HLM Cover Feature: HLAA Chapters

13 07 2017

Hearing Loss Magazine is published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). The July/August 2017 issue focuses on HLAA Chapters:

On the Cover by Dave Hutcheson

We really are on this journey together. Joan Kleinrock, HLAA’s very first national chapter coordinator, said it best, “Picture a wagon wheel from the Old West, with the hub of the wheel being the national office and the spokes of the wheel the local chapters. The wheel will not turn without the hub and spokes working together—supporting each other.”

Joan’s analogy couldn’t be more relevant. Every day, we embark on a journey to spread knowledge, provide resources and raise awareness of hearing loss. Our continued work and shared efforts get the wheels turning, and with each new accomplishment, both locally and nationally, we gain momentum toward reaching our final destination and goal.

For this issue’s cover we invited a few chapters near the national office in Bethesda, Maryland to join HLAA National Chapter Coordinator Erin Mirante on a little journey of our own. The sun was shining on the warm late spring day so we put the top down and got rolling. We asked our fellow travelers Russ Misheloff, Rachel Stevens and Veronica Davila Steele to share a few thoughts about their chapter’s journey. Now, won’t you join us?

Learn more about the Hearing Loss Association of America at hearingloss.org.

On the cover: (l to r, front seat) Russ Misheloff (D.C. Chapter), and HLAA National
Coordinator Erin Mirante; (l to r, back seat) Rachel Stevens (D.C. Chapter) and
Veronica Davila Steele (Prince George’s County Chapter), with her hearing dog Somalia
(“Sammie”).

Cover photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM JulyAug 2017 Cover





Cover shoot: Hearing Loss Magazine

10 05 2017

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

I photographed Don Doherty at the Iwo Jima memorial in March for his cover feature of the May/June 2017 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. I design and photograph for this bimonthly publication of the Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA).

Doherty is a retired Marine Corps combat Veteran (1965-1987) who lost his hearing in Vietnam. He has worn hearing aids since June 1970. He has worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for more than 20 years, and is currently the Education Specialist for the National Chaplain Training Center which serves in excess of 1,100 Department of Veterans Affairs Chaplains at more than 153 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers nationwide. His specialties include education, chemical dependency, mental health, post-traumatic stress and compassion fatigue. Doherty is the incoming chairperson of the HLAA Board of Trustees.

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

_____________________________________

Don Doherty’s Service Career Didn’t End with the Marine Corps—It Really Just Got Started

by David Hutcheson, editor, Hearing Loss Magazine

Merriam-Webster defines service as “contribution to the welfare of others.” Emphasis on others. Don Doherty epitomizes this definition. His military service career spanned 22 years. He lost his hearing from exposure to the dangerously loud environment of war when he served as a combat infantryman in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. After Vietnam, his hearing loss forced him into more administrative roles within the Marine Corps. He used that time to educate himself and learn the skills that would carry him through life, most notably skills as an educator and counselor— skills that allowed him to continue serving. But in both his military and civilian careers—and even now, in retirement—he is the living embodiment of what it means to serve others.

Read more about Don’s service to others through his military and civilian careers in the accompanying article. Although, his “paying career” is really just the tip of the iceberg; he has been a strong advocate and supporter of people with hearing loss for many years. But his passion and dedication to serve others goes far beyond that. Don has many years of experience working with different boards and organizations in Virginia. He is the former American Academy of Medical Administrators state director for Virginia and West Virginia; a two-term commandant, senior state vice-commandant, and state judge advocate for the Marine Corps League.

While working at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA; he retired in 2016 after 25 years there), Don spent many years working on behalf of people struggling with chemical dependency. But that wasn’t enough for him. He served as chair of the Virginia State Standards of Practice Committee; a member of the Board of Directors for the Virginia Council on Alcoholism; and is also a former member of the Virginia Attorney General’s Task Force to Combat Illegal Drug Use.

In 1997 Don received the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Award. This prestigious award recognizes people “whose lives model the giving spirit and unconditional service to community, nation, and humanity.” Past recipients include Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, and luminaries such as Bob Hope, John Glenn and Mickey Rooney. Don is in good company.

And this doesn’t include his work on behalf of people with hearing loss. Don’s long-time involvement with HLAA includes roles as president of the Virginia Beach Chapter; Virginia State Chapter coordinator; and member of the Board of Trustees. His work continues outside of HLAA; he is a member of Hamilton CapTel’s Heroes with Hearing Loss program and is a certified peer mentor through Gallaudet University’s Peer Mentorship program. Now, at the end of June, we look forward to Don stepping into his newest role as chairperson of the Board of Trustees. A lifetime of service continues.

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM MayJune 2017 Cover Small

For This Marine, It’s Service Above Self

DON Return to statesAt the close of HLAA2017 Convention, Don Doherty will assume the role of chairperson of the HLAA Board of Trustees as Meg Wallhagen’s term comes to an end. Don has been involved with HLAA for more than 20 years through the Virginia Beach Chapter, and has served on the HLAA Board of Trustees for three years, most recently in the role of vice chairperson. We thought Hearing Loss Magazine readers would enjoy getting to know Don better as he transitions into his new role. A retired (but lifelong!) Marine, the theme that runs throughout Don’s inspirational journey is service, first to his country, and then to others.

by Don Doherty

Greetings HLAA members! I would first like to say it is my honor and privilege to represent you—our members, our friends and supporters—as chairperson of the HLAA Board of Trustees. I truly believe we belong to the greatest organization in the world dedicated to helping people with hearing loss.

HLAA helps members communicate more effectively through information, education, support and advocacy. I know firsthand the struggles that many individuals with hearing loss go through, but I also know the success that lies on the other side of that. You see, I have a hearing loss as well—a bilateral, sensorineural, profound hearing loss. I have worn at least one hearing aid since 1970. I thought it would be of interest to share some of the highlights of my journey that have brought me to where I am today.

Service to Country Begins in Vietnam
I grew up in the small borough of Woodlynne, just outside Camden, New Jersey. After I graduated from high school I realized I needed a new start in life. Coming from a patriotic family in which all of my uncles served in World War II, I decided to join the Marine Corps. On January 29, 1965 I became the first family member of my generation to serve as a Marine.

After basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina I was assigned to the infantry. My first assignment brought me to Camp Pendleton, California where I joined the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, First Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. We were formed into a Battalion Landing Team and went by ship to the 1st Marine Brigade at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

By this time, the 7th Marines had already landed atChu Lai, Vietnam and we knew we were soon to follow. Leaving Hawaii in 1966 we went to the Philippines for jungle training and were soon steaming by ship off the coast of Vietnam.

Our Battalion made the first assault on the Rung Sat Special Zone, a 300-square-mile swampy area about 22 miles south of Saigon. An Army Times article at the time referred to it as “a special kind of hell.” The Rung Sat Special Zone was a Viet Cong (VC) stronghold and it was our job as infantrymen to find the well-hidden enemy hideouts and drive them out of an area they knew well, but that we knew nothing about.

That operation was difficult and dangerous. But on that one and many to follow, the common denominator was noise—loud noise. Whether it’s from rifle fire (up to 155 dB), machine guns (159 dB), grenades at 50 feet (164 dB), recoilless rifles (190 dB), artillery (178 dB), or jets (140-150 dB), the military combat (and even training) environment is one of hazardous noise exposure zones.

