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.





Seen & Heard: Brenda Schmidt

6 09 2016

Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA) member Brenda Schmidt is our first Seen & Heard profile in the September/October 2016 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by HLAA. We’ve been Facebook friends for awhile but I finally got to meet and photograph her at HLAA Convention 2016 in Washington, D.C. this past June!

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 Brenda Schmidt

BRENDA SCHMIDT / Naperville, Illinois / Born January 20 in Columbus, Ohio

I LEARNED ABOUT HLAA… I work in the field of education for individuals with hearing loss.

THE BEST THING ABOUT HLAA CONVENTIONS IS… being around people who are experiencing similar life challenges. We rarely find others in the same situation nearby.

MY HEARING LOSS… I was about four years old when my parents started questioning whether I had a hearing loss. I was diagnosed at the age of seven, which was back in 1970. The first sound I heard with my new hearing aid was my footsteps on the ground. I had so many questions—‘What’s that sound? What’s that sound?’ I still do this today. With each improvement in technology I am hearing sounds for the first time, even at my age. The last new sound I heard was a hummingbird in my garage. I thought, ’Oh that’s why they are called hummingbirds!’ I was amazed!

SAGE ADVICE… do not try to fake your way through situations where you are having a
hard time communicating. Be honest and let people know you need them to speak up, repeat or rephrase. It’s all about having a sense of humor about the situation.

A FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… I was a cashier at a local drugstore in my town. A lady came to the counter and said something and smiled. I responded with, ‘Yes it is, isn’t it?’ thinking she had said, “It’s a beautiful day outside.” She had a confused expression as she walked out, so I asked a colleague what  happened. The colleague told me she actually said, “You have such beautiful red hair!”

WHAT ACTOR WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE? I most identify with Lucille Ball because of her red hair and the predicaments she got herself in. I’m always finding myself in predicaments.

MY BEST VACATION EVER WAS… Cancun and swimming with the dolphins.

SOMEONE REALLY NEEDS TO DESIGN A BETTER… captioning service for cell phones that can be used at any time. I wish there was an app or device that could take spoken language and put it into print, accurately and in real-time.

I RECENTLY LEARNED… how to make infographics. All technology fascinates me.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… was say goodbye to my father, who passed away last December.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… am a talented memorizer of names of people and phone numbers.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Cheetos.

I COLLECT… dust bunnies.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO OVER? I would probably do my high school career over and try even harder than I did with the hearing loss challenges I faced. I would be more of a self-advocate for my needs.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Ohio, Texas, California, Illinois, and Michigan

FIVE JOBS I HAVE HAD… specialized children’s shoe fitter, drugstore clerk, pharmacy technician, teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, and special education administrator

I AM… positive, cheerful, and optimistic.

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… warm, a good listener, and empathetic.

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD IS… my Bluetooth streamer for my hearing aids.

NAME SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU ARE SURE MOST PEOPLE DON’T… ghost hunting paraphernalia

MY THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS ARE… my animals, my hearing aids, and my comfy pajamas.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE… I am famous for messing up quotes and making my own. One of them is, ‘You are walking on thin eggs.’

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Minnie Pearl, Charlie Daniels, and Lloyd Bridges

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a kind person who was considerate of others.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… is overcoming challenges with hearing loss
and showing the world I can’t be stopped by that barrier.

I love articles in Hearing Loss Magazine about access to communication
for people with hearing loss. I wish there was more info for us!

 





Shilo & Scout

8 07 2016

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

This is one of my favorite shots from the session. You can tell how much Scout adores Shilo!

WEB lorez Shilo Scout





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, January/February 2015 issue

8 01 2015

Janet and Sam Trychin (and their hearing dog, Doris Eileen) grace the cover of the first 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which is published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed them at Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

JanFeb 2015 cover





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.

 





The Intrepid Alice Marie Stone

3 11 2014

In the November/December 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine (published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America—HLAA), Barbara Kelley profiles 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 a few months ago. I learned lots of things I didn’t know about her, Rocky, his career with the CIA and family life on the road. It’s a really fascinating read!

Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Join the Hearing Loss Association of America! www.hearingloss.org

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Ahme Stone Cover

The Intrepid Alice Marie Stone
by Barbara Kelley

After 35 years, in her first interview, Alice Marie (“Ahme”) Stone, wife of Founder Rocky Stone, talks about the early days of the organization as well as some never-written-about-before stories about life with Rocky. Today, Rocky is folklore in both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) where he spent his first 25-year career, and folklore in the organization we now call HLAA. What you are about to read has been declassified, but such is the stuff spy thrillers are made of. Ahme is part of the folklore of which we speak.

In the book America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East (2013 Basic Books) by Hugh Wilford, the author discusses a case that involved Rocky and Ahme Stone in Syria. Wilford describes Ahme as the “intrepid Alice Marie Stone.” We’ve always known Rocky was fearless, undaunting, unflinching, adventurous, heroic, dynamic, spirited, indomitable, but Ahme too?

She’s a Texan having been born in San Antonio on September 11, 1927, and grew up along the Gulf Coast in Corpus Christi. When asked if we could interview her for this article, Ahme said that she is neither talkative nor introspective. Ahme is self-effacing and her ways are genteel but anyone who knows her appreciates her sincerity, depth, faith, sense of humor, and sees her love for people, the organization, Rocky, and her family.

It would be impossible to talk about the founding of this organization without also talking about Ahme Stone. (Pronounced “Ahh-me” from a nickname given to her by her toddler brother Joe who couldn’t enunciate Alice Marie.)

In 1978, a year before Rocky founded Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, now known as the Hearing Loss Association of America, Ahme had just earned her master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Trinity University in Washington, D.C. She was completing an internship at Walter Reed Army Hospital and was about to embark on her career at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, as a Catholic chaplain. With her quiet strength, calmness and faith, she ministered to those who were terminally ill and earned respect for her work.

Once asked if this ministry made her feel sad, she said, “But I get to see so many miracles.”

One of her daughters said about her, “I don’t know how to capture the essence of her grace and compassion.” Rocky put it another way, “Ahme is in love with God.”

Ahme said, “I loved the work, I felt I was fortunate to have the opportunity. It’s something I had wanted to do for a long time.”

The Start of a National Organization for People with Hearing Loss
Rocky had recently retired from the CIA in 1975 after earning the Agency’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. Along with a bulky body-worn hearing aid attached to his shirt, he was an expert speechreader. Foreign diplomats didn’t believe he was deaf, the term used in those days. One Soviet thought his hearing aid was a recording device.

He told Ahme that he wanted to start an organization for people who didn’t hear well. He said they, like he, were “between two worlds”—neither deaf nor hearing. He characterized hearing loss as “an invisible condition” and concluded that no organization existed that focused specifically on people who were not deaf or fully hearing; but, rather, hard of hearing. All the services, organized groups and any available literature focused on people who were deaf and mostly used sign language. There was nothing for people who were hard of hearing and wanted to use technology to function in a hearing world; so he decided to start a new organization called Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH).

What did Ahme think when he told her about starting a new organization? She said, “I thought it was a good idea but I had no idea exactly what he had in mind. It was clear he had been thinking about it for a long time. ”

In November 1979, Howard E. “Rocky” Stone founded SHHH.

What was Ahme’s role in the nascent organization that began in the family room of the Stone home in Bethesda, Maryland? She says, “I saw Rocky’s colleagues from the CIA coming to help. They all took a job—financial, public relations, administrative support. I basically stayed out of the way because I had a full-time job. On the occasions I was home, I would enjoy seeing friends and people from the Agency come and go. Even my mother [Helen Mueller], who was hard of hearing and struggling, folded letters and stuffed envelopes. My laundry room was full of boxes of journals. Our family room which was once the recreation room for the whole family was turned into the SHHH headquarters.”

Ahme and his colleagues were familiar with Rocky’s dogged style. She says, “One time, our friend and colleague, Myra Johnson, was having tea with me in the kitchen, taking a break so we could chat. Rocky found us and nudged Myra to get back to work in the ‘office.’”

Ahme saw the organization move from their home to a small office in Bethesda where Rocky served as the first executive director, unpaid with a staff of four who were also unpaid. (Rocky never took a paycheck as the executive director.) Ahme was deeply impressed with the dedication of this small staff. She remembers Patricia Clickener, the first Board president who took a leave of absence from her executive position at the Chicago ad agency, Leo Burnett, and came to volunteer full time for 20 months. There were countless others over the years. She found it almost unbelievable that people would travel at their own expense from as far as California and Washington to serve on a volunteer Board of Trustees.

She said, “I felt we should at least give them dinner if they were going to all this expense and effort for this organization.”

This was the beginning of Ahme’s hospitality and the opening up of their home with years of Board dinners on the nights before meetings began. Ahme attended all the Board meetings for many years.

Most of all, Ahme gave Rocky emotional support. She had been married to Rocky for nearly 30 years at that time and knew he felt passionately about helping other people. This was the time when self-help movements were in full bloom. Rocky used that template to provide people with reliable information to enable them to help themselves; then, in turn, to help others with hearing loss.

Rocky, many times over, credited Ahme with choosing the location of the national headquarters office in Bethesda. Rocky had found an office with no access to public transportation. Ahme vetoed it and recommended finding a place near the Metro. She said, “People can get to you and you can get to Capitol Hill.”

Ahme says, “At that time, hearing loss wasn’t considered a medical condition. Now they screen babies for hearing loss when they’re born. How far we have come in 35 years!”

Those who knew Rocky also knew he had a great intellect and keen insight into human psychology, that’s what made him successful in the CIA. He knew others weren’t so fortunate with the same job opportunities and he wanted to let them know that there were others with hearing loss, that it was not something to be ashamed of, and that they could live successfully with hearing loss.

Going Back—Some Fateful Meetings
In 1947, Ahme met Rocky at the University of Southern California (USC) where she earned her bachelor’s degree in fine art. Rocky was a teaching assistant in one of her classes. Ahme took her dog to class and Rocky couldn’t help but notice. They made a few quips back and forth. Ahme remembers getting a poor grade in the class and not feeling she deserved it, she took her protest to the professor. It turned out the professor didn’t give her the grade, it was Rocky who did. Let’s say Rocky had met his match. Did he know it? We are not sure. Did Ahme know it? “No,” she says.

After Ahme graduated from USC in 1948, she returned to Corpus Christi and wanted to travel the world. She remembers, “There were no jobs in Corpus Christi and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life behind a typewriter, besides, I couldn’t even type very well.”

Ahme’s father, Joe Mueller, advised her that she didn’t have to spend her life behind a typewriter, but it would get her foot in the door.

Ahme had other ideas. She wanted to go to Germany or Japan during the Allied Forces occupation in the aftermath of World War II. Her friend told her the CIA was hiring and Ahme replied to her friend saying, “What’s the CIA?” It didn’t matter what it was, it was a chance to go to Washington, D.C. for an interview and a chance at living her dream.

Ahme recalls, “Daddy said to go to Washington, take a good look around and if you don’t like what you see, come on home—you’re always welcome here.”

She had the interview which included the dreaded typing test. She recalls typing about 20 words a minute and losing hope. The interviewer told her, “Your typing won’t set the world on fire, but that’s not what we’re hiring you to do.”

Meanwhile, Rocky graduated from the University of Southern California and went to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore on a scholarship.

Now in Washington, D.C., and with a new job, Ahme ran into Rocky again. This time it was 1950 at the USC International Students alumni meeting at the iconic Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. Ahme said, “I was so happy to see a familiar face so I said hello and Rocky replied, ‘Oh, I remember you, you’re the girl with the dog.’”

Then again, they met at the CIA located at that time in D.C., next to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. It was 1950 and Ahme worked the Czechoslovakia desk on the intelligence-gathering side while Rocky was on the operational side of the CIA. Here was another fateful meeting that eventually resulted in their 53-year marriage, or should we say their 53-year adventure?

Ahme Stone…Intrepid?
When Rocky was trying to get the word out about the new organization, SHHH, it was often his ventures as a CIA operative that would catch the attention of the media. Renowned journalist David Ignatius wrote a story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal about Rocky’s career in 1979. Rocky agreed to the interview if Ignatius would mention SHHH. At the end of the article, the author included a small paragraph on the inception of SHHH. Hundreds of people from all over the world wrote for information for help with their hearing loss.

Ahme was very much part of the CIA days that caught the attention of many. That’s why we can’t talk to Ahme without going back to the days before SHHH. The “intrepid Alice Marie Stone?” Let’s see about that.

Iran
Rocky and Ahme were both working for the CIA when they were first posted to Iran during the time of the overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddegh. Rocky was at the center of many important international events and this was one of them. She recalls, “During this time, Rocky helped orchestrate the coup that restored Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to the Iranian throne.”

Rocky recalled later buttoning the uniform of General Fazlollah Zahedi, the CIA’s man in the Iranian military and the Shah’s newly designated prime minister. The general was too nervous to dress himself. Ahme, his young wife, was sitting calmly in a rocking chair in their home. She had a pistol hidden under her knitting as she guarded Ardeshir Zahedi, the general’s 25-year-old son and a friend of the CIA. The younger Zahedi, in later years, would serve as the Shah’s ambassador to the United States.

Sudan
“After Iran,” she continues, “We were assigned to Sudan in 1955 where we arrived with a three-month old, an 18-month old, and a two-and-a-half year old.”

While the Middle East was an active spot, Rocky was posted to the Sudan (North Africa) where on a trip to Kenya, the Stones experienced Mau Mau uprising by native Africans against English colonial rule (c. 1953). Ahme said the Kikuyu [groups of Mau Mau] were slaughtering the colonials and it was a very dangerous time to be there.

Ahme talks about the time she was sent from Sudan to Cyprus for a medical checkup. It was during the Suez Crisis in 1956 in the Middle East and planes were not permitted to fly from Beirut. However, she went to Athens and got special permission to fly on a military plane. It turned out to be a seven-hour flight on a cargo plane. Ahme was fitted with a parachute and said, “I was instructed on how to use it if we had to ‘ditch in the desert.’ The pilot told me to look for shade and water as I was going down. I told him if we had to go down, I would prefer it be the Mediterranean.”

Syria
Rocky’s next posting was to Syria in 1957. Rocky went to Syria while Ahme, pregnant with their fourth child, stayed with the children temporarily in Beirut, Lebanon, until their living quarters were ready. Here she lived above the notorious, high-ranking member of the British intelligence, double agent, Harold “Kim” Philby. He was working with the Soviet Union at the time and was on the last leg of his escape from the British authorities as he was on the run to defect to the Soviet Union.

Ahme recalls finally getting to Syria, getting settled, and was there about a month when she called Rocky at his office to tell them their phones were connected. During the call, she heard the phone line being cut. She remembers vividly a Syrian government official coming to the door in a white dinner jacket with a red carnation telling her that he would escort them to the border. She recalls fighting back the tears saying, sarcastically, “You’re too kind.” Ahme now says, “I loved Syria, we just got unpacked, got the last picture hung on the wall and we had to leave…in a hurry!”

They went to a hotel on their way out of the country and were told not to be too conspicuous. She recalled letting the children bring their pet bunny with them for comfort. The bunny escaped in the hotel lobby and caused a ruckus. So much for a low profile.

Pakistan and Nepal
After the Sudan in Africa the Stones went to the east with posts in Karachi, Pakistan and Kathmandu, Nepal. In Karachi, they were reacquainted with Prime Minister Bhutto, who was a classmate of Rocky’s at USC, and his family. The Stone children went to school with the Bhutto children. Jolie Stone Frank was a classmate of Benazir “Pinkie” Bhutto who became the prime minister of Pakistan and the first woman in history to lead a Muslim nation; she was assassinated in 2007. In Nepal they met Sir Edmund Hillary—the first to climb Mount Everest—and his American team which included Barry Bishop, Tom Hornbein, Willi Unsoeld and others.

Amidst all her activities as a mother and wife to a CIA operative, she volunteered to dispense milk to children in the slums and took care of people with leprosy. In Nepal, she recalls with a smile the memories of teaching people with leprosy how to sew. They made children’s clothes and sold them for income. She smiles as she recalls repeatedly telling them in Nepali to “undo it” because they kept sewing up the armholes. While some people stationed in Nepal didn’t like it because it was isolated geographically, Ahme loved the location and the Nepalese people. She said “it was delightful to be in the mountains.”

In June 1966, the Stone family returned to Washington, D.C., with Rocky being medically evacuated with a rare strain of malaria.

The next hot spot was a year in Vietnam where Rocky and future CIA Director William Colby were stationed. Ahme and the family couldn’t accompany him. Rocky briefed then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that the war could not be won. He then developed contacts high in the North Vietnamese military and those relationships of mutual respect led to the Paris peace talks.

After that, Rocky was stationed in Washington, D.C., as the head of the Soviet Block Division leading the Agency’s intelligence gathering activity against the Soviets around the world.

Rome
In 1971, they went to Rome, Italy, which was important because a new global war was underway and Rome was the epicenter. International terrorists, the Red Brigade, Baader-Meinhof, Black September and other terrorist organizations were springing to life and it was important to identify and contain them. There were many attacks—at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, at Tel Aviv’s Lod airport, and at the Munich Olympic Village. During this time, Ahme sadly recalls the tragic assassination of their friends and colleagues in Khartoum, Sudan—Cleo A. Noel, Jr., U.S. ambassador to Sudan, and George “Curt” Moore, foreign service officer, who were both murdered by the Black September Palestinian terrorist group. Both were classmates of Rocky’s at USC.

While in Rome, Rocky’s last overseas assignment, and one of Ahme’s favorites, she recalls that the wives didn’t have their usual obligations because the station chiefs wanted everyone to enjoy Rome. So she went to see Fr. Bernhard Häring, a Catholic theologian and friend of the family, seeking advice on what she could be doing. He asked her what she would like to do and Ahme blurted out, “I want to become a chaplain.” Fr. Häring assured her that she could do it, gave her advice, and she began her studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Regina Mundi Pontifical Institute in Rome.

Ahme accompanied Rocky on all his overseas tours except for the one to Vietnam. It has been noted that each and every spot where they lived was strategically important from an intelligence perspective for the United States.

When asked if she was ever afraid, Ahme hesitated a little then said, “No, we just knew we had to be ready to leave a place at a moment’s notice. Our evacuation suitcase was packed the whole time in the early years with baby gear and Carnation Milk.”

Few mothers would be prepared to face this harrowing possibility. Was it her training? Her faith? Her youthful naiveté? Her intrepid-ness?

The Next Adventure
After Rocky retired from the CIA, he got immersed in the topic of hearing loss. “He went to Congress, worked with the National Council on Aging and anyone he could to get to understand the issues,” said Ahme.

Because of Rocky and members of the early organization, the term “hard of hearing” was inserted into the lexicon for the first time on a national level. The term hard of hearing at the time was critical to creating awareness about millions of people who needed communication access other than a sign language interpreter. For the first time, academic and consumer literature began to address what it was like to be hard of hearing.

Ahme says that Rocky was most proud of serving people with hearing loss when the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was passed. He and SHHH members advocated for the landmark legislation. The ADA celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. One outcome of the ADA was that communication access guidelines in public places were created both for people who are deaf and for those who are hard of hearing. The law requires “reasonable accommodation” and that can mean different things depending on the person’s needs and the situation. It provides for technology options in addition to sign language interpreters.

Rocky Stone was appointed by President Reagan to the Access Board who wrote the regulations for the ADA. If it weren’t for Rocky Stone and SHHH members at the time who gave critical input, there would be nothing in the law other than sign language and captioning. The law puts people with hearing loss on equal footing with others in the workplace and public places.

