many grouped consonants like ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ that are hard for me to pronounce. I have trouble pronouncing ‘s’ and ‘z.’

HLM: When you take your implants off, can you hear at all?

Iraida: No. I take them off at night when I go to sleep and when my husband comes home, I am unaware. He works the night shift and does not wake me. When my children were younger, they could be on a phone call late at night and I would not hear it. In fact, my husband was the one who got up at night for them when they were infants. I did not hear them cry. Taking them off allows me to sleep peacefully.

HLM: You had hearing loss at a young age. Did you notice a difference between listening to music with hearing aids versus cochlear implants?

Iraida: With cochlear implants, I had the beginning phase with trouble hearing music, but I do enjoy listening to music, so I’m happy I was able to adjust to it. Music sounds wonderful when I crank the volume up. I love to listen to music when I drive.

HLM: How is your hearing in noisy social situations?

Iraida: With hearing aids this did not bother me because I could hardly hear anything. I couldn’t understand anyone—not even my family, even if I read their lips. I would just sit there, eating and smiling.

With cochlear implants I hear more background noise but I am more restful. My family might still speak louder, thinking that I cannot hear them, but I can talk to them and participate with the group. I might miss a few things, but this is so much better than before. I can enjoy the conversations. I can follow along and interject comments into conversations. Some of my friends say that the noise in restaurants bothers them. They have a hearing loss and it bothers them, but it doesn’t bother me.

HLM: Tell me about your family.

Iraida: Sienna is 16. She loves softball, and is pretty good at it. She is pretty quick at everything. She studies quickly and does homework and housework quickly‚ so I have to check on her because she might miss something!

Delayna is 14, and the complete opposite of Sienna. She is slow and likes to take her time. She does not like to be rushed. She’s not as social as Sienna, but she has her friends.

My husband, Michael, is a forensic photographer with the FBI. He photographs evidence for use in court presentations. He used to be in Washington, D.C., but now works in Quantico [Virginia]. He recently received a medal for 30 years of service.

For some odd reason people think my husband is Hispanic, like I am, but he’s not. He’s from Pennsylvania, and does not know any Spanish. He listened to cassettes on Spanish so he could talk to me when we first met.

I had an aunt who is married to someone in the Navy and she lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I came to Fredericksburg to go to college, and when my aunt moved to Italy, her friends threw a farewell party. Michael and his then-girlfriend came to the party. They were not happy at the time and constantly arguing. He spoke with me at the party, and after they broke up I started going out with him. He got my phone number from his girlfriend, who was actually a friend of mine!

HLM: What are your favorite sounds? Least favorite?

Iraida: When I wore hearing aids, I was always dropping things and couldn’t hear those sounds. Then I would have to backtrack through the house to find the items. With the cochlear implants I hear these types of sounds right away. Now I am careful about putting the dishes away quietly since I can hear them better. I used to put them away loudly because I did not notice the sound! When I wash dishes, the sound of water seems very loud.

I don’t like the sound of aluminum foil crinkling. I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my daughter every morning before school and wrap them in aluminum foil, and I find that sound is so loud!

The tick-tock of a clock was one of the first sounds I recognized when I was first implanted. I was sitting in my computer room doing audio rehab, and I paused to listen to the cutest sound—it was the clock on the wall.

Every morning I hear the birds and they are loud, but I enjoy them. I like the music of the 80s, maybe because during that time I was listening to music the most. I love hearing warning beeps from the stove, alert beeps from the pushing of buttons at the gas station, or any machinery—even the sound made by pushing buttons in the checkout lane at the grocery store. I love all those beeping noises. The washer and dryer also make warning noises, and I am amazed at them all.

I love my cochlear implants. They are my gems now. The most wonderful thing about it all, besides being able to hear the birds and crickets, is being able to fully participate in silly and happy chatter with family.

__________________________________

FAMILY PERSPECTIVES

MICHAEL, Iraida’s husband
We started dating each other around 1990. Although she couldn’t hear, I noticed she was a good listener. I remember, at first, we would write on napkins or scrap paper in restaurants to communicate, which seemed sufficient at the time when life seemed to
go by at a slower pace.