I didn’t know it at the time, but each time I fired my weapon I was damaging my hearing. You might ask, “Why didn’t you wear earplugs?” Wearing earplugs meant we couldn’t hear the enemy, especially when it was dark. The fact is that hearing conservation wasn’t a major focus during the war. Today there are earplugs that block the sound of high-level blasts from even reaching your ears, but back in Vietnam earplugs were just not an option for infantrymen.

Getting My First Hearing Aid
After completing my tour in Vietnam I was stationed at the Marine Barracks in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I knew I had some problems with hearing but I was in denial that it was affecting my job as a Marine.

One day my command learned that I couldn’t hear as well as other Marines, particularly low voices or whispers, and especially at night. I will never forget the colonel who called me into his office and read me the riot act for not being able to hear. He loudly stated I had no business being in the Marine Corps if I couldn’t hear. I was devastated. I loved being a Marine and I was good at it. I was a staff sergeant (E-6) at the time, and the fact that I attained a staff noncommissioned officer rank in only five and a half years was a sign of my competitive nature and desire to succeed.

I decided to re-enlist after Vietnam. I wanted to be a career Marine. I made a commitment that I would do everything in my power to show the Corps that I could succeed.

In June 1970 I was medically evacuated by air from Puerto Rico, and after many stops ended up at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital in Pennsylvania. I was assigned to a ward with about eight other sailors and Marines. Within a few days we were sent for a hearing assessment examination. A medical doctor took my history and did an ear exam. From there I was sent to an audiologist and had an audiogram, which confirmed my hearing loss. They also took an impression of my ear for the mold I would wear. The next day I was told I was going to have a behind-the-ear hearing aid ordered.

While waiting for the hearing aid I got a bodypack amplification device. It looked like a 4×6 inch fanny pack with a tube going up into a device with a hook which attached to your ear. It had one knob on the top that you could use to adjust the volume. When I first heard the sound from this device it was almost painful. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear all that noise.

I didn’t know it at the time but I was in an aural rehabilitation program. It was modeled after similar successful programs following World War II. I was given training in a variety of areas. We had education classes on how we hear, types of hearing loss and how hearing aids could help for some of that loss. We also had classes on basic lipreading and how to cope in noisy environments.

In our groups we talked about “bluffing,” where we pretended to hear something, like a joke, and laughed just because we saw others laughing. One interesting exercise I remember was listening to a Bill Cosby comedy act (on a 33 rpm record) with the group. We listened to several of the humorous stories on the recording—but nobody laughed. Then the facilitator gave us a script to read which contained the words. The record was played again and I remember laughing so hard it brought tears to my eyes. The lesson I learned from that exercise was that I needed help to understand what was being said, and that bluffing was not the answer.

When we started the program with our new devices we would take short walks down the hall, and eventually progressed to venturing outside the hospital onto the noisier city streets where we learned to find meaning behind the background noise.

My hearing aid arrived in about 10 days, and we all gladly ditched the bulky bodypacks. We went back to the audiologist to have our new hearing aids fitted and adjusted, and then had another audiogram and went through speech testing again. From this point we wore our hearing aids everywhere and discussed any problems we would be having in a group setting. Some minor adjustments might have been made but this was the aid we would keep. We were issued only one hearing aid—mine was for my left ear.

Finding Success as a Career Marine, Even with Hearing Loss
I spent a month in aural rehabilitation and then had to go through a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) to determine whether or not I would be discharged from the Marine Corps. My medical doctor recommended discharge but I appealed to the PEB and was allowed to stay on active duty with the provision that I would have to be retrained into a different military occupational specialty that did not involve exposure to loud noise. This meant I had to leave the infantry.

I retrained into the administrative field. I did everything in my power to be the best administrator I could be, but I was always fearful there would be an instance when I couldn’t hear well and it would lead to discharge. I persevered and was able to adapt to many different “hearing” situations and environments (such as heat, wind and rain).

I started taking college courses and advanced in rank. I served in many duty stations in the U.S. and Far East. I studied hearing loss on my own time and learned many of the skills I still hold today, particularly as a counselor and educator. For the last five years of my military career I served as a counselor helping Marines overcome problems associated with drugs and alcohol.

I retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant in 1987. I was able to complete my associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees all before I left active duty. On my first visit to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after retirement I was issued a second hearing aid, for my right ear.

I don’t think my military story is unique. Today, one in three service members who served in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan has a hearing loss. Hearing loss and tinnitus are the top two disabilities that veterans receive compensation for through the VA.

Sadly, many members of the military with hearing loss are afraid to bring it up or seek help for fear that they won’t be as competitive, won’t get promoted, or will be seen as a liability. Even outside the military I wondered whether I should wear my hearing aids during job interviews or just show that I could do the job better by wearing my hearing aids after being hired.

DON Red ShirtA Long Career of Service to Others
My experience and education opened the door to a civilian career in chemical dependency. My first job following active duty was as a clinical director for an adolescent and family treatment center in Dallas, Texas. Within six months I was the administrator of the facility. I was transferred to Chesapeake, Virginia where I facilitated the construction and operation of a new program. But when insurance rules changed in the early 90s, large nonprofit programs could no longer afford to stay in business as the costs became too high to operate. I was laid off just before our parent corporation shut down operations for the whole nine-facility organization.

From there I worked as an assistant director for a homeless shelter and as a trainer for a marketing company. In both of these jobs I was still was very conscious of my hearing loss and developed many new strategies to make sure I was in the right seat or could see the person I was speaking with. My greatest difficulty was hearing the telephone and understanding what was said. The stress of working with a hearing loss can be considerable. Psychologically, I would isolate and tend to avoid large groups, especially in areas with loud background noise. I still had a lot to learn about hearing loss.

In 1991 I began working for the VA in Hampton, Virginia. For my first two years I was in a long-term spinal cord injury unit. I was then transferred to mental health where I worked on the conversion of a 30-day inpatient alcohol treatment program to an outpatient system that was able to treat all forms of drug and alcohol abuse.

In May 2000 I accepted a position as an education specialist at the National Chaplain Training Center at the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. We provided training for approximately 1,000 chaplains at 153 VA medical centers throughout the country. I loved the chaplains and staff I worked with, and especially appreciated the many chaplains who visited our live-in school and attended our many course offerings. In June 2016 I retired from the VA after 25 years of service.

The Psychology of Hearing Loss
The psychological impact of hearing loss is much like the grieving process. In college, I remember reading about the stages of grief or loss. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist who, in her book On Death and Dying, first talked about the five stages of grief a person might go through when faced with a terminal illness or following the death of a loved one. These five stages are also applicable to someone with hearing loss.

Stage 1—Denial. Someone in denial might not be willing to accept the facts or reality of the situation. People with hearing loss sometimes stay in denial for years before
seeking help.

Stage 2—Anger. This can be anger directed at themselves or others for suffering the loss. A person with hearing loss might get angry at a spouse, friend or even a doctor or audiologist who is trying to help.

Stage 3—Bargaining. In this stage a person could try to make a deal or compromise. I remember telling my wife soon after I received a hearing aid that I’ll wear it at work because I have to, but I didn’t want to wear it at home in the evening.