When asked what Rocky might say today about the work of the organization, Ahme says, “He might say our work is more critical than ever. When I ask for accommodations I am still offered a sign language interpreter. Then, I ask for captioning and they don’t always have it.”

Ahme now counts herself among the 48 million people in the United States today with hearing loss.

Ahme knows that people find their information on the Internet, unlike the early days of the organiza-tion. But she says people can’t rely totally on the Web.

“People miss out on a lot if they don’t go to chapters where people are so happy to be there and meet others like themselves. I know the chapters take a lot of work and people are so busy these days, but chapters are important.”

Rocky retired as executive director of SHHH in 1993. Ahme retired from her work at the National Institutes of Health in 1997 to travel full-time with Rocky for his various “posts,” this time associated with hearing loss, not the CIA. Rocky served as president and board member of the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People, of which HLAA is a member organization, and this required extensive travel. Ahme enjoyed these travels with him. In the years after his retirement, Rocky lost his sight to macular degeneration and had received a cochlear implant because he could no longer use his vision to speechread.

Rocky passed away on August 13, 2004, at age 79. Since then, Ahme volunteered at the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C., serving breakfast and lunch to homeless men. She keeps up with HLAA members and travels with her children and grandchildren. Her favorite annual trek is to the HLAA Convention where she sees old friends and meets new ones. What stands out about the convention? “Everyone has a smile on the whole time they are there,” she says.

During the annual convention Ahme presents the HLAA Alice Marie Stone Family Involvement Award during the Awards Breakfast and Ceremony to a family member of a person with hearing loss who supports their loved one in extraordinary ways. A recipient herself, the award is named and modeled after her support of Rocky and her dedication to the organization and to people with hearing loss. Ahme also presents the Howard E. “Rocky” Stone Humanitarian Award to a former Board member who exemplifies the philosophy and vision of Founder Rocky Stone.

The Stone Team
Yes, Rocky and Ahme have a background of intrigue, danger and drama. But somehow this led to their life’s work of bringing people with hearing loss together to find solutions.

We have a lot to thank Rocky and Ahme for. Not only were they partners in the national security of our country, they were partners in the formation and growth of the organization we now call HLAA. They have always said our organization is about people. The mission is still the same. All the information, education, support, advocacy, and the use of technology, can help the person with hearing loss to get along better, stay connected, work, and be part of a mainstreamed community.

Ahme is quick to add that many have worked to make HLAA the organization it is today. She says in addition to Rocky and the family, there was Joan Kleinrock who built the chapter network in the early years along with leaders and members.

“There are so many dedicated people, both at the national office, on the Board, and in the chapters, who believe in the mission and deserve credit,” she says.

The Intrepid Girl and the Dog
Talking with Ahme, now 87, is a peaceful experience…and fun! She energizes you with her wit and joy of life. She prefers to be outdoors and likes to visit with you among the birds in her garden. Somehow you feel uplifted after having talked with her. As Rocky said, she is the optimal positive person.

Ahme never takes credit; she tosses it to others and brings out the best in everyone she meets. Intrepid? Ahme will say not. But, you can decide.

She remains a woman of few, yet weighty and gracious words. We’ll finish with some questions and her to-the-point and heartfelt responses.

What’s the most fun you’ve had in the 35 years of the organization? Going to the Conventions.

What message do you have for our members? The self-help philosophy is still here. Work hard, help yourselves, get out, go to a chapter meeting. Then, go to an HLAA Convention!

What is the most important thing you and Rocky shared as a couple during the SHHH/HLAA years? Meeting wonderful people.

What has SHHH, now HLAA, meant to your family—your children and grandchildren?  The organization is our family.

Ahme, if Rocky were alive today, what would he think about our organization’s 35-year history to date? Rocky used to say that the organization can help, but ultimately it comes down to the individual with hearing loss to embrace the message. I think if he were here today, he would be delighted.

Barbara Kelley is deputy executive director and editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine. She thanks Ahme for sharing her time for this article and to her four children for helping to recall many of the stories—Jolie Stone Frank, Ted Stone, Michael Stone, and Melanie Stone Hogan. Barbara Kelley can be reached at bkelley@hearingloss.org. 





Seen & Heard: Meredith Segal

27 08 2014

Meredith Segal is our Seen & Heard profile for the September/October 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I photographed Meredith at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.

MeredithSegalS&H

MEREDITH SEGAL / Hockessin, Delaware / Born April 6, 1978 in Bogota, Colombia

THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN HLAA MEMBER IS… knowing that I am not alone in what I am dealing with and that there are people who I can reach out to and know that together we can come up with a plan to get through the challenges. It helps to brainstorm with others who truly know what you’re dealing with.

MY HEARING LOSS… My parents didn’t discover my hearing loss until I had testing in kindergarten. I didn’t get my first pair of bilateral hearing aids until first grade (I was 6). My hearing had always stayed the same until I got to high school and I knew once I was switched from in-the-ear to the behind-the-ear hearing aids, my hearing was worse. I qualified for a cochlear implant and got it March 5, 2013. I now have a cochlear implant in my left ear and wear a hearing aid in my right ear.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE A… basketball player (got a lesson in reality from my mom, who informed me that I couldn’t be a professional basketball player because of my height—I was in either fourth or fifth grade).

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY IS… spending time with my family, trips we took together, and getting to go to Honduras with my parents to get my new sister and brother!

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… thunder (until my cochlear implant I couldn’t hear it at all). I love hearing my nephews and niece telling me they love me.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… taller than three feet (91 cm)!

I MISS… my dad and late orthopedic surgeon Dr Kopits.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… took Taekwondo and broke a one-half inch thick board with my foot; that I used to take horseback riding lessons.

HAPPINESS IS… loving yourself and accepting the things that make you different.

I HAVE A FEAR OF… bugs and bats. Also, I am wary of dogs tails—especially if they are wagging. I have been knocked off my feet with a dog’s tail!

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… my birth parents (my adoption was a closed adoption).

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… I worked for Discover Card, Kmart (seasonal), Kohl’s (seasonal), assistant to the manager of my ENT doctor’s practice (before my hearing got really bad) and as a volunteer at the local hospital in their mail room.

I AM… a little person, a loyal friend and loving.

KINDEST THING SOMEONE HAS DONE FOR ME… In my senior year in high school we had a banquet and all the senior guys got on their knees to dance with me. That same year the senior class took a trip to New York City. One teacher said I couldn’t go unless my mom came with us because if my scooter broke down, I would be a liability. My friends found out what this teacher said and they told him that if my scooter broke down they would carry it back to the bus and load it, and would carry me around! He wouldn’t budge and told them I would be a liability. They said “no, you are the liability, not Meredith.” When the senior trip day came, about 50-75 percent of the senior class choose to not go on the class trip as a direct result of what the teacher said.

I like all the feature articles in Hearing Loss Magazine, especially the Seen & Heard profiles of people with hearing loss.

 





The Not So Elusive Josh Vinyard

6 11 2013

Dancer Josh “Elusive” Vinyard is our cover feature for the November/December 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. After seeing Josh on America’s Got Talent, I told HLM editor Barbara Kelley about him and then got the ball rolling to contact him. I was excited to learn that he lives in Austin, less than a two-hour drive from my family’s house in San Antonio!

Very special thanks to photographer Brian K. Loflin for assisting with the photo shoot of Josh all around Austin, as well as the images he shot for the feature. Brian was my boss many years ago and has long been my photography mentor. Austin is full of very colorful, graffiti-covered walls that made for a perfect backdrop for some of our shots. You can find Brian’s work at www.loflin-images.com. Visit his natural science photography blog, full of informative how-to photography articles, here: http://bkloflin.wordpress.com/.

Thanks also to Josh’s friend, Peter Tsai, for the photographs he contributed to the feature. Visit Peter’s website at http://www.petertsaiphotography.com/blog/. Visit Josh Vinyard’s website here.

____________________________________________

The Not So Elusive Josh Vinyard by Cindy Dyer

One night I was flipping through TV channels and paused at just the right time to meet 22-year-old Josh “Elusive” Vinyard, a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent (Season 7). I don’t usually watch the show, but when I paused, there was Josh—sharing his experience with hearing loss. I watched his performance and was mesmerized by his talent and athleticism. Through a web search, I learned that he lives in Austin, less than a two-hour drive from San Antonio where my family lives, so I could easily interview and photograph him the next time I was in the area. I sent him an email introducing myself and he responded immediately. I spent the entire day with Josh, photographing him and getting to know this very talented young man. (Cover photo by Cindy Dyer)

Josh Cover

Josh is unlike other subjects I have photographed for Hearing Loss Magazine. All of the other people we have featured have faced their hearing loss and availed themselves of the amazing technology. Josh has avoided it, and I don’t think he really knows what it could do for him. His personal choice is to not wear hearing aids, despite his mother’s pressure to do so when he was younger. If he were armed with more knowledge about the products available to athletes, I think he might possibly consider it in the future. What do you think?

Tell me about your hearing loss.
I honestly don’t know many of the details of my hearing loss from when I was younger. I was born with holes in both of my eardrums. I have had four surgeries on my left ear and one on my right ear. Thankfully, having surgery to repair the hole in my right eardrum worked. The next two surgeries were on my left ear. The last surgery was to remove a cholesteatoma. [A cholesteatoma is an abnormal skin growth in the middle ear behind the eardrum. It is usually caused by repeated infection that causes an ingrowth of the skin of the eardrum. Hearing loss, dizziness, and facial muscle paralysis are rare but can result from continued cholesteatoma growth.] You would think I would take the time to learn about it now that I’m older, but it has affected me so much in my younger life and I suppose I just prefer to leave it behind me.

Did you have any issues with your hearing loss when you were younger and in school?
I wish I would have had more help in school. My mother pressured me to wear a hearing aid but I refused. I thought it would further alienate me from other kids and decrease my chances for making any friends. The truth was, I was already a social outcast because I could barely hear since the time I was born.

Growing up, I had a hard time hearing people so I didn’t understand them most of the time. My solution was to stop trying to listen and play in my own imagination. I kept to myself and daydreamed all day long. I essentially committed social suicide without having a clue I was doing it. I gave the appearance of a loner, so kids labeled me as a weirdo and, presto, no friends!

The teachers accused me of not paying attention in class and, presto, angry teachers! Granted, I wasn’t paying attention, but I never understood what they were talking about every time I did try listening. I refused to accept any hearing aids. School is not a fun place when you think the teachers and students are against you. And when you’re young, you blame yourself.

JoshByBrianWere you teased in school because of your hearing loss?
I’m sure I was, but there are no specific times that I can remember. I never talked about my hearing loss when I was younger. I don’t want to say I was hiding it, but I never felt the need to express it with others. It was my personal business.

Had you ever considered wearing a hearing aid? Do you think you’re missing out on things?
I had not considered wearing hearing aids. As I said, I refused when my mother tried to get me to. The reason is because I did not want to be further segregated from the other kids. I don’t have the desire to wear one now because growing up, my hearing loss affected my life (for the better, I think) and I have discovered a lot of ways not to necessarily overcome it, but to handle it. I feel like I would be leaving a part of me behind in a sense. As an athlete, I don’t think I could constantly wear one. When I’m working on a show, movie, or in a competition, I need to hear, but I am performing and moving around a lot.

I’ve seen the video of you breakdancing when you received your high school diploma. Was this spontaneous?
It was a little message that only I understood, but that’s all that mattered. I relied on my dancing to get me through the hard times, including school. That was my way of declaring, “This is what got me through, not you.” It sounds a little cold when I actually say it, but that is how I felt and I wanted to leave that stamp. (Photo of Josh above, left by Brian K. Loflin)

How do you communicate without the help of technology?
I read a lot of body language and facial expressions. This practice always gives me clues to the context of the discussion and then I fill in the gaps of what I did not hear. I love that I have learned to do it this way, though. I probably don’t hear everything but body language gives me an insight to what they really want to say versus what they are actually saying.

Josh Walking WallHow do people react when they learn you have a hearing loss?
The reaction is always the same. “That explains a lot.” But then, at the same time they typically marvel on how well I do despite my hearing loss. (Photo of Josh at right by Cindy Dyer)

How does your hearing loss affect your life now, including dancing?
Nothing that is really different, honestly. I ask people to repeat themselves a lot, and will offer them my explanation if I have to ask them repeatedly. I still rely on other resources for understanding people other than just hearing. My resources include body language, tone of their voice, reading their facial expression, the syllables of each word they use and lastly, the context of the discussion to weave everything together. As for dancing, it teaches me to rely on intuitively feeling the music versus counting beats.

What would you want hearing people to know about your hearing loss in order to be more sensitive and accommodating?
No special treatment needed. Just be understanding of when I ask you to repeat yourself or to speak a little louder. Just don’t try to talk in my bad ear!

If someone were to encourage you to get your hearing evaluated to see if there is any kind of technology that would help you hear better, or understand conversation better, would you give it a try for your day-to-day life outside of dancing?
I would be open to something new. I have this thought that technology won’t help me due to my strenuous physical activities. Would something fall off? Bounce around too much? That is why I have not tried anything. I guess I need more information. (Photo of Josh against the Austin skyline by Peter Tsai)

Josh By Peter 1

When did you start dancing?
I started dancing at age 13. I didn’t think about mastering the skill. I was a disgruntled, self-destructive youth. I just wanted to be good at something. At age 15, I really began to rely on dancing to fulfill me emotionally. I had felt worthless due to my social inadequacies. I remember telling myself, “You’re not good at anything, but this is what you’re best at so just try to be decent at it.”

Needless to say, I was pretty hard on myself. My dancing is the offspring of my pain, but, ironically. It has practically given me everything I have now. Pain plus dancing have made me into who I am today—a person whom I love and believe in.

Does your family support your career choice?
I have an awesome, amazing and loving family, and I love them all so much. I am the youngest and have an older brother and sister. We all enjoy our time together. It’s a rare thing that I have and I am so lucky.

My family had never really supported my dancing and stunts, but they never discouraged it either. When it comes down to it, their attitude helped a lot. People have big dreams and a lot of them fall flat on their face. They thought there was a chance I might fail trying, but they weren’t going to discourage me from trying.

When the America’s Got Talent opportunity arose, it was one of those events where they knew that anything was possible and I could achieve anything. Not that they didn’t think I had a lack of talent to do it, but just because they know how hard the world is. They fully support me now.

What is your training ritual?
I try to practice for a few hours every day. Or at least, at the bare minimum, one hour. Sometimes I will practice for six straight hours, then have a lengthy stretching session, followed by working out, then do some cardiovascular training such as running. It wasn’t until later that I learned the importance of recovery. I might then massage my body with a foam roller followed by an Epsom salt bath. My complete regimen averages about 20-30 hours a week.

I have a background in gymnastics and martial arts that I pull from for working out. Around age 20, I studied anatomy and physiology enough to begin to understand really how working out worked. That’s when I began to design my own workouts and training routines specifically geared toward Bboying.

“Bboying” stands for Break Boy. Breakers originally used this semi-acronym before the term breakdancing was popularly used. Using the Bboying is to use it as a verb, to breakdance. To call someone “Bboy” before their name is an adjective, to define them as a breaker. I do workouts and exercises that I still have not seen other people do.

What are some of the daily habits and disciplines required to become a professional dancer?
You have to work hard and push yourself. The more you sweat, the less you cry when things don’t work out. Dancing is a special field. You can’t just physically exert yourself. You have to exercise tremendous imagination and emotions. One of the hardest things to do is to simply allow yourself to relax, especially after an injury.

A dancer should have had a lot of training in various physical endeavors such as stunt classes, martial arts, etc.

How does martial arts and stunt training help with dancing?
The study of movement is important and the more you know, even if it’s just how cars move, the more you understand about yourself. Therefore, I have training in gymnastics, martial arts, dance, and Parkour. (Parkour, also known as Free Running, was originally developed as a military obstacle training to efficiently and effectively move through your environment. You can see examples of this on YouTube, martial arts, other forms of dance, and just a lot of physical activities in general.)

I do a lot of random things—all physical—that all come together and help form me either directly or indirectly as an athlete and performer.

What was your first paying gig or contest and how did it go?
My first paying gig was when I was 15. I dressed up as Spiderman and pretended to be him for a child’s birthday—doing flips and everything. I made $50 for that. I won my first competition when I was 16. I was still a self-destructive kid, but it was one of those moments that make me say to myself, “I might not be a failure. I just might be worth something.”

Do you have a “day job” or are you focusing solely on making a career out of your passion for dance?
As of now, I am a full-time entertainer for dancing and stunts. Dancing has always been fun and it is my “crutch” and it will probably continue to be. As for a choice of career though, I am pursuing the stunt realm.

Which dancers inspired you when started dancing? Who are your favorite dancers in this genre?
I never really looked up to other dancers when I was learning. In my mid-teens, though, I was heavily inspired by Bboy Physicx. (He is a Bboy from Korea). Later I tried to learn from entertainers of all types. I loved to watch Bboy Cloud. His real name is Daniel Campos but his dance name is Cloud. Michael Jackson, James Brown and others have also influenced my work. Cloud and Physicx will without a doubt always be some of my favorite dancers in this genre.

What is it about Hip-Hop dance that makes it Hip-Hop?
This is where it begins to get weird unless you already understand it. Breaking is a form of dance that incorporates any movement the individual desires to use. The term breaking came about because Bboys would always dance to the breaks of a song. Breaking is a core part of hiphop. Hip-hop’s roots are in the Bronx and its fundamentals were graffiti, DJs, MCs (rappers) and Bboys. It is a raw art form. I say this because there is hardly any money, fame, or materialistic values involved in this art—the people who are a part of it are in it just to express themselves. It’s a creative outlet and it is fun. When you aren’t misguided for the wrong values, all that is left is you. And you feel compelled to express yourself. When I’m not practicing to gain something (money, etc.) I don’t have so many external influences. Everything becomes internalized, then everything emerges, allowing me to fully express myself. It’s a hard thing to express.

What is the best way to learn Hip-Hop dance? How did you learn it?
The best way to learn is by being a part of the Bboy culture. Go to where dancers are practicing, and join them, even if you don’t know anything. I learned breaking through online tutorials, took classes for a couple of months, and attended workshops when they were available. Above all, I practiced with my community and learned a lot from them. I don’t want to say I have made unique moves as my own, but the way I do them are unique.

Do you try to push yourself in new directions with each new piece?
I do try to make my dances more elaborate and indulge in other styles. One of my favorite things about breaking is that it isn’t one-sided. Breaking is everything and anything you can take from it. You can incorporate martial art moves, other styles of dancing—even different exercises like swimming. I saw a guy who acted like he was swimming on the floor and it looked fantastic, so I use them all.

One thing I usually do not do is choreograph. The beauty and all the appreciation I find for Bboying lies within the ability to improvise. Each song is different, giving you different feelings, different tempos. Every venue is different. Every crowd is different. To adapt and be able to connect with them all is poetry in motion to me!

Have you entered a lot of dance competitions?
I have entered a lot of competitions. I entered one in Arizona when I was 18. I flew out, not exactly knowing where I was going to stay, who would be there, how I would get around, or how I would do. My expectations were pretty low and my trip was not planned at all. I just wanted to get past the preliminaries, but I ended up winning it. Talk about a surprise! Then there was the trip I took to Dallas for my 16th birthday. I had just enough money for a one-way bus ticket. I was relying on my ability to win to get the money to get back home. I lost the first round. I borrowed money from everyone to scrape together a bus ticket. Talk about disappointment!