As our relationship progressed, we of course needed to communicate better, so we learned some basic American Sign Language. As technologies such as closed captioning, instant messaging, and texting improved, so did our ability to expand into a more interdependent relationship where we could make choices together rather than just using my best judgment.

Deciding to get a cochlear implant was a big decision for both of us, but I confess my biggest incentive for her to do it was so I didn’t have to listen to feedback from her hearing aids!

Now with the latest technology, Iraida is a bilateral cochlear recipient and together we experience the good and the bad issues resulting from her immensely improved hearing.

I remember at first she would ask, “What’s that noise I’m hearing?” and I would have to concentrate to try to isolate the many different sounds we (as hearing people) ignore on a daily basis. Finally, I would say it’s a bird or the kids playing outside. The really amazing sounds she would share were the fizz from a soda or the subtle variance of noise as you passed parked cars from the passenger side windows—“whoosh, whoosh…” she would say, like a child experiencing something for the first time.

These little highlights of hers helped remind me to stop and smell the roses, and not block out all the wonderful everyday senses we tend to take for granted.

Over the years, I have relied upon my hand gestures and exaggerating my pronunciations slightly to compensate for my soft-spoken voice. But now my wife will slap my hands away if I make a sign to remind me that she wants to practice her hearing abilities without all of the tools and aids we’ve developed through time (so far). At which point, I will jokingly say to her: ‘I liked you better before’—and a good hearty laugh follows.

SIENNA, Iraida and Michael’s daughter, age 16
The benefits that came from my mom getting cochlear implants outweighed the risks, and it was life-changing. Before her implants, it was a struggle to communicate with her when my sister or I needed something, and every day there was something we needed, all the time. However, at the time I didn’t know anything could be done to help the situation, and honestly I didn’t think that an implant could help her hearing. It just seemed too good to be true. I was also a bit hesitant about her going through the surgery because I felt it was risky and there is always a chance something could go wrong. But she explained that the doctor told her the surgery was easy, and that she wouldn’t even have to stay in the hospital overnight.

Thankfully, everything went perfectly and I noticed my mom’s hearing coming back when she would get upset with me for making too much noise in my room, or for placing silverware in the sink too loudly and carelessly. In the past, she would never point this out, and it amazed me that she thought it was now too loud!

When my mom is driving me places, she and I can now sing along to the lyrics of songs that I like to play on my iPhone. This is something I treasure because it truly is so much fun! She doesn’t always know the music from my generation, but she has an app that recognizes the song and plays the lyrics, and this, too, is amazing. She has now added some of my favorite songs to her own library on her cell phone—gotta love that!

DELAYNA, Iraida and Michael’s daughter, age 14
Now that my mom has cochlear implants, conversation with her has been much easier. I don’t have to repeat much, unless it’s an unusual or a rarely used word. In the past, I had to repeat myself constantly. We couldn’t really finish our conversation because it was so frustrating for me, especially when I needed her help with my homework back when I was younger. The teachers were teaching me something differently and my mom had her own way of doing schoolwork. Her methods were different, and I tried to explain the way my teacher wanted my schoolwork done, but it was almost impossible to express that. I am so glad my mom has cochlear implants now, and every thought that we communicate is a breeze!

Something funny that she now does when I am talking to her is that she doesn’t stop or pause to look me in the face, as she wants to continue her errands in the kitchen. I kind of want my mom to look at me. Yet, she says she is practicing, and for me to continue talking. It’s a little unusual at times, but it’s really fun to see that she did get my message when she repeats what I had just said. That’s so amazing!

Cindy Dyer designs and photographs for Hearing Loss Magazine. Her photography has been featured in Shutterbug Magazine, The Washington Post and in the Learn & Explore series on nikonusa.org. She is a twice-published USPS Stamp Artist, with two series of Forever stamps—Ferns (released in 2014) and Water Lilies (released in 2015). See more of her work at cindydyerphotography.com, cindydyerdesign.com and on her blog at cindydyer.wordpress.com.





Design Studio: Infographics Brochure

23 02 2016

I recently designed a four-page Hearing Loss Facts and Statistics brochure for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Infographics are all the rage in the design world now and this is the first time I’ve created several in one piece. The top panel is the cover, middle panel is the interior spread, and the last page is the back cover (featuring HLAA members Mark and Sunny Brogan).