Stage 4—Depression. The signs of this depression could be sadness, regret, uncertainty or even fear. Those of us with hearing loss may tend to isolate to avoid these feelings.

Stage 5—Acceptance. The final step in the grieving process is acceptance. For people with hearing loss this means you finally and fully know that you need your hearing aid or cochlear implant to communicate, and you accept this new reality in your life.

Not everyone goes through these stages in order, and you can even regress, but the important thing to recognize is that acceptance of your hearing loss is a process, and takes some time to accept.

Hearing loss is stressful for the one who has it, but it can be especially stressful for family members. I remember in my marriage all communication stopped when the lights went out. Whatever had to be said had to be said when the lights or hearing aids were on. I used a large clock radio with the volume set as high as possible to ensure I would wake up. It worked for me, but my wife never did get used to waking up that way. Parties and social functions were limited, as were crowded restaurants.

Wearing a hearing aid is tiring; it is a daily struggle to hear and understand. A family makes many mistakes in the communication process that could be avoided with the right information. It’s not that we weren’t listening to the audiologist; it was more that we didn’t know which questions to ask.

A Lifetime of Service Continues—Now Through HLAA
This knowledge gap is what led me to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Following my retirement from the Marine Corps, my civilian job required a lot of traveling. I stayed at many hotels across the country, and invariably the hotel was ill-equipped to deal with a guest who had a hearing loss. Wake-up calls didn’t work because I couldn’t hear the phone without my hearing aids, clock radio alarms weren’t loud enough, and even one of the hotel staff beating on my door didn’t faze me.

To make sure I would get up, I took to sitting in a chair next to the clock radio or alarm with both hearing aids on catching what bits and pieces of sleep I could. It was this problem that led me to my first SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing, which is what HLAA was known as then) chapter meeting in the 90s. I had seen a newspaper ad for the local Virginia Beach Chapter and decided to check it out.

The meeting had a speaker on hearing aids, but the real value for me was the question and answer session that followed. I explained my problem and that’s when I first learned about a vibrating alarm clock. I was overjoyed. I would have never guessed that such a device even existed. It was encouraging to be in a room where everyone had a hearing loss and where most people wore hearing aids. I also learned about captioned telephones, which could help me both on the job and at home.

That first meeting was another life lesson; there were technologies out there that could help me. I knew then I needed to make time to attend meetings and get as much information and education as I could about what products were available and which ones seemed to work better than others. Even then HLAA was leading the way in supporting people with hearing loss as well as being a consumer advocate.

Rising Through the Ranks Again— Just Not in the Marines
As I attended monthly chapter meetings I realized what a valuable and supportive forum they were. I began to take a more active role, assumed positions of leadership, and did everything I could to bring the message of help and hope to as many people with hearing loss as possible. I enrolled in an HLAA Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) training session and leadership training for chapter leaders.

I have been the HLAA Virginia Beach Chapter president for many years. We have an energetic and vibrant chapter and have helped many people over the years. We were also one of the pioneer chapters that supported and advocated for open captioning of Broadway shows at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, Virginia. We work with the Norfolk Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities and Access Virginia, a captioning advocacy group.

Chapter members attend performances as a group and are so overjoyed just to see a Broadway show and understand what is being said. The Virginia Beach Chapter also supports people with visual impairment in receiving verbal information about what is happening on stage. We also take trips to the movies and use the new captioned glasses. But mostly, we support each other and have fun doing so.

I have been on the HLAA Board of Trustees for more than three years. I have served on many committees, and most recently as the vice chairperson. Two years ago I proudly accepted the HLAA Keystone Award for my unending work on behalf of people with hearing loss.

I am now proudly stepping up as chairperson of the Board, where I will be able to continue my service to HLAA.

These are exciting times for people with hearing loss. There are many developments and changes on the horizon, and these changes are all for the benefit of you, HLAA members. We will continue to lead the way as the voice of the consumer and to effect change. Our current focus is on implementing the recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), and most recently, pushing for the passage of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017.

As chairperson of your Board of Trustees I will continue the good work of HLAA Founder Rocky Stone and my predecessor, Meg Wallhagen. I am dedicated to helping our organization grow and prosper. The Board of Trustees is comprised of a diverse, highly-educated and motivated group of professionals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to support the HLAA staff and our members in every way we can. We do not take this responsibility lightly. There are still too many people with hearing loss who want and need help, but don’t know about us, the critical work we do or the support we can provide. I am also making a personal commitment to working with, and for, our nation’s veterans to ensure that everyone who has served our country knows that we are here for them. I hope to see you in Salt Lake City in June. Semper Fi.

Don Doherty, M.A., Ed.S., is the incoming chairperson of the HLAA Board of Trustees and lives in Moyock, North Carolina. He can be reached at chairperson@hearingloss.org as of the end of June.





Seen & Heard: Jan Connolly

10 05 2017

Jan Connolly is our Seen & Heard profile in the May/June 2017 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met and photographed Jan at HLAA Convention 2016 in Washington, D.C. last June. Jan is a member of the HLAA Houston Chapter.

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Jan Connolly

Jan Connolly

Houston, TX / Born March 17 in Rockledge, FL

DO YOU BELONG TO A CHAPTER? I am currently the secretary for the HLAA Houston Chapter. Being involved in a chapter enables me to help others who are working to cope with their hearing loss.

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT HLAA? I attended the Walk4Hearing in 2014. I picked up a brochure at the Houston Chapter table and went to the next meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.

THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A MEMBER OF HLAA IS…knowing that I am not alone—we have all been affected by hearing loss in some way.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT HLAA CONVENTIONS?
Besides having access to massive amounts of information, I get to meet new friends and catch up with others who don’t live in Houston.

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born with some hearing loss. It progressed as I aged and worsened due to excessive ear infections and surgeries. I began wearing hearing aids right out of high school, which was too late—I really needed them much sooner. I received my first implant (BAHA—bone-anchored hearing aid) in 2008 and my second in 2009.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY…One of my favorite childhood memories was when I went to an Auburn game with my father. It was just the two of us and I enjoyed the one-on-one time.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER RECEIVED… was my dog, Pepper.

MY FAVORITE LAZY DAY IS… in the backyard playing around with my dogs—Darsey, Raleigh, and Rori Shae.

IN MY FRIDGE YOU’LL FIND… a lot of water and fruit.

THE BEST ROAD TRIP EVER WAS… when I went to Alaska with my mom. We encountered so much wildlife. It was amazing!

SOMEONE REALLY NEEDS TO DESIGN A BETTER… BAHA. I have to wear a body aid and it falls off my hip all the time. (Hint, hint…)

MY FAVORITE THING TO WEAR IS… my Houston Texans gear, but my favorite item that I do not wear out of the house would be my father’s shirt. I’ve slept in it most every night since his passing in 2008.

I LOSE ALL TRACK OF TIME WHEN I’M…  playing an instrument.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… say goodbye to my father when he passed away.

I LOVE THE SOUNDS OF… a baby’s giggle, birds singing, and the sound of my flute and all kinds of music.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… shy.