How did you decide to audition for America’s Got Talent (AGT)?
I was extremely reluctant to audition. I didn’t think I would make it past their auditions, but after a good friend pressed me enough to actually try it out, I reluctantly did. I just walked into the building and said “I’m here to audition.” I ended up making it to the quarterfinals. Out of the 75,000 people who auditioned for the show, I was a solo performer among the 48 groups they selected. I was a little surprised, to say the least. First stop was Austin, then Las Vegas, then to Newark, New Jersey.

When you made the first cut, how did you prepare for the next step?
Once I was told I was going to Vegas, I was really surprised. This meant that I passed the audition round. To go beyond Vegas meant I would be among the quarter-finalists. So I basically made it to round three. I just improvised during the auditions, so I figured this time I’ll actually put together something good. I practiced, rehearsed and executed a very well done routine in the Vegas round. Unfortunately, it was edited around and music dubbed over instead of my actual performance.

What was the AGT experience like? Were there any pressures? How did you adjust—or not adjust?
AGT was a horrifying process, but I was able to fall back on my old nature of being able to internalize and keep myself calm. It kept me and my performances protected. I have to say I adapted as well to the pressures as any survivor possibly could. Being on a live national television show is the scariest thing I have ever done, and I’m not sure if it will ever be topped!

What kinds of things did AGT do to accommodate your hearing loss?
Nothing. They actually didn’t even know about my hearing loss until the last round of the show. They were actually upset that I didn’t tell them sooner.

What were the judges like?
The judges were Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel. I never got one-on-one time with any of them so I don’t know what they were really like. They critiqued my performance but didn’t offer me constructive criticism.

Judge Howie Mandel said, “…I have to say, Elusive, that usually I don’t like to combine the story with what’s happening, but your story is phenomenal—the fact that you have a hearing loss, yet music is your life. There’s such a dichotomy between your problem and what you’re doing…that you’re so inspirational. And then I watch your strength and then I watch your dancing and your ability. It just dazzles me.”

How has coming so far in AGT helped your career and visibility of your work?
Honestly, I can’t really make any firm claim that AGT has landed me any work. It is a good credential that assesses my value with clients, but it has not directly helped my career.

What advice do you have for a dancer who wants to become established in the arts? Is it important to have an agent?
I don’t believe it’s as important as people think. If an agency finds you just one audition, then they are beneficial and worth it. But too many people rely on agents. As in a lot of careers, people have to go out, hustle, and be able to find their own work. I have never had representation. My advice to others: Have fun and enjoy it. That’s the only way you’ll actually be able to get good at it.

Were you born in Austin?
I was not born in Austin, but I have lived here since I was two or three years old. I have no memories of before Austin, so I consider myself an Austinite. There is not much work for dancing gigs in Austin as of yet, but Texas just increased their tax incentives for filmmakers so that might bring in more work. I focus on film, corporate and marketing gigs in Austin.

Tell me about your commercials.
You can see most of these projects on my website (www.joshvinyard.com). I choreographed the routines myself. Commercials pay handsomely, not for the actual day rate but for the residuals. I always have a lot of fun making videos and love to experiment and find new ways to interact with the camera, the angles, lighting and how it can all influence and alter the performance.

You recently met some agents in California. How did that go?
I met with a lot of agencies but they all wanted me to live in LA. I decided my desire to work didn’t override my desire to live in LA. I am not currently represented by any agencies.

I saw in your IMDB.com profile that you have been a stuntman in several movies, including an upcoming Spiderman movie. How did that come about?
Earlier this year, I went to Los Angeles to pursue dancing and stunt work. After three weeks, I came back to Austin, heartbroken and absolutely broke. I spent the next few days thinking about giving everything up and wallowing in self-pity.

I then picked myself back up, and told myself, Yes, I can do it and I met stunt coordinator Andy Armstrong less than 24 hours later. He proceeded to put me to work on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for two months as a stunt performer. I can guarantee that if I had kept my same doubtful mindset, it would not have ever happened.

You attended Austin Community College. What did you study?
I was studying for a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. I got halfway there before I dropped out of school to work with Andy Armstrong on the Spider-Man 2 movie, which debuts in 2014. Although I earned enough credit hours for an associate’s degree. It will be some time before I get back to school, though, because I have a career to think about now.

What are some of the current projects you are working on? Future projects?
I am working on film projects, both for dance and stunts. My dream project would be something that incorporates all aspects of entertainment—music, dance, acrobatics, special effects—just everything in general into something extremely dynamic. I have crazy ideas like being completely on fire while doing power moves, and things like that but nothing concrete is planned right now.

I know one thing for sure: It is so critical to always believe in yourself.

HLAA Convention 2014 will be held in Josh’s hometown—Austin, Texas. I think I might be able to convince him to check out the Exhibit Hall and learn about the amazing technology now available to atheletes like him. And who knows? There might be a Josh Vinyard sighting. Just look for the guy dancing off the wall!

Freelance graphic designer and photographer Cindy Dyer serves as designer and photographer for Hearing Loss Magazine. She experienced sudden hearing loss in her right ear in 1993 and had a cholesteatoma removed in same ear in 2003. She wears a hearing aid in her left ear. Cindy can be reached at dyerdesign@aol.com.

Josh’s 2009 graduation from Anderson High School in Austin

America’s Got Talent 2012 Austin Auditions

America’s Got Talent 2012 Quarter-final

Stunt Reel 2013

Fuel Rewards and Shell Gasoline Commercial





Seen & Heard: Carol Halla

6 11 2013

Carol Halla is our Seen & Heard profile in the November/December 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I  photographed Carol at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, R.I.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Seen & Heard Carol Halla

CAROL HALLA  Charleston, SC / born January 3 in Evanston, IL

MY HEARING LOSS…I started losing my hearing in both ears rapidly while I was in the Air Force, stationed in Hawaii, when I was 26. I was tested extensively. Over the course of the next 10 years, my hearing loss continued to deteriorate. It would seem to level off only to drop again. No definite cause was ever found, but a lot of scary stuff was ruled out. Through the 80s and 90s I wore increasingly large and powerful hearing aids and remained on active duty. After my retirement from the Air Force in ’97, my industrial strength hearing aids no longer provided the benefit I needed.

I felt the frustration, isolation, and grief that only a person with a profound hearing loss can truly understand. When I found out that I was a possible candidate for either one or two cochlear implants, I was at a total loss as to what to do. After doing my own research, working with the helpful folks at the Veterans Administration, our local CI center, and receiving a wealth of information, I took a giant leap of faith and had my CI surgery in July 2010. Now, I wear one CI on the left ear and a hearing aid on the right ear.

SAGE ADVICE…Educate and advocate for yourself! If you need a hearing aid, wear it and take pride in not allowing yourself to be too stubborn, shy or self-conscious. Be up front with your friends and family—they should offer the most support—but only if they are fully informed! Don’t give up easily—most hearing aids are programmable or adjustable to fit your needs.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT…Last year during my annual routine mammogram, when the technician had placed me in the position then went behind the screen to activate the machine, she said over her shoulder what I thought was “say cheese!” But what she really said was “don’t breathe!” Too funny! We both cracked up.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE…a vet because I love animals.

PETS? Yes—three crazy furball cats—Snickers, Doodles and Katie.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE…During my Air Force career, I deployed to the Persian Gulf twice. The first time I lived in a tent in the desert for seven months with 2 other women. The bathroom facilities were one-quarter mile from our tent and were—shall we say—very primitive! The second time it was an apartment-type dwelling in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with a different group of women for four months. When I got home each time, I really appreciated all the little comforts of home—like my own bathroom!

I LOVE THE SOUNDS OF…With my new CI, I never tire of hearing the birdsong in my backyard. After activation, the sounds blew me away and brought tears to my eyes.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I…love to read, follow my friends on Facebook and the Hearing Journey, work in the yard on a nice day, continue organizing old pictures, crafts and learning more about my new Canon camera.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I…completed three marathons while I lived in Hawaii.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? Other than my parents, it’s my loving husband of 28 years, Bruce.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR…vintage jewelry.

I COLLECT…dust bunnies under the furniture (shhh!).

MY FAVORITE COLOR IS…sunny yellow—a real mood lifter.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED…Wilmette, IL; Stuttgart, Germany; Selma, AL; Aiea, Hawaii; Rapid City, SD; Las Vegas, NV; Charleston, SC. Okay, that’s more than five, but who’s counting?

WORKING NINE TO FIVE…drug store clerk, shoe store clerk, Pizza Hut waitress, 22-year Air Force career, inventory management at an engineering company

I AM… stubborn, persistent and caring.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO…think the same thing my husband is thinking at the same time. Great minds think alike, right?

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT…love and hugs.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED…as someone who looked for the good in people without being judgmental.

“I love the interviews and articles in Hearing Loss Magazine. I love reading about how other people are successful in what they chose to do and don’t let hearing loss rule their world.” 





Seen & Heard: Edward Ogiba

12 07 2013

Edward Ogiba is one of two Seen & Heard profiles in the July/August 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Ed at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Edward S&H

EDWARD F. OGIBA

Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida / I came flying out on August 4 in New York City in the final year of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s reign.

MY HEARING LOSS… My hearing loss started in the military and progressed until Ménière’s disease left me deaf. Today I am totally grateful for the cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Find the right audiologist and give him or her the feedback they need to help you get the most out of your hearing devices. Join an HLAA chapter. Focus at communication strategies with your family, friends and co-workers so they know how to best help you hear them.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… When I got my cochlear implant, my vanity prevented me from wearing it to client meetings. But when I had to facilitate an all-day workshop for a board of 24 people I had no choice. After the meeting, a board member approached me and she said: “I will give you credit as this was the most productive meeting we have had in a long time. But you are the rudest person whom I have ever encountered in a meeting.” I was mortified and said: “I am sorry, madam. What did I do?” She barked: “What did you do? How can you be so inconsiderate to carry on multiple conversations? Not once all day did you have the courtesy to turn off your cell phone.” I checked to confirm my cell phone was off before I realized: “Do you mean this?”pointing to my implant. She gave a disapproving nod, snipping “you must be a phone freak to have one implanted.” I laughed and told her, “This is a cochlear implant that allows me to hear despite my hearing loss.” There was a chuckle from another board member as he apparently had told her it was an implant. She then expressed her embarrassment and apology, but I countered: “You have given me a wonderful gift. If you thought it was a phone, others might too, and regardless you have given me the courage to stop being such a bozo about wearing it.”

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… the starting second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Ebbets Field at age five. I never saw grass greener.

FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a ’57 Caddy convertible.

PETS? Moka. She’s a crazy Russian Bear Hound.

MUSICALLY INCLINED? I play a mean shower. With my hearing aids out, I can actually stand my own singing.

DO YOU SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Mon Français est pathétique, mais le langage est si romantique et la cuisine est si fabuleux. Il ne m’échoue jamais excepté toutes les fois que je suis servi les goûts d’un plateau de cendre sautéed. (Translation: My French is pathetic, but the language is so romantic and the food is so fabulous. It never fails me except when I have used the likes of “ash tray sautéed.”)

YOU JUST WON A $10,000,000 LOTTERY. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? CPR.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET…Thomas Jefferson, the consummate multi-tasker.

FAVORITE COLOR? I used to say “blue.” But after living in Martha Stewart’s county for 16 years, I have been conditioned to say Araucana Teal or perhaps Aragon Sky.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Long Island, Manhattan, Toronto, Weston (CT), Sarasota

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… an ad or Mad Man in Manhattan, again in Toronto, head of New Products Company in Toronto, again in Connecticut, development director for the Ear Research Foundation.

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Prince Phillip, Barbara Streisand, Doris Day, Ricardo Montalbán, Margaret Hamilton, Patricia Neal, Peter Ustinov—some of the few sane moments for me as a Mad Man.

Hearing Loss Magazine always delivers a warm hug of support, the inspiration to do more and the guidance from the legions of superheroes in hearing loss nation to blaze the way. Thank you, HLM.





Design Studio: “Hear This!” CD project for AAMHL

17 06 2013

I just completed this CD package design for AAMHL (Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss). They are publishing the project through Amazon’s CreateSpace, so the CD will be available for purchase shortly.

My friend, Charles Mokotoff, plays two pieces on “Hear This!” I photographed Charles for the feature he wrote for the January/February 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. You can see that post here.

Design © Cindy Dyer/Dyer Design. All rights reserved.

HearThis! CD Artwork Blog

Also on the CD:

Celloist PAUL SILVERMAN has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and the Strathmore Music Center.

Pianist, soloist and chamber musician JENNIFER CASTELLANO was commissioned to write music for the North/South Chamber Orchestra and was named the 2012 Commissioned Composer for New Jersey Music Teachers Association.

Pianist KATHRYN BAKKE received her Masters degree in Piano Performance from the University of Minnesota. She is a speaker, writer and advocate for better hearing loss access.

Singer/songwriter and certified hearing aid dispenser ELISSA LALA has made a career singing vocals for TV documentaries; she was hired by Aaron Spelling to sing “All the Things You Are” for the ABC miniseries Crossings.

Prolific singer/songwriter BLUE O’CONNELL works as a music practitioner at the University of Virginia Medical Center, performs at Charlottesville, VA coffeehouses, and has published a CD called “Choose the Sky.”





Meet Rosemarie Kasper

21 05 2013

I had the pleasure of photographing Rosemarie Kasper at HLAA Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island. Read her article below from the May/June 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine to see why I find her to be such an inspiration!

Rosemarie Kasper

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Hearing Loss: My “Secondary” Disability by Rosemarie Kasper

For half my life, navigating the barrier filled world in a wheelchair was a major struggle. My loving parents always wanted the best for me but worried endlessly about my safety.

The major characteristic of Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is fragile bones, bones that can sometimes break even without moving, especially during infancy and youth. Related symptoms include respiratory problems, scoliosis,  short stature, weak muscles, and brittle teeth. Not long ago it was determined that more than 50 percent of individuals with OI experience hearing loss.

Due to inaccessible schools and the absence of special transportation, a public school teacher came to my home for one hour each school day—after classes were finished. Although I was frustrated at the separation from school and classmates, I looked forward to attending a local college and preparing for a career.

This was not to be. As an interviewer at a local college explained, “We have too many stairs” to accept students in wheelchairs. It was not until 1968, 13 years after high school, when my college dream became a reality. I was so overjoyed to attend new and welcoming Bergen Community College that instead of trying to hasten my graduation, I wanted to delay it!

After completing my associate’s degree at Bergen Community College, I was accepted at the four-year, stairfilled Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, then stayed on for my master’s degree in counseling. All courses were taken at night and I continued to work full time during the day. As my college credits accumulated, my position with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation changed from clerical to counseling.

Through the years the problem of inaccessible facilities gradually lessened as the equal rights of people with disabilities were enhanced through legislation. My peers and I, with supporting human service agencies, joined together in advocating for our cause. As a result in my 20s I enjoyed an active life including a secretarial job, membership in clubs, and community activities. The future looked bright.

Hearing Loss Enters the Picture
In my early teens, my parents became concerned about the volume I preferred on radio and TV but attributed this to a fondness for loud sounds. Tests ultimately proved otherwise, and at 18, I received my first hearing aid. It was upgraded periodically in accord with my needs and advances in technology. I also learned the value of binaural aids and regretted not trying them sooner.

Various assistive listening devices (ALD) joined the group of communication tools as needed. Presently, my captioned phone and alerting system are especially valued. But captioning for TV? With the volume turned on high, I felt that was not needed.

Who Dunnit?
One memorable evening I watched a mystery show in my room while my parents watched a different program on another TV. When the mystery ended, I stared blankly at the screen—I had no idea what had happened! And there was no one I could ask. The next day, I ordered a caption decoder box.

On the Fourth of July in 1985 the unthinkable happened: I lost total hearing in my right ear. This was a spontaneous medical occurrence and drastically reduced my communication ability. With the encouragement of my friend and companion, Jo Ann, I enrolled in a lip reading course, and we then both took lessons in sign language. Although nothing helped significantly, basic knowledge of sign language has been useful in certain circumstances. Children are often fascinated by sign language and learn it quickly. An intro course for the early grades might prove valuable.

After expending time and energy trying to convince people that a small person in a wheelchair can function independently, my difficulty in communication has become very frustrating. Servers in restaurants, salespeople, clerks at ticket counters, persons attending meetings—all frequently present communication challenges that hinder independence.

Certain situations are especially frustrating. In a vehicle it is virtually impossible to lip read, and my hearing—even when aided—is useless without this assist. It is also nearly impossible to talk with anyone who is pushing my wheelchair. In small groups every effort will be made to seat me where no one will stumble over my wheels, but it is rarely possible to face everyone.

Roller Coaster Ride with Captions
I have learned to expect far more surprises with a hearing loss than with a wheelchair. If a building is wheelchair-friendly there rarely are difficulties. With a severe-to-profound hearing loss, the absence or malfunction of an assistive listening system can be a major problem. There also seems to be an almost universal belief that people with hearing loss can benefit from sign language interpreters. This depends on various factors, and many late-deafened persons such as myself lack all but minimal skills in sign. I am everlastingly grateful for the availability of captions and this is especially true at HLAA Conventions!

However, movie captioning was not initially helpful to me. With Rear Window captions, the device is placed in a cup holder next to the patron’s seat, but a wheelchair has no holder. My alternative was to hold the device in my hand throughout the movie, which was cumbersome and tiring. However, my own advocacy and especially that of my friend, Arlene Romoff, a crusader in theater access for people with hearing loss, helped to alleviate this problem and a special holder was developed for wheelchairs.

I was thrilled with the advent of captioned live theater but this joy was short lived as the captions often are not readable from wheelchair locations. To assure safety, and as mandated by the fire department, wheelchairs are placed in a specific area close to an exit. One evening when it was impossible to read the captions, theater personnel led our small group to three different areas, each with a progressively worse view. We missed a large part of the first act before reaching a place where the captions were marginally readable. I quickly learned to contact the theater before ordering tickets to a captioned show.

He Did a Great Job
Early in my adjustment to hearing loss I was fortunate to learn about the local New Jersey HLAA Chapter, then known as SHHH. Although I now have a large number of role models, Jack Mulligan, the long-time president, was my first and he similarly inspired many others. He chaired 11 meetings each year, many with interesting speakers. He also sent out a newsletter and added a personal note on many. A retired gentleman, he spent his “spare time” volunteering at our local hospital, and appeared in a video featuring their services for persons with hearing loss.

Jack unfailingly would tell all who helped: “You did a good job!” In 1994, he was honored with the well-deserved Spirit of SHHH Award. Our committee has tried to follow in his footsteps, but he is a tough act to follow.

Going Forward
Even before my hearing loss became so severe, I sensed how much greater its impact would be on my life than the wheelchair now was. Friends easily learned to push my wheelchair and realized the type of help I needed in certain situations. They willingly folded and lifted the wheelchair into their cars and some even carried me up and down steps.

With my hearing loss, it was more problematic. People tended to overlook this invisible condition and did not know how to deal with it. Everyone’s time and patience in repeating a conversation are limited. Today, a dictation app is available for iPads and iPhones but this is appropriate only in certain circumstances. As they say, it’s a different ball game.

A year ago a friend who is a CART reporter expressed her willingness to caption Mass at my church. It seemed a gift from heaven, but I was unsure that it could be set up conveniently. I was wrong, and my pastor was willing and even eager to offer this service. Since then, two Masses each month are captioned and while not many worshippers with hearing loss appear to be availing themselves of this service, those of us who do find it helpful.

On a number of occasions I have been invited to give presentations to classes of medical students. Often schools and universities will seek out speakers, preferring persons who are experiencing the problem. Afterwards, students sometimes commented: “The textbooks never talked about that!”