You can download the pdf on HLAA’s website here: http://www.hearingloss.org/content/brochuresdvds

Facts&Statistic WEB





Hearing Loss Magazine: 2014 Recap

6 01 2015

I design and photograph for the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine (HLM). Here is a recap of the issues published in 2014. Hearing Loss Magazine is published by the Hearing Loss Association of America.

HLM JanFeb 2014The January/February 2014 issue focused on hearing loss in the workplace, with feature articles such as Career Success After Hearing Loss: Finding and Refining Your Path by David Baldridge; Congratulations, You Have an Interview! What Now? by Mary Clark; The Workplace and the Law by John Waldo; Workplace Behavioral Responses to the Law by David Baldridge; A Midwestern Grocery Store Lends a Hand by Suzanne Roath; You’re NOT Fired! Technologies for Workplace Success by audiologist Brad Ingrao; HLAA Employment Toolkit by Lise Hamlin; Hiring Employees with Hearing Loss—What’s in it for Employers? by Valerie Stafford-Mallis; and Hearing Loss is Big Business by Bettie Borton. HLAA member Chelle George was our Seen & Heard profile. I photographed Chelle at HLAA Convention 2013 in Providence, R.I. Read Chelle’s profile here.

HLM March April 2014The March/April 2014 issue was our Convention sneak preview edition, featuring Nancy Macklin’s Convention feature, The Live Music Capital of the World Awaits You. Also in this issue: author Katherine Bouton’s Tinnitus is Big Business; I Might Not Hear Everything, but I’m Still Listening by S.R. Archer; Hearing Lost, Inspiration Found, a profile of theater artist and acoustic guitarist Randy Rutherford by author John Threlfall; HLAA Fights for Consumer Rights by Lise Hamlin; Grandma Doesn’t Know What We’re Talking About by Joyce Hagerman; and Waiting Rooms—Why Does it Have to Be So Hard? by Dana Mulvany. Convention 2014 was held in Austin, Texas on June 26-29 at the Renaissance Austin Hotel. I met and photographed pianist Nancy Williams at the Convention. She was the September/October 2014 cover feature.

HLM MayJune 2014I photographed the Pawlowski family for our May/June 2014 issue. The main feature was Walk4Hearing: It Takes a Family by Ronnie Adler. Within this section were short essays by Andrea Versenyi (My Mother’s Social Isolation), Leslie Beadle (Walking in Mom’s Shoes), Lydia Riehl (A Father Inspires His Daughter to Study Audiology), and Katherine Pawlowski (Why I Walk). Other features included Just Like Me, a profile of Katherine Pawlowski by Julie Fisher; Austin, Here We Come! by Nancy Macklin; and Are You Computer Savvy? If Not, Join the Club! by Joel Strasser.

(Cover photo, from left: Alex, Katherine, Megan (mom), Nicholas, Sebastian (dad), and Elizabeth. Eight-year-old Katherine is HLAA’s first Walk4Hearing Ambassador.) Learn more about HLAA’s Walk4Hearing here.

HLM JulyAug 2014I photographed artist and portrait painter Timothy Chambers in the Virginia countryside last spring and interviewed him for our July/August issue. Following in his father’s footsteps, Timothy Chambers became a full-time portrait painter. Even a diagnosis of Usher syndrome at age 30 didn’t keep him from pursuing his passion for painting. You can read my interview, Timothy Chambers—Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome, here. Learn more about Timothy and see his beautiful work on his website here. He offers painting instruction in the form of plein air field excursions, ArtShops and online teaching with IguanaPaint. Learn more here and here. Also in this issue: Saving Vision for People with Usher Syndrome by Ben Shaberman; A Newborn Baby and a Cure for Hearing Loss—Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cell Repair by Jim Baumgartner and Linda Baumgartner; Understanding the Fundamentals of the Audiogram … So What? by audiologist Larry Medwetsky; It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got that “Bling” by Anna Bella and Suzanne D’Amico; Hearing Aid Coverage Under Medicare—We CAN Do It! by Lise Hamlin; and Unwrapping My Passion Once Again by barefoot skier Karen Putz. HLAA member Molly Corum was our Seen & Heard profile in this issue. I photographed her at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C. Read her profile here.