HOBBIES? Photography, scrapbooking, writing, playing my instruments, sewing, baking, and playing with my dogs

MUSICALLY INCLINED? Yes, I play the flute, piccolo, guitar, drums, piano, ukulele, mandolin, and I own a saxophone and a clarinet.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… really can’t hear when I am not connected to my “ears.”

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR… singing.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… cheesecake.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Luke Bryan and Keith Urban.

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… outgoing, considerate, and fun.

GET ANYTHING GOOD IN THE MAIL LATELY? Yes, my Texans season tickets and Hearing Loss Magazine!

THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… My BAHAs and my Roger Pen. Without them I would not be able to function in this wonderful noisy world.

MY THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS ARE… a napkin my grandfather signed that said he’d come to my high school graduation (he did), my father’s shirt, and my autographed footballs.

EVERY MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Rob Lowe, Charlton Heston, Linda Evans, Clint Black, JJ Watt (from the Houston Texans) and numerous other Texans players.

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to work with people with hearing loss and help to empower them to empower themselves.

IF I RULED THE WORLD… What? You mean I don’t? LOL.

MY GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT… I have been a teacher (of the hearing) for twenty-six years.

Hearing Loss Magazine is full of valuable information. It is the only magazine I actually read cover to cover. I would like to see more information on the activities and work of local chapters, such as in advocacy.”
 





HLM Cover Feature: Larry Herbert, Cynthia Moynihan (LaRue, too!) and Lily Vaughn

10 01 2017

Larry Herbert, Cynthia Moynihan (with LaRue) and Lily Vaughn grace the January/February 2017 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed the trio at HLAA Convention 2016 in Washington, D.C. this past June. This issue focuses on the HLAA Walk4Hearing.

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.

cover-small





Seen & Heard: David A. Bitters, Sr.

16 12 2016

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

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

sh-dave-bitters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… coaching baseball.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… football and baseball.

I AM… funny, friendly, and knowledgeable.

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

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

I REALLY SHOULD START… painting my man cave.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… a house painter.

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

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… peanut butter.

FAVORITE COLOR? Black and gold

PETS? A dog, she’s a daddy’s girl

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

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

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

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

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

 





HLM Cover Feature: Emma Faye Rudkin

3 11 2016

Late last year my friend James Williams texted me to tell me about Emma Faye Rudkin, who was the newly-crowned Miss San Antonio 2015 and has hearing loss. James interviewed veteran Shilo Harris and I photographed him at his home outside San Antonio for our July/August 2016 issue, which focused on veterans with hearing loss. You can read James’ interview with Shilo here.

He knows I’m always on the lookout to feature people with hearing loss for Hearing Loss Magazine. I design and photograph for this bimonthly publication of the Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA). The November/December 2016 issue focuses on young adults with hearing loss.

James saw her featured on a local news channel and told me about her. I contacted Kathy Rudkin, Emma’s mother, and set up a photo shoot this past April when I would be visiting my family in San Antonio. Emma wrote the cover feature and I photographed her on a beautiful spring day in her hometown of Boerne, Texas. It was such a treat getting to know Emma and Kathy.

In the middle of production of this issue, we learned that Emma was crowned Miss San Antonio again for 2017. Congratulations, Emma!

Special thanks to James Williams for keeping his eyes (and ears!) open for new stories for the magazine.

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

emma-cover-for-blog

emma-opening-spread-for-blog

Hearing Loss Can Be a Beautiful Thing

by Emma Faye Rudkin

I was very young when I lost the majority of my hearing. I became sick and developed a high fever associated with an infection, which resulted in my hearing loss. Even though there were signs, my parents had never been around anyone who had a hearing loss so they didn’t connect the dots right away. It wasn’t until I was three years old that they decided to have me tested and I was diagnosed.

As I said there were signs. For instance, in ballet I would dance in a corner by myself. I was also behind in speech and reading comprehension. Instead of saying “puppy dogs,” I would say things like “happy dogs.” Finally, a preschool teacher suggested I get a hearing test, and everything clicked. My mother describes the whole experience as “out-of-body.” But there were no resources for hearing loss in our small town, so she and my dad
were on their own.

A year after my diagnosis, my hearing declined even further, suddenly and significantly, to a profound level. Doctors said I would eventually go completely deaf, that I needed to go to a school for deaf children and learn sign language, and that I would never function “normally” in the hearing world.

My parents would not accept that. In fact, they chose a very different route for me, one that was essentially the opposite of what doctors suggested. I was immediately placed in intensive speech therapy, fitted for hearing aids, and enrolled in the most challenging private school in our area.

When I was young I did not want to wear my hearing aids and would always take them out. My parents talk about those early days as a struggle to get me to keep them in. But eventually it became a part of my everyday life and normal morning routine.

I knew only one other girl in our town with hearing loss. She wore hearing aids and was an oralist (communicated through speechreading) like I was. As I grew older, I became profoundly deaf. Nonetheless, it was never an option in my house to use my hearing loss as any sort of crutch. If I was having a really hard day and feeling left out or alone, my mama would always say, “Today, you are allowed one pity party, but tomorrow you are going to pick yourself up and carry on.”

Hearing loss has made me who I am but does not define me, so I never looked at the world as “hearing” but as a place full of the same opportunities and life to live as everybody else.

Today, speechreading is my main means of communication. My brain is constantly in overdrive trying to understand what is being said or why we’re laughing. I’m a great pretender. There are many sounds and letters I don’t hear, like F, G, H, K and S, but my hearing aids are programmed to fill in some of the sounds I miss. In a classroom or large group setting I try to arrange for the speaker to wear an FM assistive listening device, which transfers sound directly into my hearing aids. However, technology is man-made and cannot substitute for the God-given sense of hearing I just don’t have.

Dealing With the Insecurities
When I was young I didn’t see myself as different. But as I grew older the differences started to become more apparent and were pointed out by those around me. One of my major insecurities growing up was my hearing aids. They were the only visible sign of my hidden disability, and it separated me from my peers. The wind blowing was the bane of my existence in middle school because that meant people could catch a glimpse of my aids when my hair blew. Having to wear my hair up almost kept me from trying out for the cheer team.

When I was a freshman in high school, the language requirement was to take Spanish. It took me 10 years to properly speak the English language, and now I had to learn Spanish! It was a devastating yet eye-opening year of growth for me.

I felt embarrassed and humiliated much of the year because of the many times I was called to stand up in front of my classmates and speak the language I could not hear. The teacher did not understand how profound my hearing loss was and would play audiotapes in Spanish expecting me to repeat what was being said. On one test in particular, I failed the oral part of the exam. With tears streaming down my face I explained to the teacher how horribly unfair this was. She looked at me and said, “I thought you didn’t want to be labeled as different.” That was the final straw. I was not going to allow myself to be treated that way.

Taking the “Dis” out of “Disability”
There is a misconception that people with hearing loss require special treatment. The only “special treatment” I need is for someone to face me and speak clearly, and I can do the rest.

The most common experience I have is people yelling at me or over-enunciating, which only makes it harder to communicate. I always tell people to talk to me like anybody else because exaggerating makes me feel inadequate or that I am not capable of carrying on a conversation. As long as the person speaking is facing me and talking at a normal pace and volume, we are going to be fast friends.