Public hearings afford the opportunity to testify on various issues including transportation needs, communication issues, and more. It is a valuable opportunity both to provide input and to promote awareness. Overall, coping with hearing loss in addition to using a wheelchair has impressed on me that the most formidable problems might not be visible. Staying at home or pretending to understand when we don’t will not help us or future generations, and joining with others in a cause—such as HLAA demonstrates again and again—can be both rewarding and the key to success.

Rosemarie Kasper graduated with a master’s degree in counseling from Fairleigh Dickinson University and worked for almost 35 years with the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in Hackensack. At retirement she was a senior rehabilitation counselor. Rosemarie also worked for four semesters as an adjunct instructor at Bergen Community College in the Department of Continuing Education. In addition, she served as the editor of Breakthrough, the newsletter of the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation (OIF) for 10 years. Rosemarie has been actively involved in OIF for many years, served on the national Board, and co-founded the local New Jersey Area OI Support Group 20 years ago. She remains its co-chair. In addition, she currently is president of the HLAA Bergen County New Jersey Chapter. Her top interests are travel and writing. With close friend Jo Ann, she has traveled to 39 states as well as Canada, the British Isles, and Bermuda. She has published close to 100 articles in magazines and newspapers, most on her travels as well as how-to pieces. Rosemarie can be reached at rdkoif@verizon.net.

______________________

What is Osteogenesis Imperfecta?
Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a genetic disorder, affects a person from birth throughout his or her life. It is caused by an error—a mutation—on a gene that affects the body’s production of collagen found in bones and other tissues. OI is variable having eight different types ranging from lethal to mild. The number of Americans affected by OI is estimated to be 25,000-50,000. For more information about OI, go to www.oif.org, the website for the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.





Hearing Loss Magazine, May/June 2013 issue

21 05 2013

The Bozzone family graces the cover of the May/June 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which is published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Jason and his wife, Melissa, have three children. Their youngest child, Madeline, has a hearing loss. In this issue of the magazine, Melissa writes about Madeline in “Our Party of Five: Madeline’s Story.” Julie Fisher, the Walk4Hearing Program Assistant, interviewed Jason for this issue as well. I photographed the Bozzone family at a Pennsylvania Walk4Hearing event last fall.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM_MayJune_2013_Cover

Also in this issue:

National Sponsors Create Awareness for Walk4Hearing
2013 sponsor Noreen Gibbens explains why she supports the Walk4Hearing.

The Countdown is On
Nancy Macklin builds excitement for Convention 2013 in Portland, Oregon.

Closed Captioning Frustrations—How to Get Some Help
Carol Studenmund explains how consumers can help improve the quality of captioning on TV.

Can You Hear Me Now? Maximizing Your Hearing on the Phone
Audiologist Brad Ingrao offers technical tips and communications strategies for using the phone.

Seen & Heard
HLAA member Teri Wathen is this issue’s profile.

Advocacy, One Person at a Time
Lise Hamlin, HLAA’s Director of Public Policy, outlines how the organization advocates for public policy and federal regulations, as well as for the rights on more personal levels

Hooked on Bionics
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month and in honor of the event, world-renowned puzzle creator George Barany creates a doozie for our readers.

Hearing Loss: My Secondary Disability
Osteogensis Imperfecta is a rare genetic condition. Adding hearing loss to that could mean a lot of frustration and insurmountable challenges, but, not for author Rosemarie Kasper.

New in Print: Shouting Won’t Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can’t Hear You
Janet McKenna reviewed Katherine Bouton’s new book.





Seen & Heard: Don Doherty

9 03 2013

Don Doherty, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made his Seen & Heard profile debut in the March/April 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. I photographed Don at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island last June.

Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam Spritzer, Jeff Bonnell, Eloise Schwarz, Glenice Swenson, Laurie Pullins, Rosemary Tuite and Kathy Borzell, Tommy Thomas, Marisa Sarto, George Kosovich, Gary Trompower and Juliette Sterkens.

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.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

DonS&H

DON DOHERTY, Moyock, NC / born June 12, 1946, Camden, NJ

MY HEARING LOSS… As a Marine infantryman, I lost my hearing or most of it, in Vietnam where I spent 19 months as part of a rifle company (Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1966-1967), following exposure to gun fire, artillery, and other very loud noises. I was 20 years old. The first sign that I lost my hearing was during night patrol or other operations while still in Vietnam. I realized I couldn’t understand what someone was saying if they whispered in my ear. I could hear that they were whispering but I couldn’t understand what the message was. I managed to survive by letting some people know I couldn’t hear, but generally I just faked it and tried to bluff my way through situations. Following my return from Vietnam I was transferred to Puerto Rico where I again had difficulty hearing. This time the jig was up and I was medically evacuated to Philadelphia Naval Hospital where I was issued one hearing aid. I needed two aids, but in those days needing two hearing aids meant discharge, and I still wanted to be a Marine. So I was grateful to have one hearing aid.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS…  Keep your sense of humor and lose your sense of being different. Most people who know you, know you have a hearing loss, and won’t care.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… I once went to bed and locked my wife out of the house using a chain lock. She couldn’t get in and enlisted the help of neighbors who eventually used a hacksaw to get into the house.

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE A… I always wanted to be a soldier or Marine. I grew up with John Wayne movies and pride in my country. I joined the Marine Corps at my first opportunity and have never regretted that decision.

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… is of being at my great grandmother’s house in the country. There were woods to explore, forts to dig, turtles, frogs and snakes to find, and quiet moments to fish. It was a magical time in the 1950s when all seemed right with the world.

FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY… When I was a child we used to get a pair of shoes each year from Ruby’s Shoes, a small store in Westmont, New Jersey. The shoes were $5 a pair. I always had a choice of brown or black shoes. My dad said if you want different styles and want to spend more money then you have to get a job. So I delivered bleach and got a paper route and was eventually able to buy a $10 pair of shoes.

PETS? I have a small teacup poodle that I named “Pookie Bear” and who is the joy of my life. She gives me licks and makes me laugh. Even though we graduated from Puppy Obedience School she doesn’t always listen. But then, I don’t always “listen” well either!

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… was graduate from college while in the military. It took me 10 years and five colleges but I was finally able to do it. I now have graduate degrees but my hardest courses were as an undergraduate, especially the math.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… am an avid reader especially of action novels. I love Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy. I get to a point where I just can’t put the book down. As an HLAA Chapter president I am also looking for and reading anything of interest that I can share with the hearing loss community especially if it relates to a new or improved hearing assistive technology.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… a dancer or party person. Large noisy places are difficult for me with two hearing aids. I have learned to choose my hearing environments so that I have a better chance at understanding what is going on. Even with directional mics, speechreading, and a telecoil—a party environment is still just a lot of noise. Besides I have so many other things I can do.

I MISS… being able to hear like I used to or like I would want to, but then I wonder how my life would be different. For the last 46 years I have learned and adapted to my hearing loss. Many times my drive to achieve or to excel has been in an effort to overcompensate for something I didn’t have which was good hearing. I knew in my mind as long as I did things better than anyone else, I was able to compete and be successful at whatever challenge I undertook. I think it’s a fear that many with hearing loss have that in order to be accepted we have to be better than our peers. It’s like “bluffing” or pretending to hear something when you don’t. You’re accepted and part of the group without having to draw attention to the fact you are different and have more challenges that most folks who can hear effortlessly. Yes, I miss hearing a lot, and my life would be easier in many ways, but no, my life wouldn’t be the same and I wouldn’t have the strength and adaptability that I have today.

HAPPINESS IS… a choice, an expectation and a state of mind. I see happiness as a choice I make every day regardless of where I am or what I am doing. I have been lonely on occasion when stationed overseas and far from home but I have always found something to be grateful for. I try to surround myself with people who laugh and are having fun in their life. By the same token I try to avoid those who are perpetually upset, complaining, sad or angry.

HOBBIES? My hobbies include reading, learning new computer programs, using Facebook and Twitter, playing with my dog, and doing work for the HLAA Chapter. I recently purchased a new iPad and am learning and playing with many of the applications I find. I am never bored and can always find something to do.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? A Roman Catholic nun by the name of Sister Mary Walter was one of the most scholarly and understanding persons I know. She believed in my ability to get a college education regardless of the subject, the challenge or level of difficulty. As the psychology department chair she was both humble in character and rich in the ways of life. She lived on campus and her students more or less adopted her. I remember fondly her inspiring words “You can do this!” I was able to graduate from Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania, with honors (and a hearing loss) because of her.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… am shy but might not show it, am emotional with sad movies or books (especially where an animal dies like in Old Yeller), can write poetry, collect art, will never go camping in anything more rustic than Holiday Inn, and that I still get messed up with directions!

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… I try to share whatever I can do with others and pass on areas outside my areas of expertise. So while I may be able to help you with a resume, don’t ask me to remodel a room. I remember trying to put a rug in the bathroom. I traced an outline of the floor, turned the rug over, cut it out with a sharp knife, then flipped it over. The cutout for the toilet was on the wrong side. Another thing I will never do again is try and put together a large cardboard dollhouse that comes unassembled—just too many lettered cardboard tabs.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Chocolate in any form, most pies, a good grilled steak and corn on the cob.

I COLLECT… colorful prints, black and white sketches, and sepia prints of an artist by the name of Herb Jones. He has often been called a “poet with a paint brush” and his work has been on the world stage. I met him personally toward the end of his career and I was struck by the beauty of his work and the humble nature of his surroundings. He lived in a small bungalow in Norfolk, Virginia, with his wife. Despite severe diabetes and failing vision he continued to paint landscapes, water scenes, and rich clouds of varying intensity. He instilled in me a love of art that I would not have had were it not for his invitation to come to his home and talk with me.

I AM… friendly, helpful and compassionate.

FAVORITE COLOR? I like and look good in green so I will start there. I like colorful shirts and ties. Aloha shirts and Jerry Garcia ties are favorite parts of my wardrobe.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… In the military I was fortunate to have lived in many different places and experienced many different cultures. My favorite place to live was Kailua, Hawaii. I was there for three years and it was truly living in paradise. I also lived in Plano, Texas, where I learned to eat and talk Texan. My time in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was interesting but not one of my favorite places to live mainly because of the language problems. Arlington, Virginia. was an exciting place to live with a lot happening. I now live in Moyock, North Carolina, a great little country community on the pathway to the Outer Banks.

FIVE JOBS I HAVE HAD… Career Marine for 23 years, clinical director for a substance abuse facility, program director for a substance abuse facility, V.P. for marketing & reseach development, and an education specialist for the federal government

MY DAUGHTER TAUGHT ME… patience of the highest order.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… love and human contact.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? Friends and a good bottle of wine

THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… my photo albums, my iPad and my Pookie Bear

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a good person who took the time to help others along the way.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE… proudly serving as a Marine for 23 years, getting my education and raising a wonderful daughter.

Don is HLAA Virginia state coordinator and president of the Virginia Beach Chapter. You can meet Don in person at Convention 2013 as he is participating in the panel: A Holistic Approach to Hearing Health Care for Veterans: The Difference Between Getting By and Living Well, on Saturday, June 29. The panel is part of Hamilton CapTel presents Hearing Loss Solutions for Veterans.

I like stories in Hearing Loss Magazine that provide me with new information that I can share with others. I especially like hearing about new research, new technology, the capabilities of some of the newer hearing aids (like being water-resistant) and some of the best practices that are working to sustain our HLAA Chapters nationwide.





Seen & Heard: Juliette Sterkens

9 03 2013

Juliette Sterkens, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the March/April 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. I photographed Juliette at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island last June.

Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam Spritzer, Jeff Bonnell, Eloise Schwarz, Glenice Swenson, Laurie Pullins, Rosemary Tuite and Kathy Borzell, Tommy Thomas, Marisa Sarto, George Kosovich and Gary Trompower.

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.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

JulietteSterkensS&HJuliëtte P.M. Sterkens, Au.D. Oshkosh, WI / born November 10, 1957, the Netherlands

President Fox Valley Hearing Center, Inc., Hearing Loop Advocate, Larry Mauldin Award 2011, Wisconsin Audiologist of the Year 2011, Presidential Award American Academy of Audiology 2011, Hearing Loss Association of America Technology Access Award 2011, Member National HLAA/The American Academy of Audiology Hearing Loop Task Force

MY HEARING LOSS… At this time I am just starting to lose my high-pitch hearing at 6000 and 8000Hz—not enough for a hearing aid but enough to crave one with a telecoil in a looped venue. I did grow up with a father who was hard of hearing.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Learn all there is to learn about your hearing loss, the pitches that are affected, the degree that it affects your ability to understand speech in quiet versus speech in noise and once you own hearing aids know what the limitations are of the hearing aids and what is due to your particular loss. Best advice: Never purchase hearing aids without telecoils.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… My sister telling my dad, after she discovered him watching a blaringly loud TV without wearing his hearing aids (which prevented him from hearing the doorbell) and being told that he didn’t think his hearing aids were doing much for him: “Papa, they may not do much for you, but they do a heck of a lot for us!”

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… an airline stewardess.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY…  was a vacuum cleaner.
(Oh, the Dutch are so tidy…)

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… like to go tandem biking with my husband Max.

I MISS… Dutch oil balls, a traditional delicacy on New Year’s Eve. (They are terribly unhealthy that is why we only eat them once a year!)

HOBBIES? Watergardening—we have about 30 large koi, a small turtle and several bull frogs in the pond.

DO YOU SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Dutch (of course) and I reasonably get by with my Dutch high school French and German.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? David Myers, America’s Hearing Loop Advocate extraordinaire. Without his support and tutelage I would not be undertaking a year of hearing loop advocacy.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… occasionally do talk about something else other than the looping of America!

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… baking bread and making yoghurt.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… licorice (the Dutch, salty kind).

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffet and find out if they, or a close friend has hearing loss. If they only knew how hearing loops could benefit users of hearing aids young and old alike they might just support this effort around the country.

I AM… dependable, hardworking and kind.

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… Don’t ask her about loops, you’ll just encourage her!

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to keep a clean and organized house. (Thanks mom!)

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to love the music of Jim Reeves.

THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD IS… my amazing iPhone.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… cook a wonderful meal in a short time with foods I find in my fridge.

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to make America more accessible for people with hearing loss.

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… audiologists who dismiss hearing loops.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as someone who helped thousands of her patients enjoy life because of the audiology services she provided.

I love Hearing Loss Magazine! I would love to see a column dedicated to hearing loop progress in the country.





Seen & Heard: Gary Trompower

6 01 2013

Gary Trompower, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made his Seen & Heard profile debut in the January/February 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Our Seen & Heard column first made its debut in the magazine in 2010 and was met with great enthusiasm. We’ll be publishing one or two profiles (as space allows) in each issue of the bimonthly magazine. Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam SpritzerJeff BonnellEloise SchwarzGlenice SwensonLaurie PullinsRosemary Tuite and Kathy BorzellTommy Thomas and Marisa Sarto. I met and photographed Gary in Providence at HLAA’s convention in June 2012.

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.

And what is the top thing you’ll learn about Gary? The man has it bad for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! (They’re my favorite, too!)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&HGaryTrompower

Canton, Ohio / Born May 5, 1956 in Canton, Ohio

ALL ABOUT MY HEARING LOSS… I was 17 years old and diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. It’s come to rest now at 95% loss in my left ear and 80% loss in my right ear. I wear one behind-the-ear aid on my right ear, which helps to hear some sounds.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything! Go out and enjoy life the best you can.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… People will telephone and ask for me and my wife will tell them, “Gary is deaf and I will ask him your questions.” The person calling will say they’ll call back or call tomorrow. Huh? Like I’m going to be able to hear them tomorrow or sometime later? I only wish it worked that way!

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… Batman!

FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… Quit smoking cigarettes (more than six years tobacco free). My stress level went sky high, but the health benefits are worth the effort.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… a snobbish or a stuck-up person. Some people get that impression, but it’s just that many of us have the, as Rocky Stone would say, “invisible condition,” and we just don’t hear them.

HOBBIES? Woodworking and computers

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… like math. I always have and it’s been very useful in this life.

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR… hog wrestling and playing bass guitar.

FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… with my wife

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… At 14, I flipped burgers at the local ice cream stand. At 19, I managed a Radio Shack. At 21, I tried selling hearing aids. At 22, I ran my own small lawn care business, and then I started my current engineering career (35 years) with a local medical center.

I AM… a traditional, red-blooded, American dude!

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… really, really cool!

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD…  Texting—it’s a fantastic way for people with hearing loss to communicate.

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… eating Reese’s Cups, but they’re so good!

PHRASES I OVERUSE… What was that? What did you say? Yes…I’ll have another Reese’s Cup.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… fix anything but a broken heart.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… tough one, huh? Reese Cups!

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? For many years, we have attended the Clark Gable foundation birthday parties (Cadiz, Ohio) where I met many of the cast from Gone with the Wind, including Fred Crane, Rand Brooks, Cammie King, Butterfly McQueen and Patrick Curtis.

Hearing Loss Magazine has great stories and valuable information about hearing loss. It is a wonderful publication!

 





The Evolution of Zac La Fratta

6 01 2013

HLAA member Zac La Fratta is on the cover of the first issue of 2013 of Hearing Loss Magazine, which is published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Zac wrote the cover feature for the January/February issue.

I was first introduced to Zac at his second HLAA convention (and my first) in Nashville, TN, in June 2009. Zac was in town this past November for meetings at the HLAA headquarters in Bethesda, MD, so we set up his cover photo session in and around the office.

Zac La Fratta joined HLAA five years ago and was appointed to the Board of Trustees in June 2010. He currently serves as the secretary and is a member of the executive and strategic planning committees. As a young adult serving on the board, Zac represents the voices of young adults with hearing loss. He formerly was vice president for the HLA-Boulder (CO) Chapter and as president/founder of the HLA-Washington, D.C. Chapter. He is also the moderator for HearingLossNation, an online community for young adults with hearing loss. (A link for that online community can be found on http://www.hearingloss.org.)

Zac Blog Shot

Hearing Loss Magazine pitched Zac a few questions and topics to comment on and he took the ball and ran. Here’s what Zac has to say about his hearing loss and changing careers mid-stream. All photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Start at the beginning.

I was born in Denver, Colorado, on February 3, 1976. Mom checked into the hospital on a warm sunny day and checked out on a cold snowy day. I spent my childhood years in Dallas and went to high school in Lynchburg, Virginia. I have also been able to call Iowa, New York, Georgia, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., home, throughout my life.

I am the second of six awesome children—four brothers and two sisters. All but two still live in Virginia, the others in Alabama and Colorado. My extended family is gigantic and I have lost track of the growing count of cousins, nephews, and nieces. Any type of reunion that takes place, big or small, is considered the party of the year.

Describe your hearing loss.

I have a stable bilateral, normal steeply sloping to profound sensorineural hearing loss acquired from exposure to bacterial meningitis at eight months of age. It is not clear whether meningitis or the ototoxic medications I received for treatment contributed to the hearing loss, but I consider myself extremely lucky that the hearing loss was the only negative outcome.

My first spoken words (according to dad) were “hold me” after persistent, unsuccessful requests to be held through gestures and crying. Sign language was actually my first language before I started talking around three years of age. After leaving a pre-school that promoted total communication, spoken language became my primary mode of communication. I once again started learning sign language shortly after I began embracing my hearing loss in my late twenties. I sign at a proficient skill level conversationally and in the audiology clinic.

My hearing loss has always been underestimated, perhaps because I received intensive speech therapy. Also, I never sought accommodations in high school or college. I’m not saying this was a good thing not to use accommodations, it’s just a fact. So, I always chuckle when audiologists are shocked and astonished after reviewing my audiogram.