HLM SeptOct 2014HLAA member Barbara Chertok interviewed Nancy Williams, pianist, author and advocate, for the September/October 2014 issue. Nancy Williams is the publisher of Grand Piano Passion, an online magazine. I photographed Nancy at HLAA Convention 2014 in Austin, Texas, this past June. Visit Nancy’s website here. Read Barbara Chertok’s feature, Music to My Earshere. Also in this issue: A Listening Profit by Nancy M. Williams; Audiometric Test Procedures 101 by audiologist Larry Medwetsky; HLAA Public Policy and Advocacy Agenda by Lise Hamlin; Understanding the Terms—Culturally and Audiologically by Barbara Kelley; Accessibility Drama Has a Happy Ending by Paula DeJohn; and Reflections of an Audiologist with Hearing Loss by Mark Ross. HLAA member Meredith Segal was our Seen & Heard profile. I photographed Meredith at the HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C. Read her profile here

HLM NovDec 2014In the November/December 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, Barbara Kelley profiled Alice Marie (Ahme) Stone, wife of Rocky Stone, who founded HLAA (then known as SHHH, Self Help for the Hard of Hearing) 35 years ago. I photographed Ahme at her home in Bethesda. In Barbara’s article, The “Intrepid” Alice Marie Stone, I learned lots of things I didn’t know about Ahme, Rocky, his career with the CIA and family life on the road. It’s a really fascinating read! Read Barbara’s interview with Ahme Stone here. Also in this issue: Hearing Loss: Working Toward a Solution by Shaina Nishimura; DuPont Displays—A Great Place to Work by Tara C. Stewart; Transitioning from High School to College: Helpful Hints by audiologist Larry Medwetsky; Employment and Hearing Loss: A Case Study by David Gayle and Lise Hamlin; To Thine Own Self Be True by Valerie Stafford-Mallis; Applying for Social Security by Lisa Giorgetti; and At 84, I’m Tuned In by Eli Weil. HLAA member Candace Meinders was our Seen & Heard profile for this issue. Read her profile here.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.





Seen & Heard: Candace Meinders

6 01 2015

Candace Meinders was our Seen & Heard profile for the November/December 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I photographed Candace at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.

S&H Candace Meinders

CANDACE MEINDERS  St. Paul, Minnesota / Born June 5 in Granite Falls, Minnesota

MY HEARING LOSS… I had high fevers when I was 6, but my parents didn’t take me to see a doctor until I was 13 years old when it was diagnosed.

HOW I LEARNED ABOUT HLAA… In 1994, my sister, Linda, encouraged me to become a member and get the magazine.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER RECEIVED WAS… a cochlear implant…now I can really hear!

HLAA CHAPTER MEMBER… Twin Cities Chapter in Golden Valley, Minnesota

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… a librarian. I remember asking my school librarian about her job as a senior in high school.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… mailroom clerk, janitor, library clerk, accounting clerk, data entry operator

FAVORITE BOOKS… anything written by Joyce Meyer

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… One Nation by Dr. Ben Carson.

I AM… honest, quiet and strong willed.

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to be happily married.

MY SHORT-TERM GOAL IS… to vacation in Germany or Hawaii.

SOMETHING I HAVE IN MY HOME THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T… International Poet of Merit Award presented to me by the International Society of Poets

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… people smoking around me.

THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… my gray Tabby cat Sebastian, my Bible and my iPhone

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… that I can do anything I set my mind to.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to not forget to go to church.

I HAVE A LITTLE-KNOWN TALENT FOR… research. I’ve advanced so far in my genealogy research that I now need to visit Germany to research Ostfriesen culture.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… ice cream.

THE KINDEST THING ANYONE EVER DID FOR ME… When I was 24, my penpal from Florida sent me a big bouquet of flowers for Christmas. I was so touched because I had never received a bouquet of flowers.

GREATEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… cochlear implants

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… my short-term mission trip to Haiti in 1991

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a Christ follower.

I love the Seen & Heard profiles in Hearing Loss Magazine. Attending HLAA Convention allows me to explore different cities.