I might need some modifications and accommodations to communicate, but that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t working. This is the most hurtful misconception of all: when people think I cannot talk or think for myself. People will communicate with me through a friend or family member, thinking what they said will be translated back to me. When people talk to me as if I am mentally impaired or incapable of speaking for myself, my typical response is, “My ears don’t work, but my brain works just fine.”

I used to truly believe I was disabled, but now I know my lack of hearing is my means to help others be free of that label. What I once believed was a disability has become my greatest ability. I know most people don’t know much about deafness and hearing loss and perhaps are curious to learn more. So now I take people’s questions and curiosity as an opportunity to share my story and dispel those misconceptions.

At the end of that freshman year in high school, I went before the school administration with a formal petition to offer American Sign Language (ASL) to any student who had a hearing loss.

The following year, my “foreign language” was ASL. I had to submit a proposal explaining how I would meet the four required language credits through ASL. My proposal was accepted, and I was allowed to take the classes through an online college. Not only was I able to learn ASL, but I got college credit for the classes as well! That experience is how
I learned about Deaf culture. Understanding my deafness was true freedom. I am part of the hearing world but I have a profound hearing loss which makes me deaf, and I know my purpose is to bridge the two worlds to close the gap.

The Faith That Sees You Through
I had become the great pretender of being “OK.” I would bluff and try to be part of conversations but I was in my own little world without anyone knowing the hurt I was experiencing.

Even though I was raised in a Christian home and went to a Christian school, I went into a darkness and had great anger toward God. I couldn’t understand that if God was supposed to love me, why couldn’t He make me normal?

If He was the big God of miracles, why couldn’t He heal me?

I wanted so desperately to be normal and to fit in. I became angry, depressed, horribly insecure and so lonely I could hardly stand it.

I knew I needed to change, for this life of sadness was not worth living. At 14, I signed myself up for a local Christian camp. Something clicked at camp and I started to undergo a transformation. It was the beginning of a beautiful journey.

When I got home from camp I wanted to find answers and try to begin healing. Inspired from what I learned at camp, I felt that healing for me would come from my faith in God.

I discovered two Bible passages that proved to be a turning point for me. The first one is Psalm 46:1 which says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” This shows God has a greater purpose for us than our hardships in this world, way beyond our human reasoning.

The second is James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” My life is a constant struggle, but I wouldn’t be the person I am without these hardships.

Young Life
During the summer before my junior year I became involved with Young Life, a non-denominational Christian ministry that reaches out to middle school, high school and college-age kids in all 50 states and more than 90 countries around the world. Young Life stood out to me because they did not beat the Bible over your head or force doctrines and beliefs on you. They just gradually warmed people’s hearts to understand.

Young Life takes the pure roots of Christianity and makes it uncomplicated again. There are no religious rules imposed upon people, just the unadorned belief that can take someone who feels helpless and hopeless and turn them into a beautiful, transformed creation.

Young Life has taught me how to live life to the fullest. Through it I have come to understand that I am not alone in my personal struggles; that everyone has a battle to fight. Young Life has had a tremendous impact on my life. It changed the way I look at people and has really molded me into who I am today.

From Young Life to New Life
I have become a new person since those dark days in high school. The relationship with my hearing aids changed because of the life-altering experience at the Young Life camp when I was 16 years old. I learned who I really am and that I could use my hearing loss story to proclaim freedom for others.

One of the first things I did after this massive shift within was wear my hair up. Before that I would keep my hair down by my face so no one could see my hearing aids and make comments. It was a debilitating period in my life. But what the world thought of me no longer mattered and my insecurities started to slowly vanish. I started seeing my hearing loss as part of who I am and as the most beautiful thing about me.

My hearing aids have become a badge of honor to tell others what I’ve been through and what hearing loss is about. I now educate others instead of shutting down. Hurtful comments come because people are ignorant and naïve, so I take the opportunity to help them understand.

Joy can never escape me now. I discovered a new way of living and have an entirely new outlook. What others saw as broken—my ears—is what has allowed me to become my true self.

I think this applies to everyone. What is thought to be beyond repair can be redeemed and restored. Hardship can be turned into good. Our disabilities, whatever holds us back, can be transformed into our greatest ability.

In the early stages of my life I felt my hearing loss was the most tragic thing that could ever happen to me. Looking back, I now see the bigger picture. Not only is my hearing
loss not tragic, it is my greatest blessing. As I said, having profound hearing loss has made me who I am, but it does not define me. My label is not the “deaf girl” or someone with a “disability,” just wonderfully made Emma.

If you have a hearing aid or cochlear implant, you are wearing your story. People can be inconsiderate and make comments, but it is only because they don’t understand. However, the choice is yours whether or not to accept that as your identity. You can educate and correct mistreatment. Always be ready to forgive those who hurt you, because that frees you from resentment and the hold that people have on you.

Miss San Antonio
In 2010 I began to intensely study piano and music theory. I started playing the guitar and ukulele, took singing lessons, and eventually started performing in my community. In 2015, I added the kick drum to my list of instruments.

Developing my musical ability was in preparation to compete in the pageant circuit. I wanted to use that to establish a national platform for the deaf and those with hearing loss. In February 2015, I won the title of Miss San Antonio. I am proud to be the first Miss San Antonio who is deaf. I was honored to win individual awards for Overall Talent, Overall Interview and Miss Congeniality. In July 2015, I competed in the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant.

I placed in the top 10 and also received the Inspiration Award, Quality of Life Award, Academic Interview Award and Spirit of Texas (Congeniality).

I chose this particular pageant circuit of the Miss America organization for a reason. I truly believe in the Miss Texas and Miss America organizations and all they stand for. They empower women and provide scholarships for women to achieve their dreams and make a difference.

Winning the Miss San Antonio pageant has allowed me to travel extensively and make many appearances. I have spoken on television, met some very important people in our city and speak at conferences on a regular basis. My platform is “Aid the Silent: Turning a Disability into an Ability.” The Miss Texas organization has been an invaluable partner. They helped jumpstart my cause and have allowed me to bring my message to larger and wider audiences than I could have on my own.

I have grown as a person in unexpected ways. My role has required me to face the insecurities of my past head-on about my appearance and speaking. The beautiful part is that I am living in the redemption of my story. The things I used to let prohibit me from fully living are now propelling me into success. I am extremely honored to be part of such
a great organization.

Aid the Silent—My Miss San Antonio Platform
In January 2015 I started my own nonprofit, Aid the Silent. It has been a dream of mine for years to be able to give back to the community, especially the deaf and hard of hearing communities. Aid the Silent is dedicated to raising funds to provide children and teens who have a hearing loss with the resources and tools they need to find personal success.

Growing up I had access to many resources in order to succeed and not be held back by what was seen as a disability. I was inspired to start Aid the Silent after coming across statistics about hearing loss and deafness. Studies have shown a correlation between education level and people who are deaf or have a hearing loss. In addition, those individuals face severe underemployment.

I am currently enrolled in the University of Texas San Antonio Honors College majoring in Communications. In addition to being a full-time student and overseeing Aid the Silent, I make appearances at dozens of companies, schools and events each month speaking to both children and adults and telling my story.