Do you wear hearing aids or use assistive listening technologies?

I wore hearing aids for the first decade of my life before “putting them in the drawer” for nearly 20 years. I now proudly wear hearing aids after accepting my hearing loss. I’m currently in conversations of possibly pursuing a cochlear implant. I wear high-end, high-powered, behind-the-ear hearing aids with the receiver in the canal that uses a size-312 battery. This particular hearing aid is already two model-generations old! Being an audiology student has its fun privileges in that I get to try different hearing aid technologies. They really are quite different from one another as is each person’s hearing loss.

I use different assistive listening devices that use the telecoil features in a variety of situations. For watching television, listening to music, and talking on a cell phone, I take advantage of the SurfLink streaming feature that comes with my hearing aids. I occasionally use FM technology if it is readily available in large group settings. I heavily rely on closed-captioning technology. In fact, my family and friends automatically turn the closed-captioning on for me, and some even leave it on permanently. I recall my first closed-caption decoder box my parents got me for Christmas one year. It was one of the most memorable gifts I have ever received. I also won’t attend a movie showing unless some form of captioning is available.

TOC Zac La FrattaWhat was it like growing up with hearing loss?

Growing up with a hearing loss has been a roller coaster ride for me, manifesting throughout different phases in my life. I have experienced a range of emotions—embarrassment, confusion, anger, fear, depression, acceptance, and finally, peace.

I often wanted to forget I had a hearing loss, but with constant reminders from family, friends, and strangers, not to mention my own struggles, I could not escape reality. I would frequently be asked the same question along the lines of: “How can you hear on the phone?” “Are you Australian?” “Can you read their lips?” “Do you sign?” and on and on.

Tell us about going to school with a hearing loss.

I received early intervention services through The Callier Center at The University of Texas at Dallas and was mainstreamed in both private and public schools.

I have vivid memories at Callier of happily clanging bells with dozens of other children with hearing loss, to what was supposed to be the “Jingle Bells” tune. The proud parents in the audience merrily sang along as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I have many other good memories from my time at Callier. However, I do recall, even at this pre-school age, my gut feeling that something was off, especially when I was instructed to wear uncomfortably loud devices on my ears.

To my parents’ horror, I reacted by flushing those expensive devices down the toilet. This event was the beginning of my resistance to wear hearing aids and my resolve to be “normal.” As hard as I tried, there was no escaping my hearing loss as it presented various inevitable challenges throughout my life. I had my share of bullies and academic struggles during grade school. Although the bullies never went away, my academic struggles dissolved after receiving appropriate intervention in public school settings, even after I discontinued wearing hearing aids in junior high school.

Professions—past and present

In my determination to be a successful, normal person, I managed to get through college and enter the software consulting industry without any accommodations. I spent a decade in the IT industry as a business analyst working with Fortune 500 companies.

I felt accomplished and had success in this industry; however, I no longer had the passion or drive to maintain the intensity required to keep up with the demands of the job description. Much of my role consisted of client interviews, managing meetings, and handling conference calls, all of which are a nightmare for the person with a hearing loss, especially without the use of assistive listening technologies or other accommodations.

I came to the realization that I had reached my peak and landed on a plateau in terms of fulfilling dreams and ambitions. I knew instinctively that in order for me to grow and move forward, I had to acknowledge my hearing loss and be comfortable and willing to ask for help.

However, I admit, by this time I was burned out and ready for a new career that inspired me, yet I didn’t want unnecessary hardship. I know it’s unrealistic that a new career wouldn’t bring challenges but this is the way I felt at the time. I needed a break from the day-to-day hassle of communicating on the job.

So…what happened next?

In 2007, my audiologist in Colorado asked me to interview with NBC’s Colorado & Company to share my experiences wearing new hearing aids for the first time in nearly two decades. (Remember, I denied my hearing loss and didn’t wear them.) There was an audiologist on the set and to my pleasant surprise, he also had a hearing loss and wore hearing aids. I was inspired learning about his journey.

The light bulb went off immediately and I knew a career in audiology was my calling. The following year, I was a registered full-time student at Colorado University at Boulder to fulfill the prerequisites required to enter an audiology program. At the time, it made perfect sense for me to pursue audiology as a profession. Having a hearing loss myself, I wanted to find new ways to contribute to the community of people with hearing loss. I was interested in working with children with hearing loss and their parents. I also had a burning desire to understand my own hearing loss from a clinical view and obtain the best resources available to make my life easier.

I am completing my clinical doctorate studies at Gallaudet University’s audiology program and will graduate in August 2013. Meanwhile, I am completing my externship (a.k.a. “residency”) at the audiology clinic at the University of Colorado Hospital. I also serve as an audiology LEND Fellow with the JFK Partners program in Colorado to continue my training with pediatric audiology through various multi-disciplinary models.

I’ve completed clinical audiology rotations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area at an ENT private practice, Children’s National Medical Center, and The River School. I am also proud to work with several programs at the Marion Downs Hearing Center in Colorado, including Campus Connections, Building Communication Bridges, Infant Hearing Screening Program, and Teen Day. In addition, I had the privilege of teaching the Peer Mentoring Certification Training Program at Gallaudet University for two years.

Describe a typical day in your externship.

I am fortunate to be completing my externship at the University of Colorado Hospital because it provides a great, all-around experience. In addition to working with audiology’s bread and butter—administering hearing tests and working with amplification technologies with a diverse population—I also work with balance testing, cochlear implants, and infant hearing screenings. My favorite part of my externship experience is counseling. From my personal experience, I can connect with many of my clients, especially parents of children with hearing loss.

Zac Outdoors LargeWhat (or who) do you think contributed to where you are today?

I have a supporting cast who believes in me, instills in me the confidence and courage to be the best I can be, and above all, loves me. I can’t underestimate the power of my family, mentors, and friends when it came to encouragement and support.

After having worked with parents in the audiology clinic, I discovered that I took for granted the challenges my own parents experienced to ensure I lived a great and normal life. I am forever grateful for how they raised me, taught me independence, and always provided a sense of belonging. They did an amazing job even with limited educational resources for kids with hearing loss.

My brothers and sisters also are a big part of who I am. They provided the social inclusion and unconditional love I needed during my childhood. They showed me how to be creative and silly. We had fun growing up and they created a safe haven for me to be myself. Since I am second to the oldest, I babysat my siblings on a regular basis, and it was always fun to create games and activities to keep them entertained. My brothers and sisters intuitively understood my hearing loss, oftentimes sacrificing their own needs for mine. They accepted that my hearing loss was a part of who I am and accommodating me was part of our family’s daily routine.

I am lucky to have the quality of friends I have made over the years. I didn’t have an abundance of friends growing up, but the ones I made were compassionate and trustworthy. As a kid, I latched onto friends who had similar interests and didn’t get bored doing the same things over and over (boxcars, Transformers, and G.I. Joe’s!). Eventually, we grew out of toys and took on sports.

Like my family, my friends never let my hearing loss interfere with our friendship. My friends might never have fully understood my hearing loss, but they always had my back. There were even practical jokes at the expense of my hearing loss but I knew I was accepted as one of the gang.

A favorite story was on a Halloween night. We were dressed in fun costumes and enjoying ourselves. One of my friends, known for his one-liners, got everyone hooked on over-enunciating one particular line from a movie throughout the night—“What the problem is?” (A line void of good grammatical form so it was hard to grasp.)

The problem was I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what they were saying all night. I finally had the courage to ask, “Are you saying ‘hippopotamus?’” And with that for the remainder of the night, “hippopotamus” was the new one-liner.

My mentors—a few teachers and speech-language pathologists—were pivotal in how I connected and fit in with mainstream society. We spent countless hours working on my speech and academic skills, as well as boosting my self-esteem. To this day, I have been unsuccessful in tracking them down to show my appreciation to all they have contributed. (If by some miracle you are reading this, I thank you!)

There is no one who understands me and my hearing loss as well as my girlfriend, Maureen Shader, whom I affectionately call Mo. More importantly, there is no one who has as much patience in regard to my hearing loss as she does. It amazes me the sacrifices she has made over the past few years to contribute to our powerful and fulfilling relationship. Mo does it all! It is the little things like her continuing efforts to face me when she speaks, constantly carrying hearing aid batteries in her purse, sitting quietly with boredom in the car while I drive (driving poses a large obstacle to lipreading), and giving up our time together while I put time into advocacy projects for those with hearing loss.

Without question, Mo is my biggest supporter and advocate. It certainly helps that she is also an audiology student and is proficient in sign language. We have a running joke that all that is missing is for her to have a hearing loss too. I thought I was destined to have a relationship with a woman with a hearing loss, someone who could walk in my shoes. In reality, I could not be more grateful that Mo doesn’t have a hearing loss. I admit it is nice to have a good set of ears around. As it should be, our different levels of hearing doesn’t matter. It’s about the person and the values you have in common, not the hearing loss. But it does help that she understands.

Hey Zac, did you have anything to do with you?

While all the important people in my life have been a solid foundation, okay, I’ll give myself a little bit of credit. Early in my life, I spent much of my time playing soccer and tennis since it was an easy way to escape from all of my struggles. My parents understood how important this was for me, so mom became a soccer mom and dad was my biggest fan. Winning and stardom on the playing field made me feel good about myself, so naturally I was determined to win off the field too, just so I could feel normal and accepted.

My family and friends can attest to this, I became fiercely competitive in everything I did, which I now know was annoying and exhausting for those close to me. But this tactic was my survival card, getting me through school, bullies, and feeling vulnerable. After college, this behavior became less and less effective and useful in my life. It is not a coincidence that after accepting my hearing loss, I discovered that this trait was unhealthy, so I began to channel my competitiveness in a productive manner in everything I do. I am able to use this new tool to accomplish things that benefit the community and society and are important for myself to feel like I’m making a contribution.

Tell us more about how you think people see you.

The consensus among my family and friends is that they often forget that I have a hearing loss. I honestly don’t believe that is true, rather they are fully aware but do not perceive my hearing loss as a disadvantage or a disability for me since they simply do not find themselves needing to compromise their own lives to accommodate me. However, they can recall quite a few occasions where they’ve advocated for me, remembered funny stories related to my hearing loss, or are reminded of events pertaining to my hearing loss.

When I am socializing, people often ask my friends or family members why I speak the way I do, why I am standoffish, why I frequently need repetition, or simply say “what’s up with the hearing aids?” Occasionally, people who are aware about hearing loss (through their own family members, friends, or co-workers) will inquire about my hearing loss.

My family always shares that they are inspired by how I’ve handled my many adversities—such as educational and social challenges. One of my brothers reflected that after having gone through middle and high school himself, which he considers one of the more difficult challenges of life, is left inspired that I was able to work through the same challenges in addition to having a hearing loss.

One of my sisters believes that I compensate for my hearing loss with a sixth-sense, or super-hero ability. She reflects that this trait equates to my determination to excel, especially when faced with challenges.

The family also has tons of fun with my hearing loss too. Long ago, audiologists told my dad that I have some residual low-frequency hearing, so he brilliantly exaggerates a low voice when he calls my name. My family and friends think it is hilarious, but it works! The whole family loves home signs, particularly “bathroom,” “stop,” and “hurry.” My family also never lets me forget how I have funny ways of saying words like “ridiculous” and “scissors” or how I am constantly mixing up idioms.

Tell us about getting involved with HLAA.

When I made the decision (and yes, it was a decision) in 2004 to accept my hearing loss, I went all out by launching “Deaf-inite Entertainment”—a fund-raising project to raise awareness among the hearing loss community. It was an exciting project that raised funds to provide a free open-captioned showing of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at the local theater and to donate to the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

During this project, I met many wonderful people with hearing loss, including Debbie Mohney from the HLA-Boulder (CO) Chapter. Debbie planted the seed for me to join the chapter because she knew it was an opportunity for me to expand my role in the community of people with hearing loss.

Her patience and persistence paid off when she convinced me to attend my first chapter meeting in 2007. Debbie wasn’t kidding that I’d benefit from joining this chapter, because a few months later I attended my first HLAA Convention in Reno in 2008 thanks to a scholarship the HLA-Boulder Chapter awarded me. It was at this convention that I met a small group of young adults with hearing loss for the first time. I had never been in the presence of so many people my age with a hearing loss!

To say I haven’t looked back since then is an understatement. I always was a happy person, compensating for my hearing loss in the most competitive ways. But it wasn’t until I accepted my hearing loss—even embraced it as I like to describe my experience—that I began to understand the significance it’s had on my life.

Moving forward, there are a lot of things to do in both my personal and professional life. First on the list is to find ways to get more young adults with hearing loss involved in HLAA. Read on about the 100 Portland initiative. I hope to see you in Portland, Oregon, this June for HLAA Convention 2013.

Zac La Fratta lives in Denver, Colorado. In addition to his studies and the 100 Portland project, he enjoys playing tennis, dining out with his girlfriend, traveling to new places, and spending time with friends and family. He recently discovered the joys of cooking and experimenting with different recipes. You can e-mail him at zachary.lafratta@gmail.com.

Also in this issue: Zac La Fratta debuts 100 Portland, an initiative to attract young adults, ages 18-35, with hearing loss to come to HLAA Convention 2013 in Portland, Oregon, this June; audiologist Brad Ingrao’s article, A Rose by Any Other Name: PSAPs vs. Hearing Aids, takes a close-up look at hearing devices advertised on TV and in magazines; HLAA’s Director of Marketing and Events, Nancy Macklin, shares highlights for the upcoming Convention 2013; Stephen O. Frazier and Sally Schwartz discuss induction loop technology in their article, The Often-Neglected Neck Loop; audiologist Mark Ross reveals why simply giving a person who is elderly a hearing aid doesn’t always get to the heart of the matter of not hearing well in his article, Older People with Hearing Loss: Aural Rehabilitation Might be More Necessary than Ever; Sally Edwards writes about how life doesn’t always go as planned, especially when a hearing loss interrupts those plans, in Labors of Love; and HLAA member and Reeses Peanut Butter Cup lover Gary Trompower is profiled in Seen & Heard.

KNOW SOMEONE WITH HEARING LOSS? Give them a gift membership to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Visit www.hearingloss.org for more information.

 





Hearing Loss Magazine: 2012 Recap

28 11 2012

The last issue in 2012 of the Hearing Loss Magazine (HLM), published by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just arrived in member mailboxes last week. I design the bimonthly magazine and provide photography services to HLAA. Here is a recap of the issues published in 2012.

Tina and Tom Hamblin were the cover feature for the January/February 2012 issue. Tina contacted me in fall 2010 after seeing the wedding photos I shot for Todd and Abbie Hlavacek in September 2010. Todd and Abbie are also members of HLAA and Abbie wrote her cover story for the May/June 2008 issue (recapped here). Cover photo © Cindy Dyer

I first met Tina and Tom when they arrived for their engagement photo session at my favorite location to shoot, Green Spring Gardens, in Alexandria, VA in spring 2011. After we did our portraits around the garden, Tom started doing cartwheels (he’s a gymnastics coach) and I captured him in full motion—making it the first time I’ve ever photographed someone doing anything gymnastic. I captured him in his wedding finery doing some handstands and cartwheels on his wedding day as well! My colleague Ed and I photographed Tina and Tom’s wedding on October 8, 2011 in Kurtz Beach, Maryland.

I asked Tina and Tom if they would write a sort of “his and her” story for the magazine about their respective hearing loss, how they met, and how they support each other. The title of their article, “Taking the plunge,” refers to both the turning point in their friendship and their recent marriage. You can find Tina blog’s here and Tom’s all-things-gymnastic blog here. Their cover story is available in pdf format here: Tom&TinaHamblin Feature

Also in this issue: Audiologist Brad Ingrao focused on the best practices for hearing assessment and hearing aid fitting in Getting it Right the First Time: Best Practices in Hearing Aid Fitting; Gael Hannon showed us a practical look at information that would be helpful to those who have hearing loss in What the Professionals Should Tell Us; Michael Ann Bower discussed what people with hearing loss can do to avoid the misdiagnosis of dementia when hearing loss is the issue in Hearing Loss and Dementia; and Barbara Kelley interviewed young jazz singer Mandy Harvey in Musically Inclined.

The March/April issue featured the host city for the upcoming Convention 2012—Providence, Rhode Island. HLAA’s Director of Marketing and Events, Nancy Macklin, presented a comprehensive guide to the upcoming convention in this issue.

Also in this issue: Audiologist Brad Ingrao discussed cochlear implants in Plugged in for Sound: Cochlear Implants Today; Scott Bally outlined the Five Most Effective Speechreading Strategies; Renowned audiologist Mark Ross talked about hi HealthInnovations Hearing Aid Dispensing Program; Meredith Low, a pro at planning and making sure that the communication environment is arranged so she can enjoy the party as much as her guests, offered great tips in Welcome! Easy Entertaining for People with Hearing Loss; Pamela Selker Rak shared her experiences with hearing loss in Lost in Translation: How a “Lost and Found” Friendship Opened My Eyes to Hearing Loss; Lise Hamlin focused on HLAA’s efforts in Advocacy: A Few Hot Issues, and HLAA member Netegene Fitzpatrick crafted a special Word Search puzzle for her fellow members to solve.

Richard Einhorn, award-winning composer, was the cover feature for the May/June 2012 issue. In his article, Einhorn wrote about his sudden hearing loss and how, with his clever uses of existing technology, he continues to work and live well with hearing loss. You can read excerpts on my blog post here. For the full article, click on this link: Richard Einhorn

I had the honor and pleasure of photographing Richard in March 2012. Barbara Kelley (HLM’s editor-in-chief) and I met up with him at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. After a great photo session, we dropped Richard off at his hotel and picked him up later to take him to the Meyerhoff, where his work, Voices of Light, was being performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, with Marin Alsop conducting. Einhorn composed the piece in 1994, inspired by the 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Live performances accompany a screening of the film.

Voices of Light has been performed more than 200 times by major orchestras all over the world. It has been called “a great masterpiece of contemporary music” and “a work of meticulous genius.” The libretto is based on excerpts from a variety of ancient writings, most of it from Medieval female mystics, and scored for a small orchestra, chorus and soloists. For me, the performance was a haunting, incredibly moving and very profound visual and aural experience. You can learn more about Richard Einhorn on his website here. Cover photo © Cindy Dyer

Also in this issue: Barbara Kelley interviewed Richard Einhorn to learn more about his work and future projects; Therese Walden, president of the American Academy on Audiology, discussed the UnitedHealthcare® hi HealthInnovations hearing device benefit program in Self-Diagnosis, Self-Treatment: The Wave of the Future?; Brad Ingrao wrote about water-resistant hearing aids and cochlear implants in Jump Right In! Water-Resistant Hearing Technology; Lise Hamlin revisited the Americans with Disabilities Act 22 years later in Accessible Design for People with Hearing Loss; and Yoona Ha revealed the special bond with her grandmother in My Six-Million-Dollar Grandmother.