I am also a Young Life staff member, and in the summer of 2016 I started the first Deaf Young Life to reach teens who have a hearing loss. For the inaugural Deaf Young Life event we took four middle school students who are deaf—with captioners and interpreters—to a Young Life camp. It was a huge success! I am now continuing my outreach and building relationships with students in the San Antonio area who have a hearing loss, and looking forward to holding our first Deaf Young Life club meeting in January 2017. HLM

For more information about Emma and her work visit AidTheSilent.com or EmmaFayeRudkin.com.

Editor’s Note: Emma was crowned Miss San Antonio 2017 in September.





HLM Cover Feature: Gael Hannan

3 09 2016

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

WEB Gael Cover

Hearing Loss Isn’t Funny 

by Gael Hannan

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

But—what if you don’t have one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re expected to laugh at all this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEB Canadian Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________________________________

Gael Hannan’s The Way I Hear It

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

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

Check out her website at www.gaelhannan.com.

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





HLM Cover Feature: Shilo Harris

8 07 2016

SSG Shilo Harris (ret.) is our cover feature for the July/August 2016 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine! I design and photograph for this bimonthly publication of the Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA). This issue focuses on veterans with hearing loss.

Earlier this year I mentioned to my friend-since-high school, James Williams, that we wanted to do a veteran-focused issue of the magazine and he said he could interview Shilo for us. James treated Shilo when he was at SAMC (formerly BAMC). James has been working as a physician assistant in the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) since 2003. He is currently employed as a Department of Defense civilian employee and is part of the USAISR Burn Center Physician Assistant team. Williams is responsible for the daily care of burn patients, assists with numerous surgical cases and provides long-term care to many wounded warrior burn patients. He is also active in USAISR research projects, Burn Prevention Outreach Department, and has collaborated on multiple published projects.

In late April I drove down to Texas to visit my family and do some cover shoots for the magazine. James interviewed Shilo before my photography session with him. It was an honor to meet and photograph Shilo for this issue.

Special thanks to Jamie Buchhorn, Shilo’s business manager, for setting up this opportunity for us. Shilo published his memoir, Man of Steel Will, this past year. Learn more about Shilo on his website at www.shiloharris.com.

HLM Cover JulyAugust 2016 web

Shilo Harris: Man of Steel Will

by James Williams

WEB Shilo KidsI first met Sergeant Shilo Harris when he was a patient at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas. Like many of our wounded warriors SGT Harris had sustained life-threatening burn and blast injuries in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack. It has been my honor to witness Shilo’s journey from severe debilitating injuries to a successful writer and inspirational speaker.

Social media has been instrumental in keeping me in touch with many of the patients who I had the privilege to work with. In December 2015, I read a story Shilo posted about his frustration with his hearing loss during a transaction with a car rental agent. I realized that we can all benefit from his observations and daily issues with hearing loss. I recently sat down with Shilo at his home near San Antonio for a candid discussion about coping with hearing loss, his book, and his reasons for becoming an inspirational speaker.

An Unacceptable Handicap
When asked to elaborate about the car rental story, Shilo was quick to say, “It wasn’t just the one time, it is a recurring event. My hearing loss sometimes excludes me from life. If people would speak slightly slower and enunciate better, it could make a huge difference
in my understanding of what is being communicated.

“The story centers around a person intently focused on a computer screen who became angry that I could not understand them. The echoes in the room and the ambient noises all worked against me in trying to comprehend what was being said. I was treated poorly because I couldn’t hear and had to ask someone to repeat themselves.

“This is especially difficult with phone conversations. If I have a business call, I will let the caller know upfront that I have a hearing loss and have a hard time hearing on the phone. If my public relations representative is with me I will just let her take over the conversation and authorize her to represent me so I don’t miss any key components of the discussion. Understanding a voicemail message can also be extremely difficult due to poor recording, poor enunciation and speaking too quickly.

“What I’ve noticed is that hearing loss is often treated as an unacceptable handicap to many people who hear well. Of all the disabilities I have is my hearing loss that affects me the most. I would like to bring more understanding of how people with hearing loss can feel less discriminated against. If a clerk could just look up from their computer screen to face us, speak slower, clearer, perhaps a little louder, and be patient, it would make such a difference.”

Can you explain how your hearing loss is one of the most significant issues you have to deal with?
Well, with burn injuries the skin loses its ability to regulate body temperature. There is a limit to the amount of time that I can spend in extreme temperatures, especially in the heat.

Unfortunately, I really enjoy summer the most, so it doesn’t always work out for me to be outdoors with my children unless water or water sports are involved. Since I lost my outer ears in the attack, I can only wear in-the-ear hearing aids, and they are not waterproof. The only waterproof hearing aids are the behind-the-ear style, which fit well with natural cartilage and skin, but do not fit well with the prosthetic ears I have.

When it comes to using hearing aids, there are so many different conditions and dynamics that apply. I can’t wear hearing aids at certain times, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. When flying, all I hear is a big roar. In windy conditions all I hear is wind gushing by my hearing aids. It sounds like I’m in a wind tunnel!

Regardless of my injuries, my hearing is always a factor. Even the best equipment and technology doesn’t always help in certain situations. For instance, new voices or conversations that are mumbled can be problematic. Rooms that have an echo or poor
acoustics can still pose challenges. So I, like many others with hearing loss, depend on the context of conversations, facial expressions, lipreading and body language. And those are another reason I have such a hard time on the phone.

You mentioned available technology. What has been your experience with current technology?
When I was first injured and treated at Brooke Army Medical Center, I still had remnants of outer ear cartilage that could be used to support good quality hearing aids, but that cartilage had to be used to reconstruct my nose. The only option I was left with was
in-the-canal hearing aids, and those were just not as good. I knew that the technology was out there for better hearing aids, I just had to find it.

About three years ago I attended a joint military conference where vendors who offered support services to wounded military members were represented. I came across the Siemens booth and began chatting with the exhibitors about their available technology.
I explained to them what I currently had and they said it was pretty much state-of-the-art. I agreed that they were high tech but the hearing aids just didn’t work for my
type of hearing loss. My hearing loss was not only a result of blast trauma but also likely due to ototoxicity from some of the many antibiotics that were needed to treat some of my aggressive infections. Little did I know that this was to be the beginning of a quest for
improving hearing aid technology.

One of the representatives from Siemens, Augustus Hernandez, kept in touch with me. Through mutual collaboration, two years ago I was fitted with improved hearing aids that have been nothing less than life-changing. There are new tones and ranges that I hadn’t heard before. The improvements added new dimensions to sound and voice. The hearing aids have Bluetooth capability, allowing me to receive sound from a remote transmitter. I can also change the volume and programming for different environments with a controller I wear on my shirt.

Another accessory I was given is a television audio interface, but I haven’t used that yet as I still like closed captioning. Closed captioning has been so important to me that I have transformed into a person who can retain information better when I read it than when I hear it. I even attribute part of my children’s high academic success to their exposure to closed captioning.

There have certainly been rewards for your persistence in improving available hearing aid technology. Were there any turning points in your recovery that helped you become such a resilient person?
I really think I was able to survive because I had a tough childhood. My father raised me to be tough, that’s just the way he was, and that’s the way I turned out to be. But if you’re asking about the “a-ha” moments, there have been many.WEB Shilo Family

I have five children. I love my kids, and I’ve had revelations from each one of them which have helped in my recovery in so many ways.