Laurie Pullins was the cover feature for the July/August 2012 issue. Back in February, right before my photography exhibit (Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio) opened at Green Spring Gardens, Laurie sent me a message that she would love to come see it in person (she’s been a big supporter and fan of my work for a few years now) and she was trying to coordinate a time when she could accompany her husband to the Washington, D.C. area on a business trip. It so happens that I had been catching up with her blog, Dance with Sound, and had just suggested to Barbara that we entice Laurie to write for the magazine. I pitched the idea to Laurie and said that if she could come up to see my show anytime in March or April, I could shoot the portraits of her for the feature then. We wanted to keep it a secret from even her closest friends so that she could surprise them; only her husband and children knew about it. Cover photo © Cindy Dyer

Laurie is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside and I am thrilled that she has a spotlight in the magazine with beautiful photos and her honest and inspiring writing. See Laurie’s feature on my blog post here or download the pdf here: Laurie Pullins Feature

Also in this issue: Brad Ingrao helps you understand your hearing loss and what you need to hear better in Beyond the Beeps: Needs Assessments and Outcome Measures; Lisa and Des Brownlie shared their experiences of their babies born with hearing loss in Two Children, Two Hearing Losses; Sam Trychin discussed research that has uncovered information about another built-in, inherited type of pain that also has survival value—social pain—in Hearing Loss and Social Pain; Lisa Tseng of hi HealthInnovations shows the company’s model for how to reach those who need hearing help in Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care; HLAA’s Director of Public Policy, Lise Hamlin, reveaks her personal experiences resulting from the fruits of HLAA’s labor in Newborn Hearing Screening: A Success Story; and Viola LaBounty expresses her improved hearing loss through her poem, Digital Technology: My World Alive.

Melissa Puleo Adams, a former San Diego Chargers cheerleader, was our cover feature for the September/October 2012 issue. I had the opportunity to meet and photograph Melissa when she was visiting her family here in Virginia in May. The title of her feature, Sixth Time’s a Charm, is in reference to her trying out six times to be a Charger Girl cheerleader. She persevered despite the rejections and made it on the sixth try. Her fellow Charger Girls were very supportive of her and her hearing loss. Melissa owns her own web and graphic design firm in California. You can see her web design work hereCover photo © Cindy Dyer  (Read Melissa’s full feature in my blog post here.)

Also in this issue: Audiologist Brad Ingrao provided an in-depth look at three alternative hearing systems in Middle Ear Implants and Bone Conduction Hearing Devices; HLAA’s Director of Marketing and Events, Nancy Macklin, revealed highlights in her Convention 2012 Wrap-up; Susan Clutterbuck wrote about the results of the EARtrak survey and if they reveal whether or not consumers’ opinions are being heard by their hearing health care providers in Improving Health Care—Make Your Voice Heard!; Ronnie Adler shared great stores about how Walk4Hearing Funds are put to good use in local communities in Rewarding Great Ideas—The Benefits of the Walk4Hearing; and Scott J. Bally showed how NVRC is changing lives in the community in NVRC: A Model Community Center Improving Communication.

Marisa Sarto was the cover feature for the November/December 2012 issue. I met Marisa in Providence, R.I. this past June during HLAA Convention 2012. I was going to profile her for our Seen & Heard column but after learning about her photo book project, we decided to make her autobiographical story a main feature for the magazine. I photographed her one afternoon in a park near the hotel. Cover photo © Cindy Dyer

Marisa’s inspiration for her book-in-progress, Hear Nor There: Images of an Invisible Disability, came from her experiences as a woman growing up with a hearing loss that made her feel self-conscious and set apart from others. The project will be a documentary monograph, showcasing photographs and stories of individuals of varying ages, ethnicities and genders and their challenges of living with a hearing loss. Learn more about the project on her website here and sample images and narratives here. Download and read her feature article here: Marisa Sarto Feature

Also in this issue: Audiologist Brad Ingrao’s article, Better Hearing, Better Health, explored the relationship between hearing loss and health-related quality of life; HLAA’s Director of Marketing and Events, Nancy Macklin, showed us why It’s Time to Head West! with her Convention 2013 Sneak Preview; Hayleigh Scott, owner of Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms, and Netegene Fitzpatrick proved there isn’t a generation gap among people with hearing loss in their feature, A Unlikely Friendship; HLAA’s Director of Public Policy, Lise Hamlin, reported good news in Shopping for Phones; long-time HLAA member Vern Thayer explained why he is Lucky that he discovered HLAA in 1983; and HLAA members George Kosovich and Marisa Sarto were both profiled in Seen & Heard.

 





Seen & Heard: Marisa Sarto

14 11 2012

Marisa Sarto, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Marisa also wrote the cover feature article for this issue. I had the pleasure of spending a fun afternoon with her, photographing her around Providence, and discussing everything from hearing loss to creativity to photography. Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam Spritzer, Jeff Bonnell, Eloise Schwarz, Glenice Swenson, Laurie Pullins, Rosemary Tuite and Kathy Borzell, and Tommy Thomas.

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.

MARISA SARTO
North Hollywood, CA / Born May 17, 1989, Tarzana, CA

MY HEARING LOSS… My parents discovered that I had hearing loss when I was a few months old. I’ve been wearing hearing aids since I was one.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Learn to love yourself and learn everything you can about hearing loss. And talk and share your feelings with others.

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… a grocery clerk at my local Ralph’s.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Extravagant family Halloween parties

PETS? I have two yin-yang cats—Jinx is one-year-old, white and deaf. Kiki is 21-years-old, black and almost blind in one eye. My family has a lovely blue-nose pit pull named Friday.

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… break someone’s heart

IN MY SPARE TIME… I apply for jobs.

HOBBIES? Expressing myself through photography, making jewelry, creating veggie and fruit juice with my juicer, harvesting fruits from around the neighborhood, thrift shopping with my partner, and watching movies.

WHO HAS INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST? Besides my parents—my baton and life coach, Gail Pearson

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT… I can twirl fire.

MY LITTLE-KNOWN TALENT IS… I can punch really hard

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Rite Aid’s Thrifty’s mint-flavored ice cream

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… myself ten years ago.

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… Running Out of Summer by Peter Morgan (my uncle)

I AM… brave, friendly, and funny.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to speak my mind.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to love myself first before loving someone else.

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… air conditioning (I live in the valley!)

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… putting my clothes on the floor.

I REALLY SHOULD START… learning about cars, so I don’t change the oil twice.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… guess people’s age, see things like an eagle, smell food, and notice when my food has been touched.

LEARNING SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY… I’m learning how to identify fruit trees and new photography tips.

MY MOTTO… is when presented with choices, try to make the good one; and if not, learn from the bad ones and try not to repeat them. Not learning is the biggest sin.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as an amazing woman who was a good friend and someone who made a difference.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… earning a Posse Foundation Scholarship to attend The University of Wisconsin-Madison

I like reading member stories in Hearing Loss Magazine, and appreciate the opportunity to share mine!





Hayleigh Scott and Netegene Kirkpatrick: An Unlikely Friendship

14 11 2012

HLAA Members Hayleigh Scott and Netegene Kirkpatrick co-authored “An Unlikely Friendship” for the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed the feature photo of them at HLAA’s annual conference this past June in Providence, R.I.

With the help of her mom, dad and sisters, Hayleigh started her own business, Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms, where she and her family create hearing aid scrunchies, tube twists, charms and patented clasp ideas for hearing aids and cochlear implants—allowing those with hearing loss to highlight their hearing instruments rather than hiding them. Ten percent of proceeds go to furthering hearing research and education of the hard of hearing and deaf community. Hayleigh first appeared in the January/February 20122 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, and when Netegene read her story, she e-mailed her and they became fast friends.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

An Unlikely Friendship

by Hayleigh Scott and Netegene Fitzpatrick

Is there really a generation gap among people with hearing loss? We don’t think so. Here, 13-year-old Hayleigh Scott and 68-year-old Netagene Kirkpatrick share how they bridged the gap while a strong friendship grew. They joined forces to help reduce the stigma of hearing loss, spread awareness, and are having fun doing it.

Meeting Netagene by Hayleigh Scott

Netagene and I first met through my business website when Netagene e-mailed me saying she had read about me in Hearing Loss Magazine. She liked what I was doing and ordered some hearing aid charms. I thought it was great that Netagene was interested in being a model of my charms. I have many adult charm buyers but usually it’s the kids who send in pictures wearing their charms. Netagene was willing to put her photo on my website’s customer page. We became pen pals and I learned that she really feels the same way I do about hearing aids and glasses—we both want to have fun!

Netagene and I met in person at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C. We talked for a while and got to know each other even better! Then we began sending each other little gifts. She even found pretty beads that she liked and she sent them to me with instructions on how she would like me to make them into charms for her.

One of the hardest things about having my own business is letting people know that I exist. Netagene has been so helpful in sharing what I do with others; she hands out my business cards, wears my charms, was interviewed by a newspaper in her home state of Alabama mentioning my business, and talks about the philosophy that we share. (We are not embarrassed to wear fancy glasses, so let’s make our hearing aids sparkle and shine!)

We kept in touch over the course of the next year updating each other with new things going on in our lives. Then Netagene’s mother died. I sent her a surprise pair of cross charms to wear to the funeral. We then saw each other this past June at the HLAA Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. It was so nice to get to see each other again! The last night of the convention we went out to dinner together and talked about the convention and lots of other things. Netagene is not just one of my favorite customers—she is one of my favorite people. Thank you HLAA for sharing what I do and for helping an unlikely friendship form.

Hayleigh Scott is an HLAA member and entrepreneur from Hollis, New Hampshire, and has exhibited at the last two HLAA Conventions. Her website is HayleighsCherishedCharms.com. Check out her Customer Photos page to see all the happy people, including Netagene.

Meeting Hayleigh by Netagene Kirkpatrick

There was an article about Hayleigh Scott and her business in the January/February 2011 Hearing Loss Magazine. I like to help others—in particular, young people—so I immediately looked up the website for Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms.

As the user of a long white cane (I am high-partial legally blind since 2003), I learned not to be ashamed of carrying one of those, of letting others see and know that I am imperfect. Some friends put a ribbon or some bells on their canes. One year, I taped a string of tiny battery-powered Christmas lights on my cane. Besides, people show off fancy eyeglasses that they wear, so why be ashamed to let others know that you need aids to see, to walk … and to hear!

That’s Hayleigh’s—and my—philosophy about wearing hearing aids. She had written my thoughts on her website, but she went a step farther. She did something about it when she was five years old at that! She started making charms. I went to her website and I immediately ordered the Dragonfly and the Red Cyclops Charms. (So what if I am 68 years old!)

When I got to the hotel in Crystal City for the HLAA Convention 2011, the first thing I did after checking into the hotel, even though I looked like something the cat had drug in (after a long train ride, plus dealing with the Washington, D.C. Metro), was to look for Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms in the Exhibit Hall. I met Hayleigh, her sisters Vienna and Sarah, and their mother Rachel. Sweet! Hayleigh and Rachel both are good about e-mailing their customers. I am not a cuddly, hugging kind of person, but that family is one that even I wanted to take in my arms and hug.

I learned their favorite colors and crocheted little bitty purses for all three girls. I’ve also bought little stuffed animals for them. I wish I could afford to buy more of the charms they make. I’ve mailed some strings of beads to Hayleigh and asked her to make me one pair and then use the rest to make others to sell.

When my mother passed away in 2011 at age 94, Hayleigh made a pair of cross hearing aid charms which arrived the day of my mother’s viewing. I had also told her about some of my past exploits, such as having been a DJ and having ridden a motorcycle. She also made a pair of hearing aid charms for me with a motorcycle on it! I didn’t ask for either pair so both were a surprise.

I keep my hair pulled back so that people can see my charms, and when someone mentions my “pretty earrings,” I take off one of my hearing aids to show them off. I keep a few of Hayleigh’s business cards on hand and give them away. I’ve shown my hearing aid charms to my audiologist and put some of Hayleigh’s cards in the waiting room of the hearing clinic.

I march to the tune of my own drummer and don’t like to be a cookie-cutter person; I like being a bit of a maverick—being unique. And, like Hayleigh and her family, I am proud of who I am and I’m not ashamed to let others know that just like I need aids to see, I also need aids to hear. Maybe amongst Hayleigh, HLAA and I, we can educate some people!

Netagene Kirkpatrick is an HLAA member from Birmingham, Alabama and has attended the last two HLAA Conventions.

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.





Marisa Sarto: The Hear Nor There Project

14 11 2012

Marisa Sarto wrote the cover feature article for the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Marisa recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in film on a Posse Foundation scholarship. She has worked as an intern for an acclaimed documentary artist and as an intern for a television production company and is currently pursuing her passion—photography and photo/visual journalism—in Los Angeles.

I met Marisa in Providence, R.I. this past June during the Hearing Loss Association of America annual convention. I was going to profile her for our Seen & Heard column but after learning about her photo book project, we decided to make her story a main feature for the magazine. I photographed her one afternoon in a park near the hotel.

Marisa’s inspiration for her book-in-progress, Hear Nor There: Images of an Invisible Disability, came from her experiences as a woman growing up with a hearing loss that made her feel self-conscious and set apart from others. The project will be a documentary monograph, showcasing photographs and stories of individuals of varying ages, ethnicities and genders and their challenges of living with a hearing loss. Learn more about the project on her website here and sample images and narratives here.

Download and read her feature article for Hearing Loss Magazine here: Marisa Sarto Feature

Also in this issue: Audiologist Brad Ingrao’s article, Better Hearing, Better Health, explores the relationship between hearing loss and health-related quality of life; HLAA’s Director of Marketing and Events, Nancy Macklin, shows us why It’s Time to Head West! with her Convention 2013 Sneak Preview; Hayleigh Scott, owner of Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms, and Netegene Fitzpatrick prove there isn’t a generation gap among people with hearing loss in their feature, An Unlikely Friendship; HLAA’s Director of Public Policy, Lise Hamlin, reports good news in Shopping for Phones; long-time HLAA member Vern Thayer explains why he is Lucky he discovered HLAA in 1983; and HLAA members George Kosovich and Marisa Sarto are both profiled in Seen & Heard.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Marisa is helping spread the word about “100 Portland,” a movement to recruit 100 young adults with hearing loss to gather at the HLAA Convention 2013 in Portland, Oregon. Check out the video below to learn about Marisa’s experience at Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island and an introduction to “100 Portland” and its mission. “100 Portland” also has a Facebook page.





Seen & Heard: Tommy Thomas

18 10 2012

Tommy Thomas, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made his Seen & Heard profile debut in the September/October 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. I photographed Tommy during Convention 2012 in Providence, RI. Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam SpritzerJeff BonnellEloise SchwarzGlenice SwensonLaurie Pullins, and Rosemary Tuite and Kathy Borzell.

TOMMY THOMAS 

Vine Grove, KY / born April 15, 1955, Bowling Green, KY

MY HEARING LOSS… I had German measles at age four and developed a high fever. My parents noticed the hearing loss at age five. I was fitted with a body aid and then went to a BTE (behind-the-ear) on my left ear. There was total loss in my right ear. I was implanted with a cochlear implant in my right ear about eight years ago. I still wear a BTE on the left ear.

SAGE ADVICE for SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Join a hearing loss support group for advice; lots can be learned from them.

A FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… On the third date with the woman who would later become my wife, my hearing aid battery died. I said, ‘Excuse me, but I need to change my hearing aid battery.’ She was curious because she had never been around anyone who wore a hearing aid, so she asked, ‘How often do you have to do that?’ I said, ‘well, with you it will be more often—because you talk quite a bit.’ The look on her face was priceless. After we married, and it was time to go back to work after the honeymoon, at 4:20 in the morning she was awakened by a strobe light and a shaking bed. She sat straight up in the bed, startled and thinking there was an earthquake or something. I intentionally had not told her about my alarm clock. She had never considered how a deaf or hard of hearing person awoke in the mornings to go to work.

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… a farmer and a welder.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… riding horses and going on trail rides

PETS? Morgan, a one-eyed Corgie mix and Trouble (a very appropriately named cat)

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… at age 14, I took a tractor motor completely apart and reassembled it without any manuals or instructions.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… my antique tractor running.

IN MY SPARE TIME… antique tractor rides, antique tractor shows, work in my shop

I MISS… being in my 30s when my body didn’t ache.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT… I am 5’15” tall—do the math.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT… is that I am an exceptional lip reader.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Smarties (the candy).

PLACES I’VE CALLED HOME… nine months in my mother’s womb, Bowling Green, KY; Bardstown, KY; Radcliff, KY and then Vine Grove, KY

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… I’ve had only three jobs—(1) farm laborer as a teen; (2) meat cutter for 33 years; and (3) full-time farmer.

MUSIC TO MY EARS… Amazing Grace, The Old Rugged Cross, Standing on the Promises, Jesus Loves Me

I AM… honest, dependable and fun.

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… first, the hearing aid and second, the cochlear implant

I HAVE A FEAR OF… ferris wheels.

SONG I LOVE BUT AM EMBARASSED TO ADMIT TO… She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy

MY FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… my tractors, all my tools, and my teddy bear that I’ve had for 53 years and it still looks good

PET PEEVE… school buses—they stop every 20 feet

IF I RULED THE WORLD… everyone is treated equally, no one goes hungry, and no politics

WHAT IS THE KINDEST THING ANYONE HAS DONE FOR YOU? My friend, Charlie, took me out every day to walk after my back surgery to help me get my strength back.

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED? as Sir Tom—the name I have used in the hearing loss chatroom for years

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… I built my house at age 21 and I’m still living in it.

I like everything in Hearing Loss Magazine, but I wish it came monthly.

 






Melissa Puleo Adams: Sixth Time’s a Charm

12 09 2012

Melissa Puleo Adams graces the cover of the September/October 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Melissa for the magazine in May when she was in town visiting her parents, Joe and Lisa. Barbara Kelley, the editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine, interviewed Melissa this summer. (Cover photo © Cindy Dyer)

Sixth Time’s a Charm

by Barbara Kelley

It’s fall and that means one thing to a lot of people in this country—football! True grit on the gridiron not only stirs passion from spectators, it contributes to a multi-billion dollar sports industry in the United States. According to Plunkett Research®, Ltd., sports, with football at the top, is big business. “Combined, the ‘Big 4’ leagues in America, the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), bring in about $24 billion in revenue during a typical year, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. U.S. sporting equipment sales at retail sporting goods stores are roughly $41 billion yearly, according to U.S. government figures.

A reasonable estimate of the total U.S. sports market would be $400 to $435 billion yearly. However, the sports industry is so complex, including ticket sales, licensed products, sports video games, collectibles, sporting goods, sports-related advertising, endorsement income, stadium naming fees and facilities income, that it’s difficult to put an all-encompassing figure on annual revenue.” (www.plunkettresearch.com)

What About the Cheerleaders?
Yes, cheerleaders are part of this lucrative sports industry. NFL Cheerleading is a professional cheerleading league in the United States. Most of the NFL teams have a cheerleading squad in their franchise. Cheerleaders are a popular attraction that gives a team more coverage/airtime, local support, and increased media image. Think Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders or their rivals, First Ladies of Football, Washington Redskins Cheerleaders.

For the NFL, the Baltimore Colts was the first team in the NFL to have cheerleaders in 1954. These girls were also a part of the historic Baltimore Colts Marching Band. The only NFL teams without cheerleaders are the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The February 2011 meeting of the Packers and Steelers at Super Bowl XLV was the first time a Super Bowl featured no cheerleaders. The Packers do, however, use a collegiate squad from time to time in a limited role to cheer at home games.

Apply Here
I was curious. Besides being able to hear the music and follow the beat, what other qualifications do you need to be an NFL Cheerleader? So, I went online as if I were going to apply to become a “Charger Girl,” the cheerleading squad for NFL’s San Diego Chargers. I got so excited when it said “Be a part of the Hottest Dance Team in the NFL! Charger Girls Audition.” Using my super-sized imagination, I went through the list of requirements to see if, by any slim chance, I could apply.

• You must be at least 18 years old by the date of the preliminary audition. There is no maximum age limit. (Check! Whew, good thing.)

• There are no height or weight requirements. (Check! Oh boy, got lucky again, so far, so good.)

• Team members must have flexible schedules for twice-weekly rehearsals, games and appearances during and prior to the season. (Check! This might be tough but I have some vacation time coming.)

• Team members must attend a mandatory weekend mini-camp. (Check! My husband can hold down the fort.) 

• Team members must have a means of transportation. (Check! I’ll take the family SUV; it’s a little trashed from kids’ cleats, mud, and empty Gatorade bottles, but it’ll work fine.)

Also from the application:

“The Charger Girls uphold a high standard of quality dance performance and community involvement. The Charger organization feels strongly that the cheerleaders should complement the professionalism represented on and off the playing field. During the preliminary audition process, applicants will be judged on dance ability, crowd appeal, showmanship, and individual applications. For finalists, there is an interview process and a final dance audition.”

Highlights of being a Charger Girl:

• Experience the thrill of performing in front of more than 65,000 fans

• Perform at San Diego Chargers home games in Qualcomm Stadium

• Participate in the annual swimsuit calendar photo shoot

• Serve as ambassadors for the Chargers organization as well as the San Diego community

• Bring smiles to underprivileged children

• Have local and national media exposure

• Work with many of the nation’s top choreographers

• Donate time and talent for various charity events

• Make invaluable friendships with fellow teammates

Wow, this was sounding great.

And finally, in big bold letters, the application states:

“IF YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO MAKE A FULL ONE-YEAR COMMITMENT TO THE SAN DIEGO CHARGER GIRLS THEN YOU SHOULD NOT AUDITION!”

Okay, deal breaker, count me out. But, now I know that auditioning for this job is not for the faint of heart. I watched some of the auditions on the Internet to learn more about what is behind the women who are brave enough to try. You have to be talented, athletic, outgoing and more. One woman, Kei, came all the way from Japan just to try for this coveted role.

But there is one young woman who stands out among them all—Melissa Puleo Adams. She’s a tenacious, spirited girl, who caught the attention of ABC’s Good Morning America and who was interviewed on the program last year. By the way, Melissa happens to have a hearing loss. Now, she has our attention.

Meet Melissa Puleo Adams
Melissa, (29) was born in Brooklyn, New York, raised in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and now lives in Carlsbad, California. She graduated from James Madison University in Virginia in 2004. Her parents, Joe and Lisa, live in the Washington, D.C., metro area and we met her when she was home to visit. When you ask her dad about his daughter, he says, “Her mom and I would say how proud we are of all Melissa has achieved despite her hearing loss. She is smart, compassionate and determined.”

How did she do it when getting the routine right depends on hearing the music and the numbers being called out? She neither had the roar of the crowd nor the loud music to fuel her. Even the football referee’s whistle was too high-pitched for her to hear. Melissa Puleo Adams talks about the people who helped her along the way and her perseverance to making her dream of being a Charger Girl come true. (Photo courtesy of the Charger Girls)

In Melissa’s Words

Your hearing loss… when was it detected and was it treated?
I was five when my hearing loss was detected by my kindergarten teacher. My teacher notified my mother that she noticed I wouldn’t turn around when called at times. My parents took me to an ENT to get my hearing tested and they discovered that I had a hearing loss in both ears. I was fitted with two behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids at age five.

What about school, the classroom, friends?
I was fortunate to have a pleasant grade school experience due largely in part to a great family support system, and a positive attitude. When I was first fitted with BTE hearing aids, I proudly wore my hair up with confidence, showing them off to all my friends and classmates. My friends all thought my hearing aids were ‘so cool’ and wanted to try them on and get a pair of their own.

However, in high school and college I was shy, maybe embarrassed, about my hearing loss. I no longer told my peers about it and kept my hair down to cover my hearing aids. I always thought what guy would want to date a girl who wears hearing aids? I didn’t know anyone else with a hearing loss. This didn’t affect my positive outlook, although I’m sure having a friend to relate to may have helped during my high school years.

In terms of teachers and school, I still continued to tell the teachers on the first day of class that I needed to sit front and center and that if they turned away from me to face the blackboard then I probably wouldn’t understand what they were saying. I did the same in college and talked to the professors after class if I thought I missed something.

Speaking of college, how did you decide on your major when you had so much interest in dancing?
When I first attended James Madison University, I had an undeclared major and had no idea what I wanted to do. As a freshman, I declared Business as a major because it felt like a suitable, broad option. Though I enjoyed my business classes, the artistic/creative side of me felt ignored. I decided on Media Arts and Design with a concentration in Interactive Digital Media. Classes consisted of graphic design, web design, communications, media, broadcasting and copywriting. This was right up my alley because I’ve always been creative. When I was little, I used to write stories and mini-books complete with pictures. I also loved making up plays and making my little brother, Marc, and our friends perform the parts I created for them in front of family and friends.

Did you take dance lessons as a child? There must be a segue to wanting to become a Charger Girl.
My mom put me in tap and ballet class when I was five (same time frame when my hearing loss was detected). I fell in love with it immediately and knew that I wanted dancing to be a part of my life forever. I have always been an avid exerciser but to prepare for the Charger Girl auditions, I took more dance classes on top of my usual cardio and weight-training routine. Taking dance classes not only helped me brush up on my skills, but also helped train my memory for learning choreography.

When did you start thinking about becoming a Charger Girl?
I’ve always had the dream of becoming a professional dancer when I started dance lessons. When I moved to San Diego from Maryland in 2005, I heard of the San Diego Charger Girl auditions. They have a great reputation of being a fantastic group of women and I wanted to be part of it.

What about your audition?
I first tried out for Charger Girls in 2005. The auditions are always held in March or April. My hearing loss made it more difficult for me because the auditions were in a huge auditorium with an echo. Once I got the dance routine started, I would be totally fine, but the main challenge was starting on the right beat. Sometimes I would use my peripheral vision to look at the girl to the right or left of me to see when to start. It is a vigorous audition process. More than 400 girls audition for a spot on a team of 28. There are preliminary tryouts first, after which they make two cuts. You learn choreography and then you must perform for a panel of judges in groups of three. About 60 girls make it to the final rounds which include a one-on-one interview, a group interview, and a final dance audition. You have to prepare a solo dance to showcase to the final judges as well. It is nerve-wracking but the adrenaline that pumps through you gets you through it!

So, what happened next?
I didn’t make it. I tried out again in 2006. I didn’t make it. Again, in 2007. No, again. I tried again the next two years in 2008, 2009. No and no. That’s five tryouts.

After one rejection, most of us would have moved on.
For five years, after rounds of dance auditions and interviews, I had the same experience. All of us sit together holding hands, eyes closed, hoping to hear our audition number called. It’s an intense moment. The first five times my number was not called, it was tough. I had friends who would make the team and it would be a bittersweet moment. I was thrilled for them but I had to go home, year after year, not as a Charger Girl.

Though it was hard not to make it, and especially not to know why you weren’t picked for the team, I knew this was something I could do well if given the chance. I was not giving up on my dream. Well, all I can say is: Hence, if at first (second, third, forth, and fifth in my case) you don’t succeed, try and try again.

And, in 2010, what happened?
My number was called after my sixth audition! It was one of the most memorable moments in my entire life. I waited six years to hear my number called! I’ll never forget that moment.

Is life as a Charger Girl what you expected?
I was a Charger Girl for two NFL seasons, 2010–11 and 2011–12. I had the most incredible experience and can say it was all that I expected and more. Some of the teammates I had will be my friends for life. The director, Lisa Simmons, is an amazing leader and I’m proud to call her a friend of mine.

Now, what about your hearing loss?
My hearing loss was always accommodated. I couldn’t believe the amount of support I had from my teammates and director. At every practice, girls would repeat things that were said to me. For each dance there would be a girl close by me who would give me a signal (tap on the leg, quietly mouth the count—5, 6, 7, 8—or shake her pom) so that I would know when to start the dance. Most times I couldn’t hear the music when I was on the field so this system ensured that I would never be off beat or lose count. That is why I call my teammates friends. They could have easily looked out for themselves first with little regard for me. I will never forget that. (Family photo © Cindy Dyer)

What are you doing now?
I decided not to audition for the San Diego Charger Girls for another season. The two seasons I had were incredibly good to me, but I have other exciting things planned for the future. I am currently self-employed as a marketing manager, event coordinator, and graphic/web designer. I’ve been dubbed the “Get It Done Expert.”

In June I became certified to teach barre3, a mixture of yoga and pilates, using a ballet barre. It’s a fantastic workout that tones your entire body, and the best part is that almost anyone can do it! Being an instructor poses a new challenge with my hearing loss, but as always I’m up for the challenge.

Future plans?
I have a couple of other business ideas in the works I plan to unleash on the world in the future. I can’t share them quite yet. I also want to have a family down the road, but in the meantime, I am enjoying this stage of my life and embracing any opportunities that arise.

Who or what is the most important to you?
My family—without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love being active—hiking, Bikram yoga, hanging out at the beach, taking my dog, Drama, for a walk. (Yes, his name really is Drama, named after the Entourage character, Johnny Drama…it suits him.) I cherish my time with my friends. I’ve learned over time to surround yourself with people who make you happy—life’s too short not to. (Photo © Cindy Dyer)

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Honestly, every day is a challenge. Little things such as listening to the radio in the car with the windows down, using the phone, jumping in the pool, aren’t as easy for me as they are for those with normal hearing. It’s all about your attitude. I just stay positive and cherish all the amazing things that I do have in my life, especially my supportive family and friends.

If someone tells you that you can’t do something…
… it makes me want to do it more!”

To find out more about the Charger Girls, go to http://www.chargers.com/charger-girls/. Melissa Puleo Adams can be reached at melissapuleo@gmail.com.

Barbara Kelley is editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine and deputy executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. She can be reached at bkelley@hearingloss.org.





My World Alive by Viola LaBounty

2 08 2012

A few months ago, my friend Mary Ellen Ryall introduced me to Viola LaBounty, a friend in her writer’s group in Wisconsin. At Mary Ellen’s urging, Viola submitted this poem for publication in the Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. It appeared in the July/August 2012 issue. Special thanks to Anna Martineau Merritt, Misty Pines Photography, for the perfect photo of Viola and her husband Bob (beautiful job, Anna!)

My World Alive [Digital Technology]

by Viola LaBounty

Awakened at dawn in silence,
I remember yesterday’s song;
we walked through the forest together
in amazement at how alive all had become.
I had struggled to know what was absent
as we’d walked down these pathways before.
Not known I’d been there in silence
what was muted
until now?

I have missed sounds of sand under footsteps;
each bird-song, each flutter of mourning dove
as we startle her there in oaken leaves;
She flies off to her mate in the distance.
All came alive in an instant…
This is where inspiration had gone.
I’d lived in silence for all this time;
I didn’t realize
until now.

Silence had overtaken my world in part.
where once there was joy in each word came my way;
only quiet as dew rolled to ground…
Now I will savor sound as a gift;
breathe as it whispers its secrets.
Precious words; priceless thoughts
have been given…how many have I missed
until now?

So subtle is aging in many ways,
may steal away some of time;
my world, live with wonder, as a child again;
pure senses, each movement records.
Sound of breezes;
Your voice in soft tones;
prompts of God; He surprises afresh…
I have learned in my journey
each day truly new.
My world is alive once again.

Viola LaBounty is an active member of St. Croix Writer’s Group in Solon Springs, Wisconsin. She is also a member of Wisconsin Writer’s Association and Lake Superior Writers. Viola is a retired teacher’s assistant of early childhood autistic children. She and her husband Bob have two adult children, Michael and Shauna, and one teenage granddaughter Kaylee. Viola enjoys playing gospel music and singing with her auto harp. Her hearing loss has been gradual over the years. She had been exposed to loud environments through her teens and twenties and did not protect her hearing through these times, not realizing how important it would be to do so.

Photo © Anna Martineau Merritt, Misty Pines Photography

 





The Indomitable Spirit of the Kennedy Center’s Betty Siegel

2 08 2012

Scott J. Bally’s article, The Indomitable Spirit of the Kennedy Center’s Betty Siegel, was featured in the November/December 2011 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed Betty in my studio last fall, and discovered we share a lot of common interests. After our photo session was over, I told her that she and her husband are now on our guest list for future parties! Below is Bally’s article, reprinted with permission from HLAA.

At the heart of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art’s efforts to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities is Betty Siegel, nationally recognized leader for accessibility to the arts.

Wicked was beyond belief. I had given up on attending anything like a play or musical. It was like being in the fairy tale. I could feel the music—understand the play—and be a part of a magical evening that I had long since given up. Now I see this is just the beginning!”
Suzannah “Bay” Dirickson, HLAA member, Richmond, Virginia

A broad smile of accomplishment widens across Betty Siegel’s face when she considers the Kennedy Center Accessibility Office’s success this past summer when 600 attendees of the HLAA Convention took in a performance of the blockbuster musical Wicked (click here to learn more about Wicked). This standing-room-only Broadway hit which explores the back story of The Wizard of Oz was a perfect fit for convention goers as it addresses and brings new insights into the challenges of being different.

The event attracted the largest number of people with hearing loss ever to attend a performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The challenges for the Center’s Accessibility Office were daunting and patron needs were successfully met with seven captioning screens placed at strategic points throughout the Kennedy Center Opera House and masterfully guided by captioner David Chu, two types of gratis assistive listening technology to select from, a team of specially-selected interpreters, an occasion-specific crafted welcome and orientation letter and a staff of 36 ushers who had undergone sensitivity training to help this contingent have the most complete theater experience possible. Feedback provided to both the Kennedy Center and HLAA pronounced it a resounding success! Betty Siegel, who orchestrated the efforts, called the achievement “absolutely thrilling!”

From the Inside Out
At the heart of the Kennedy Center’s efforts to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities is Betty Siegel, nationally recognized leader for accessibility to the arts. Betty Siegel’s three-person staff has a broad variety of responsibilities as part of the education program.

The Kennedy Center keeps its policy simple and to the point. “The Kennedy Center welcomes persons with disabilities.” Betty thinks it needs no further explanation.” That says it all!” she states emphatically. It also gives her the ability to widen the scope of her office in creative and practical ways that achieve this objective.

Betty looks back to 1989 when she started at the Kennedy Center. She reflected on the Center’s slow emergence from viewing the accessibility staff as the fly in the ointment (“eyes rolled when we walked into a meeting”) to being an integral part of the institutional culture to whom others look for counsel and advice. The overriding attitude at the Kennedy Center is that “accessibility is just something that we do.” And they do it well.

Betty notes that now, without her urging, consideration is given to persons with disabilities in every effort the Center undertakes including staffing and staff training, renovation of the facilities and planning for meeting patron needs. “It just happens,” says Betty with a gleam of personal satisfaction in her eye. The Center has both in-house programs so that the Center’s cultural offerings are accessible to the greater Washington, D.C. community, but also leadership training for institutions both nationally and internationally.

The Kennedy Center’s Accessibility Office has become one of the nation’s primary resources for cultural institutions in the area of disabilities. They are able to provide solutions for technology challenges in theaters, direction for incorporating individuals with hearing loss and other disabilities in the arts, and understanding of the legislation that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities who attend public cultural institutions.

Meeting the Challenges
The greatest challenges for Betty and her colleagues, Jessica Swanson, Andrea Miller, and newcomer, Clinton Bowman, include keeping up with the rapidly-changing technology available to theatergoers as well as the compatibility between group and individual technologies. As the director for Very Special Arts (VSA) and Accessibility, Betty’s responsibilities have broadened as a recent Kennedy Center reorganization has brought the VSA program under Betty’s capable wings. With six new staff members and a whole new program to oversee, Betty seems undaunted at the prospect noting “I thrive on new challenges,” especially those for which she can implement “socially sustainable design.” A group of volunteers provide support to the office.

The challenge here, according to Betty, is that when you meet expectations, the expectations of patrons move to a higher level. “You need to exceed their expectations at every turn. We need to be doing things better and more effectively on every front.” No resting on laurels although pausing to appreciate the Wicked experience is cause for some satisfaction for Betty and her team.

“Building new audiences…and keeping the ones you have” is a dual challenge described by Betty. A significant portion of arts’ audiences are baby boomers. They are all aging. With aging, many individuals will develop some degree of sensory or mobility disability that needs to be addressed so that these individuals are able to continue their access to and enjoyment of the arts.

Networking is a key factor in the success of the Center’s programs. Each year since 2000, the Kennedy Center has hosted its LEAD program, Leadership Exchange in the Arts and Disability. Administrators from cultural institutions across the country discuss institutional cultural arts and disability issues. Their shared common goal is “the desire to create accessible cultural arts programs that are inclusive of people with disabilities and older adults.”

Betty describes useful presentations as well as a vigorous exchange of ideas between venues. The Department of Justice supports the efforts by frequently providing speakers who give updates on legislation related to persons with disabilities as it has become clarified through court cases, and the most recent updates on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Betty noted that ticketing regulations has recently been a topic of particular interest among participants. Other highlights of their annual conference include accessible performances, technology demonstrations, and resource rooms.

The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center is the nation’s busiest performing arts facility and hosts approximately 3,000 performances annually for audiences totaling nearly two million people. This does not include individuals who tour this national monument to see its Edward Durrell Stone designed cutting edge architecture and furnishings gifted from nations around the world without seeing a performance. The Center, now in its 40th season, has already established a reputation for excellence in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities.

Individuals with hearing loss find several accommodations to meet their needs. Assistive listening technology for performances is available at no charge to patrons. There are captioned performances for every play and musical in the Eisenhower Theater and the Opera House, the Center’s largest venues. The other theaters (the Kennedy Center has six, plus the Millennium Stage which provides free performances in the Grand Foyer 365 days a year) will provide captioning when requested with reasonable notice.

Recently a patron at a musical explained, “I don’t think I have much of a hearing loss, but the [Infrared] earphones brought the actors voices past the orchestra so I could actually understand the words.” The Center also offers audio-described performances for those with vision loss and signed performances for people who use sign language.

Cultural and sensitivity training for the more than 500 ushers who work the performances enable the front line “redcoats” to meet the immediate needs of patrons with disabilities and older adults. Each theater also has “accessibility ushers” at every performance whose primary responsibility is to assist patrons with mobility and other accessibility needs.

When asked how many patrons benefit from the Center’s efforts, Betty shakes her head and notes that it is “virtually impossible to tell.” She continues, “Patrons with disabilities do not need to identify themselves to Kennedy Center staff to take advantage of accommodations. Although theater managers report on some services provided such as large-print programs or wheelchair use, many patrons are self-sufficient and slip by unnoticed. Hearing loss is, of course, invisible so we are uncertain as to how many people who are hard of hearing and deaf actually attend captioned or signed performances.”

Cognitive disabilities, mental illnesses or autism and such medical challenges as heart conditions or arthritis, are also difficult to identify. Even statistics on assistive listening device use are not reliable because individuals without hearing loss also might use them. A broad estimate by Betty puts the figure at “easily 25,000 patrons, but it is probably more.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in ten Americans has a mental or physical disability, a figure that supports her assumption.

From Whence She Came
When asked about Betty’s professional background she laughs. She confessed that she started out in costume design…but “without much passion.” Her professional path kept moving her toward working with people. She discovered the joys and challenges of working in the area of disability access to the arts at the Arena Stage, a regional theater venue in Washington, D.C. where she was a theater manager in the early 1980s. She found it rewarding to “make a difference in the lives of theatergoers with disabilities” and helping them to be an integral part of the cultural event, rather than limited spectators.