One story that sticks with me is about my daughter when she was just five years old. We had just moved into military housing while I was still recovering from my injuries. I was going to rehabilitation and trying to improve the use of my hands. I was still pretty banged up and just really weak. I found myself throwing my own pity party, as I felt helpless while the rest of my family emptied boxes, moved furniture, and put things away. My daughter noticed my sadness and she brought over a hammer and a nail and told me to go hang something. She gave me “permission” to help by saying, “You should be okay to hang something on the wall.”

So the first thing I did when I was ready to drive the nail was skip the hammer off the head of the nail, hitting my scarred fingers. Now all this happens while I am still on blood thinners. My finger was bleeding like I had cut it off! I saw this mess and I just started to cry. My daughter came over and started to console me, saying, “Oh daddy, it’s okay. It’s not bad. Let me bandage you up.” So off my daughter went to find gauze, tape, and ointments and bandaged my finger while I just kept feeling useless, injured, and sorry for myself. She did an excellent job.

Then she asked me if I wanted to go outside with her. I knew she was just trying to calm me down. We would often go outside to talk about things, see shapes in the clouds, and talk about heaven. Many times when watching the clouds in the sky she would ask me, “Do you think that is what heaven looks like?” I would always answer, “Well, if there is a heaven, I would want it to look just like that.” So we went outside and we talked, and I felt better. My finger stopped bleeding, the pain went away, and I realized my beautiful daughter was there to help me. I am the adult, but here is my five-year-old daughter trying to help me get over my injury.

I noticed she still looked really worrWEB Shilo Beforeied. I asked her how she felt about daddy being hurt. She tried to look happy but her built-up emotions took over as she started to cry. She said, “I was so scared daddy. I missed you and I love you, but I was so scared. I was all alone when you were sick.” She had been sent to her grandmother’s house at the time.

After she got it all out and stopped crying, I told her, “Baby, daddy is here and daddy is not going anywhere. We are going to make it through this, no matter what.” She then asked me if we could pray and I said, “Yes, why don’t you lead us?” Just five years old and she prayed for nothing but thanks—she thanked God for everything. She thanked God for me and her mother, her grandparents, aunts, uncles, everybody. She asked that the Lord watch over them and take care of them. She never asked for anything for herself. I was thinking, “Wow, she’s five years old and she’s selfless.”

She loves her family, and she has this great faith in the Lord and in our family. That is when I really knew we were going to be okay. That was one of those special “a-ha” moments. I think because I knew everything was going to be okay, I decided to share my journey onstage and in the book.

Speaking of your book, Steel Will: My Journey through Hell to Become the Man I Was Meant to Be, was there anything in particular that prompted you to want to share your journey?
Many of the people who knew my story told me they felt I was an inspiration and that I should let others know about it. But it was the news that a young soldier who I was with on my last deployment committed suicide that I knew I had to write the book. I wanted to save at least one life. We have lost so many military members to suicide that it has become an epidemic.

I wrote Steel Will to shed light on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and how scars on
the inside can be just as bad as scars on the outside, and how I am fortunate in that everyone can see my scars. I really mean that. I know it’s both a blessing and a curse. Obviously, I wear scars on the outside, but at the same time when someone sees me they almost immediately realize, “This dude has been there.” The truth is, many of us have scars on the inside. Some of the guys I speak to are suffering quietly and alone, feeling they don’t deserve care or recognition for whatever it is that’s eating at them, simply because they have no outward scars to show for the injury.

Tell me about the day you were injured.
On FWEB Shilo Truckebruary 19, 2007, I got hit by a roadside bomb that was estimated to have around 700 pounds of explosives buried in the road. The explosion tore my truck apart. Three of the four doors and the entire top of the truck were blown off. They thought I was dead so they left me in the truck, but I was able to kick myself out of it.

While I was standing there I was taking it all in—the debris, the smell, and watching everybody panicking and running around. All of a sudden I noticed that everyone just stopped and started staring at me.

I survived the first blast but I never knew there was a second one caused by an antitank ordinance we were carrying that exploded from the heat caused by the first blast. I found out about the second blast while I was doing research for the book.

When the second blast went off, everyone thought for sure I was dead. If the first one didn’t do it, the second one surely did. But there I was, still standing there. Everyone was freaking out while I was trying to bark orders like an NCO (noncommissioned officer). Someone came up to me and said “Hey, you need to lie down.”

About this time I realized I was on fire and I immediately started to take off my body armor, putting out fires on my leg and noticing much of the material that was holding my gear was in flames. I removed my ammo pouches and noticed the material around them was also on fire. Removing them probably kept me from further injury, because my ammo would have started to explode.

So that’s how I got injured. But you know, I lost three soldiers that day and that was probably the hardest part of all this. Getting blown up was the easy part, the recovery was the hard part, but knowing I lost three soldiers is the worst part.

I witnessed your recovery and was always amazed that even in very painful circumstances you never lost your sense of humor. I remember you showing up to the ward with prosthetic ears that were shaped like Mr. Spock’s.WEB Shilo Spock Ears
Well, going to the prosthetics lab is always interesting—especially working with Dr. Joe Villalobos, who created some excellent prosthetic ears. One time I told him I really wanted some Spock ears, and he said, “No, you will never wear them.” He made them for me anyway, and now everyone wants to see my Spock ears. Yes, Dr. Villalobos, I take them with me everywhere and wear them often!

Early on, when I was first recovering, I would see others with far worse injuries than mine—missing legs and arms, with even more burns than I had. I thought, “Hey, this isn’t a contest.” You have to stop thinking that way and realize we all had injuries, some with scars on the outside and some with scars on the inside. But we all survived. We lived and are here to talk about it, so we should all try to make a difference, and that is where I am right now.

_________________

Wounded Warrior Shares Ultimate Survival Story in New Book, Steel Will

Staff Sergeant Shilo Harris’ Humvee hit an IED while on patrol in Iraq in February 2007. In that blast he lost his ears, part of his nose, some fingers and more than a third of the skin on his body. He also lost three of his best friends. What followed was an agonizing road to recovery, which began with nearly two months in a medically induced coma. During that time he experienced a version of hell so terrifying, the memories still haunt him today. Harris shares his inspiring story in his forthcoming memoir, Steel Will: My Journey Through Hell to Become the Man I was Meant to Be (September 1, 2014; Baker Books).

“I am a man who has lived through hell. It is hard to share this experience. The carnage. The devastation. The loss. But I will do it. Because I will always know the horrors of war,” writes Harris. “I will tell you what an explosion does to you on the outside. And I will tell you what an explosion does to you on the inside. And I will demonstrate what it means to live fearlessly, with a clear understanding of the Grace that can redeem mayhem.”

With this book I wanted to shed light on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
and how scars on the inside can
be just as bad as scars on the outside,
and how I am
fortunate in that everyone can see my scars.

Harris recounts his journey toward manhood, beginning with a tumultuous childhood marked by his father’s struggles with PTSD and the affects on his family. Shilo moved into his rowdy teenage and young adult years searching for meaning, full of bravado, making destructive choices. The tragedy of 9/11 prompted him to enlist in the Army and he found success as a Cavalry Scout.