For the efforts of the Kennedy Center’s Accessibility Office, Betty accepted HLAA’s National Access Award 2011 at the HLAA Convention for their contributions toward making the arts accessible to persons with hearing loss. “Arts should not shy away from the issues [which confront persons with disabilities].” From Betty’s viewpoint, she is immersed in those issues every single day…and loving every minute of it.

Scott J. Bally, Ph.D., M.S.W., CCC-SLP, recently retired from Gallaudet University where he was a full professor in both the speech-language pathology and audiology programs in the department of hearing, speech and language sciences. He has worked in public school, hospital, deaf institute, community clinic and university settings in a career spanning more than 35 years. He has written numerous articles and book chapters on the biopsychosocial effects of hearing loss and has presented to both professional and consumer organizations.

Dr. Bally has also worked at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where he is head usher at the Opera House and is regularly called on to work with patrons who having hearing loss at captioned performances in the Opera House and the Eisenhower Theaters. He can be reached at sbally@hearingloss.org.

Patron services at the John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts through the Accessibility Office:

Captioned performances and events
Assistive listening devices
Sign language interpreted performances and events
Audio-described performances and events
Braille and large-print playbills (other materials upon request)
Online listings of accessible performances
Specially-priced tickets
Accessible tours
Wheelchair accessibility
Transportation and parking accommodations
Courtesy wheelchairs
Curb-to-seat service
Phone and e-mail information services

Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. In the U.S., student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. 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: Glenice Swenson

6 07 2012

Glenice Swenson, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the July/August 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Seen & Heard is a new column I developed for the magazine in 2011. We had 48 members get enthusiastically involved in our first outreach effort and just last week I photographed more than 20 members during HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, R.I. We’ll be publishing one or two profiles (as space allows) in each issue of the bimonthly magazine. Other members previously profiled were Danielle Nicosia, John Kinstler, Judy Martin, Anne Taylor, Sam Spritzer and Jeff Bonnell and Eloise Schwarz.

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.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

GLENICE SWENSON  

Owatonna, MN / born Sept. 2 in Grand Forks, ND

WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT MY DAUGHTER, JANA… I love many things about Jana and today I love that she chose an education and profession that makes her incredibly aware of what it is like to be hard of hearing. Because she pursued her degree in Deaf Studies and is a sign language interpreter (even though I do not sign) we have had many interesting conversations about subjects regarding challenges of people with hearing loss.

MY HEARING LOSS… Although my mother and my pediatrician suspected there might be an issue with my hearing, I wasn’t actually diagnosed until I was 14. The junior high I was attending did a screening of all 9th graders in preparation for high school. As recommended by my school, my mother took me to our doctor to be checked out and they found I had some hearing loss—possibly progressive. When I was 18, I graduated from high school. I decided I better find out more about this hearing loss diagnosis. At that point it was determined that it was definitely progressive as I had lost more since the diagnosis. At the age of 28, I got my first pair of hearing aids. When I was 44, I had my first cochlear implant surgery. I currently hear fabulously with bilateral cochlear implants. Life is grand.

SAGE ADVICE… During my most challenging years of hearing loss, I did not have a support system other than my hearing family as I knew nothing about support groups and none were readily available. My advice is join HLAA, seek out others with hearing loss, learn what your options are, and use the tools and technology that is so available in this modern day!

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… After a family gathering, I was out with some of my cousins who I didn’t see very often. We were having a great time in one of the local bar and grill joints when it was time to close. As is the tradition to signal closing, they shut the lights out and without skipping a beat, I said, ‘Oh, no! I go deaf in the dark.’ When the lights came back on, the cousin I had been visiting was looking a little uncomfortable, but chuckling and grinning from ear to ear, was looking at me with an expression of surprise. He had no idea that I had a sense of humor about my hearing loss and need to read lips.

DISADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… It takes a lot of energy to pursue the same things as hearing people.

ADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… I don’t usually think of hearing loss in terms of advantages. Communication in our house is a priority. We developed many communication rules and courtesies in our home during the years I was losing my hearing and our daughters were growing up. I think the courtesies enhanced my relationships with my daughters. The fact that I needed to stop whatever I was doing to read their lips and focus my attention on them was a good thing.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… in the Navy, a WAVE! My second choice was to be a hairstylist. Due to my hearing loss, I did not get to serve my country as a Navy WAVE. I did go back to school for cosmetology after having my children. I ended up leaving that profession after three years when I had reached the point where I could no longer make appointments by phone.

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… is my first bike! When I was seven, my dad had a friend who knew he was looking for a little bike for me. His friend was working out at the Grand Forks Air Force Base when he spotted a little bike in someone’s trash. It was awful, but my dad was great at fixing things up. He worked on it until it pedaled like a dream and it was fast too. He was going to paint it my favorite color—blue. Dad got the primer on it, which was an ugly gray. I was trying it out before he got it finished and discovered how fast it was. When the neighborhood kids saw me riding this bike and how fast I was going, they wanted to try it. The next thing I knew one of the boys got out a stop watch and we were timing each other to see who could get around the block the fastest. That bike was so busy getting ridden that it never got painted blue.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a bike! I started babysitting when I was about 12. I saved my money until I had enough to buy my first big bike. I ended up finding a used 26” blue bike for $13.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… When I read this question, the memory that jumps out at me is my last hearing test before I qualified for the cochlear implant. When the audiologist went to get the picture board to give me clues to the words she was saying, I knew it was bad. Getting through that testing session was really hard.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… I did not hear birds for many, many years. Even with my hearing aids, I never got the songbirds back, only the coo of a dove. With my cochlear implants, I can hear all birds! There is a pair of cardinals that live in my neighborhood and it still chokes me up when I hear them. I love listening to the birds. I also love listening to my grandchildrens’ giggles.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… I’m almost always reading something. I enjoy getting outside to Trikke, bike, or walk. I also enjoy swinging kettlebells and going to kickboxing.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… a couch potato, except when I’m working on my laptop!

I MISS… my kids and grandkids. They are spread out from 40 to 1,000 miles away.

HOBBIES? photography, writing, sewing, crocheting

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… like motorcycles and used to have one.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT… This is a new thing that I’m doing, but I’m pretty good at carving a Trikke!

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR… public speaking.

YOU JUST WON A $10 MILLION LOTTERY. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?  I would plan a trip to St. Moritz in Switzerland!

MY FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… is on a ski slope when it is 28 degrees, the air smells great and the snow is perfect.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… the Queen of England.

MY FAVORITE SEASON… is autumn. I enjoy the cooling of the air, the beautiful foliage changes and the anticipation of the holiday season.

I COLLECT… crosses in the forms of home decor and jewelry.

I HAVE A FEAR OF… big bridges.

YOU HAVE JUST WON A $1,000 SHOPPING SPREE TO A FAVORITE STORE! WHAT DID YOU BUY? I would probably get an iPad and an iPhone from the Apple Store.

PLACES I’VE CALLED HOME… Warren, MN; Grand Forks, ND; Crookston, MN; Owatonna, MN

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… carhop at A & W Drive In; waitress at Del’s Coffee Shop; parking enforcement officer for the City of Grand Forks; bookkeeper and teller at Polk County State Bank of Crookston; full-time mother

MY FAVORITE FOODS… chocolate, dark cherries, peanuts, avocado, shrimp

MUSIC TO MY EARS… You and I by Stevie Wonder; Manheim Steamroller’s version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Don’t Take Away My Heaven by Aaron Neville; I Believe in You by Don Williams; Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

LITERARY FAVES… The Bible, The Biography of Hellen Keller, The Biography of Annie Oakley, All Creatures Great and Small, Where Angels Walk

THE BIG SCREEN… Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Parent Trap, Sound of Music

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… The Secret

MY KIDS HAVE TAUGHT ME… patience.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to never judge a book by its cover.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to love music.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? Microwave bacon cooker!

WORD OR PHRASE THAT I OVERUSE… “and stuff”

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… chocolate!

SONG YOU LOVE BUT ARE EMBARRASSED TO ADMIT… the original recording of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” by Jimmy Boyd

NAME SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU ARE SURE MOST PEOPLE DON’T… antique Lincoln rocking chair

MY FAVORITE QUOTE… “If it was easy everyone would do it. It is the hard that makes it great.” — Coach Dugan in A League of Their Own

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to write a book.

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… when people assume versus finding the truth.

RIGHT NOW I AM CRAVING… Good Earth original recipe tea.

MY MOTTO IS… never say never.

I WOULD LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED… as a good, kind and caring person.





No Compromise: Richard Einhorn, Composer

14 05 2012

Richard Einhorn, award-winning composer, wrote the cover feature for the May/June 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. In his article, Einhorn writes about his sudden hearing loss and how, with his clever uses of existing technology, he continues to work and live well with hearing loss. For the full article, click on this link: Richard Einhorn

Learn more about Richard Einhorn on his website here and the fascinating details about how Voices of Light came to fruition here. To learn more about Joan of Arc, view his program notes here.

I found it especially moving that Einhorn recorded the church bells ringing in Joan’s birthplace and included them in the production. In his program notes, he writes: Just prior to writing Voices of Light, I traveled to France to visit some of the important Joan of Arc historical sites. I went to Orleans where she won her first battle and also to Rouen, where I was deeply moved by the ruins of the castles where Joan was held and the cross erected at the site of her martyrdom. I also traveled to the little village of Domremy, Joan’s birthplace in the southeast, where her house and church, much restored, still stand. I took along a portable DAT recorder and recorded the sound of the Domremy church bell and later incorporated it into my score. I felt that Joan, who so loved church bells, whose voices seemed to speak to her whenever they were ringing, would appreciate the effort.

Excerpted from his website: 

Einhorn has written opera, orchestral and chamber music, song cycles, film music, and dance scores. Among his many projects is the wildly popular Red Angels for New York City Ballet, set to Einhorn’s music with choreography by Ulysses Dove, which had its television premiere on Live From Lincoln Center (PBS) in May of 2002. His film credits include the Academy Award-winning documentary short, Educating Peter (HBO) and Arthur Penn’s thriller Dead of Winter (MGM), starring Mary Steenbugen; and Fire-Eater directed by Pirjo Honkasalo, for which Einhorn won the Jussi (Finnish Academy Award) for Best Musical Score.

Born in 1952, Richard Einhorn graduated summa cum laude in music from Columbia University. Before turning his attention exclusively to composition, Einhorn worked as a record producer for such artists as Meredith Monk and The New York Philharmonic. His production of the Bach Cello Suites with Yo-Yo Ma won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Performance.

Recent works include The Spires, The City, The Field, a 9/11 memorial premiered by the Albany Symphony. A Carnival of Miracles, a piece written for Anonymous 4, premiered to a sold-out crowd at New Sounds Live and broadcasted live over WNYC-FM. My Many Colored Days is an orchestral commission from the Minnesota Orchestra. He lives in New York City with his wife Amy Singer and their daughter Miranda.

________________________________________________________________________________

I had the honor and pleasure of photographing Richard for Hearing Loss Magazine (HLM) in March. Barbara Kelley (HLM’s editor-in-chief) and I met up with him at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. After a great photo session, we dropped Richard off at his hotel and picked him up later to take him to the Meyerhoff, where his work, Voices of Light, was being performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, with Marin Alsop conducting. Einhorn composed the piece in 1994, inspired by the 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Live performances accompany a screening of the film. The libretto is based on excerpts from a variety of ancient writings, most of it from Medieval female mystics, and scored for a small orchestra, chorus and soloists. For me, the performance was a haunting, incredibly moving and very profound visual and aural experience. To get a feel for the combination of this powerful film and Einhorn’s remarkable composition, view the 10-minute video segment below. The film is captioned in both French and English.

Barbara interviewed Richard for a companion piece to his article. This interview is included in its entirety below.


BEHIND THE SCENES: Composer Richard Einhorn and Voices of Light

by Barbara Kelley

Richard Einhorn’s acclaimed Voices of Light has been called “a great masterpiece of contemporary music” and “a work of meticulous genius.” Voices of Light is an oratorio set to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. Voices of Light has been performed more than 200 times by major orchestras all over the world, including two recent performances with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop conducting.

Einhorn, who has composed many film scores and concert works, had been interested in writing a large work on a religious subject. In 1988, he finally discovered what he would do. As he wrote in the liner notes for the Sony Classical recording of Voices of Light, “Imagine walking down an ordinary street in an ordinary city on an ordinary day. You turn the corner and suddenly without warning, you find yourself staring at the Taj Mahal. It was with that same sense of utter amazement and wonder that I watched Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc for the first time.

“That was back in January 1988. I was idly poking around the film archives of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, looking at short avant-garde films, when I happened across a still from Joan in the silent film catalog. …some 81 minutes later, I walked out of the screening room shattered, having unexpectedly seen one of the most extraordinary works of art that I know.”

The film is lauded as one of the top ten films of all time. Richard’s original score took six years to put together. He says about Voices, “[It] explores the patchwork of emotions and thoughts that get stitched together into the notion of a female hero.”

Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, said, “I don’t think anyone will be able to leave this performance unaffected.” Right: Richard Einhorn rehearses with soloists at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore; from left: Stephen Campbell, Phoenix, AZ; Rachel Grider, Modesto, CA; and Nola Richardson, Sydney, Australia

Another oratorio by Einhorn, The Origin, recently received audience and critical acclaim for its European premiere in Bremen, Germany. Richard also devotes his time to advocacy for people with hearing loss and has been featured in The New York Times and elsewhere. Read The New York Times article about Richard, “A Hearing Aid That Cuts Out All the Clatter,” by John Tierney at http://bit.ly/EinhornNYTimes

A Hearing Loop Installed for Voices of Light Performance
On March 2 this year, Einhorn’s Voices of Light was performed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This was a special event because Richard was able to hear his own composition. Thanks to Ampetronic and their U.S. distributor, Fred Palm of AssistiveAudio, Inc., as well as the Meyerhoff, a hearing loop was installed in the concert hall for the weekend performances.

Audience members with hearing loss using cochlear implants or telecoil-equipped hearing aids were able to enjoy the performance by accessing sound transmitted electromagnetically by a hearing loop—a wire that circles the room and is connected to the sound system.

After the performance, Barbara Kelley, editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine, interviewed Richard to learn more about his career.

You were 15 when you began composing. Did you play a musical instrument? I first learned to compose entirely on my own, by experimenting with tape recorders and improvising. I played drums in a rock band when I was a kid, but quickly became interested in writing my own music. I was involved with an avant-garde multimedia ensemble in high school and, as an experiment, wrote a piece for some friends of mine who were modern dancers. The moment I saw my friends dance to my music I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life except compose.

Above: Barbara Kelley, Richard Einhorn and Brenda Battat (Executive Director of Hearing Loss Association of America) after the performance of Voices of Light at the Meyerhoff 

After a year or so, I realized I needed to study formally and I went to Columbia University where I majored in music, studying ultimately with electronic music pioneer Vladimir Ussachevsky and opera composer Jack Beeson. I graduated in 1975 summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, then worked as a record producer for Columbia Masterworks for five years, before pursuing composition full time.

Do you come from a musical family? Nobody in my immediate family is musical. However, my great-aunt Hattie was a concert pianist in the early 20th century. My grandfather was an inventor and worked in East Orange, New Jersey when Thomas Edison was in West Orange. Somewhere in the family, there is correspondence between them! Probably, I got my interest in technology from my grandfather and my musicality from my great-great grandparents.

How did you know you had this aptitude at a young age? I don’t know if I have any aptitude. I have a lot of interest in composing music and I have a lot of ideas. I am also extremely persistent and won’t let go. I work very hard at composing but it’s enjoyable work and I love it. I am thrilled that other people often seem to enjoy it as much as I enjoy composing it.

What inspires you? Sound inspires me the most of all. I live for sound and my primary experience of the world, especially the world of emotions, is through sound, not sight or another sense. I am also inspired by great stories, such as Joan of Arc’s and Charles Darwin’s. I find them both amazing human beings in many different ways.

What projects are you working on now? I have a new piece for Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, a collaboration with the great filmmaker Bill Morrison. It will be an interactive piece called Shooting Gallery, with laser beams, six projectors and an hour of interactive music. I haven’t done anything like it since high school and I’m very excited!

I’m also writing a new piece for dance for two great musicians I’ve worked with quite a bit, violinist Mary Rowell and pianist Judith Gordon. The work will premiere in fall 2013. Further off is a large piece for orchestra and film, again with Bill Morrison. All I can say at the moment about it is that Bill, the conductor, the orchestra, and I are extremely excited about it.

Are there any projects you would like to work on? What is your dream project? I am a dramatic and lyrical composer. I’ve lived many of my dreams. I always wanted to work with Bill Morrison, and already have on the Darwin piece, The Origin. I have always wanted to work on an opera, and it looks like I will. I’ve composed scores for some truly wonderful movies and I’ve worked with some of my favorite musicians—and some of my favorite people.

I feel very lucky to have been able to do so and doubly lucky that my family has fully understood that this is an unusual life, but in many ways a rewarding one for all of us. I want to continue to compose the best music I can for the best musicians I can, for the most exciting projects I can find, and collaborate with artists from other disciplines whom I admire. I’ve met some amazing people along the way, and that has made the hard work and long hours it takes to compose all the more worthwhile!

Special thanks to the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for permitting us to take photographs of Richard Einhorn in the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

All photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Hearing Loss Magazine covers…who will grace the next one?

22 03 2012

Just compiled this collage of all of the covers I’ve photographed for the Hearing Loss Magazine over the past seven years. Who will be next?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Seen & Heard: Sam Spritzer

14 01 2012

Sam Spritzer, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made his Seen & Heard profile debut in the January/February 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Seen & Heard is a new column in our magazine and we had 48 members get enthusiastically involved in our first outreach effort! We’ll be publishing one or two profiles (as space allows) in each issue of the bimonthly magazine. Other members previously profiled were Danielle Nicosia, John Kinstler, Judy Martin and Anne Taylor.

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.

My favorite answer? Sam finished the statement “How I want to be remembered…” with “a statue in front of Williamsville Town Hall!”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born deaf but my parents didn’t know it until I was three years old. I was implanted in 2007 and 2008.

SAGE ADVICE… Quitting is not an option!

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… I was watching tv in the family room and heard what sound like a gas-powered generator. It was so loud that it drowned out the sound of the tv. Finally, I had enough and asked my wife if she knew where the sound was coming from so I could go over and complain or something. Her response…the sound was crickets in the trees in the backyard.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE I WANTED TO BE A… veterinarian.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… My first pet—a beagle named Mickey

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… run a 5K race.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… Dave Brubeck and Led Zeppelin.

IN MY SPARE TIME I… run foot races and will begin my quest to riding bike races, and then combine the two.

HAPPINESS IS… finding God and my family

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… bodyguard, coffee boy, porter, photographer, hugger

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… Listening Closely.

I AM… funny, out of this world and older than dirt.

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… funny, weird, sensitive

MY KIDS HAVE TAUGHT ME… what I was like when I was their age. Now, I couldn’t have been that bad!

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? The cochlear implant! Need I say more?

I HAVE A FEAR OF… heights. The only thing that will get and keep me up there is an airplane.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… God, my family and my CIs.

MY FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… Bike, camera, running shoes

WHAT IS THE KINDEST THING ANYONE HAS DONE FOR YOU? The love and outpour when I had my heart attack two years ago

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… with a statue in front of Williamsville Town Hall!

I love that Hearing Loss Magazine brings us the broad wealth of information about hearing loss. The stories about people with some form of hearing loss, how they live with it and overcome it is just totally inspirational. I would like to see more of those stories and less of the technical/educational. The latter can easily be found on the Internet.