On his second deployment, an IED blast left him severely wounded, killed several of his men and sent him home to a “new normal” full of hospitals, painful surgeries and skin grafts, physical therapies, and medical miracles—Harris was the first to participate in a stem cell trial treatment which successfully grew back tissue on his hand. Navigating his new life provided plenty of challenges outside of his physical battles. “The wounds I kept inside were harder to heal,” he writes, and the realities of PTSD plagued Harris daily. He relied on the patience of his family, friendships with chaplains and a desperate and budding faith in God to overcome.

WEB Shilo BookSteel Will chronicles a journey of pain and suffering, but also strength, persistence, love and resiliency of the human spirit. Harris reflects on his military years and combat deployments with the wisdom of a seasoned leader of men; the book reads like a modern-day “Band of Brothers” and any military enthusiast or history buff will appreciate Harris’ retelling of his time as a soldier. In contrast, the tenderness with which he writes about his family tells a profound story.

Today, Harris shares his story with groups of veterans, wounded warriors and others around the country, and continues to be an inspiration for fellow soldiers. He is currently writing his second book, Steps for Life. For more information, visit shiloharris.com.





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

29 06 2016

It has been an honor to photograph every one of these “cover models” for the Hearing Loss Magazine. Every story is different but they all deal with hearing loss and how these people thrive despite the challenges.

WEB HLM Covers to JulyAug2016 FLAT





Staff portraits for Hearing Loss Magazine’s special convention issue

4 03 2016

These are the interior shots I did of the HLAA staff members for our annual convention issue of Hearing Loss Magazine.

Staff Photos Collage





Spot the differences!

4 03 2016

Barbara Kelley (acting executive director of HLAA and editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine) came up with the idea of doing a “spot the differences” photo game for this issue. I had fun making changes to the original cover photo. Can you spot the 21 things I’ve changed in this photo?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

SpotDifferences





Cover Shoot: Hearing Loss Magazine

4 03 2016

The latest issue of Hearing Loss Magazine was so much fun to design! I design and photograph for this bimonthly publication of the Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA).

I photographed the HLAA staff at Union 206 Studio in Alexandria, VA in early February. With 14 people I had to have more room than my little studio would allow. I loved working with the cyclorama wall. I’m thinking about joining the studio as a member for those times I need to use a larger space. The fees are very reasonable and the three individual studios are nicely done. Special thanks to studio owner Charles Butler for his assistance in helping me set up for this complicated shoot.

The March/April issue is our annual convention issue. This year’s convention will be held in Washington, D.C., June 23-26 at the Washington Hilton. For more information, visit http://www.hearingloss.org/content/convention

We wanted to welcome attendees to the city, so we came up with the tourism concept for the cover. I also did individual shots of each employee so I could include their photos along with their tips on fun things to do and see in the area.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM MarchApril 2016 Cover





Hearing Loss Magazine, September/October 2015 issue

7 09 2015

Sarah Wegley graces the cover of the September/October 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which is published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Sarah is a librarian and was a Strategic Communications Intern at HLAA earlier this summer. She recently received her MA in Communications. We had a fun photo shoot at a local library in Alexandria for her feature article in this issue. Special thanks to my friend and long-time HLAA volunteer, Hollace Goodman, for assisting on the shoot. Check out Sarah’s blog here: http://speakuplibrarian.blogspot.com.

Sarah Cover

Speak Up Librarian, by Sarah Wegley

Until nine years ago, I had no idea I had a hearing loss. I assumed the quiet world I knew was the same one everyone experienced. I don’t really know when my hearing started to fade, but my blissful ignorance came to an abrupt end the day I missed an alarm bell ringing at work. Yes, it took a loud and embarrassing wake-up call to get my attention.

I was at the library calmly going about my business at the information desk when an emergency exit door on a far wall was opened by accident triggering a steady high-pitched noise. Because the key for turning the alarm off was kept at the information desk, it was up to me to go turn it off, but I didn’t because I could not hear it.

After the alarm continued sounding for several minutes, a supervisor came to see what was happening. She did not realize I could not hear the noise. Even worse, I didn’t realize I could not hear the screaming noise! As I walked with her toward the exit door, I began to hear the sound but it wasn’t as jarring and uncomfortable as it had been in the past. Something was wrong. I called an ENT office for an appointment as soon as my desk shift was over.

The doctor saw me the next day and ordered a hearing test. When the results showed I had permanent hearing loss and needed hearing aids, I was stunned. How could this be? I was only 40 years old with no family history of hearing loss. Despite my shock, I immediately ordered a pair of hearing aids. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do all I could to hear and continue working.

Confirming My Hearing Loss—The Misadventure

Getting used to my hearing aids and accepting my new identity as a person with hearing loss proved challenging for me. I decided to get a second opinion which is generally a reasonable action to take. In my case I ended up getting undeniable confirmation that I did not hear as well as I thought. However, that knowledge didn’t come from the ENT; it came from my own misadventure.

I had never been to this doctor before and was unfamiliar with his waiting room setup. When my name was called at the exact time of my appointment, I was impressed. The nurse called out my first name “Sarah” and when I approached, she remarked, “The doctor’s going to see what the problem is.” That sounded reassuring. Then, she led me into an examining room which looked surprisingly like my optometrist’s. Hmmm, I thought to myself, maybe he has to share his office space because his is being remodeled…. The nurse left the room before I had a chance to ask.

Next thing I knew there was a small commotion in the hallway. Even though I wasn’t wearing hearing aids, I could discern someone saying, “You called my name.” Uh-oh. I went out to investigate. I found the nurse speaking with another woman and a doctor.

I asked the nurse if she had said, “Sarah.”

“No, I said Vera,” she replied.

Oops. The doctor turned to me and said, “Are you here to see the hearing doctor?” I nodded.

“Good!” he replied.

Crushed, I returned to the waiting room hoping no one there was aware of my faux pas. As it turned out, the doctor I had come to see was running behind schedule and I was too impatient to wait more than an hour. I told the receptionist untruthfully that I would reschedule my appointment. I couldn’t wait to get out of there! I never returned, choosing instead to stay with my original ENT.

After that fiasco, I had to admit to myself I truly had a hearing loss and needed to get on with adjusting to life with hearing aids. I found I had many questions as a new hearing aid wearer. As helpful as my audiologist was, I often felt unsure about things between office visits. I longed to know if what I was experiencing was normal. One of my greatest worries was what the outlook would be for my future. Would I be able to continue working? Would I lose all my hearing within a short time?

Sarah in SweaterTurning Online for Help and Finding HLAA

I didn’t know anyone in the same situation who I could talk to about these concerns. I turned to the Internet to learn more about living with hearing loss. There I discovered people sharing stories and advice on websites, forums, and personal blogs. I began to relax once I found others online who were coping with hearing loss.

Eventually, I realized I could not keep what I was learning to myself. As a librarian, I wanted to help others find this information so they would not feel as lost as I did initially. I decided to share the resources I discovered along with my funny hearing mistakes on my own blog. Thus, began my new persona as “Speak Up Librarian, the hard of hearing librarian who will never tell you s-h-h-h.” I had no idea at the time how my blog writing would change my life.

At first, all my friends with hearing loss were people I knew online, mainly other bloggers I met through DeafRead (deafread.com). Then, I learned about the Hearing Loss Association of America and found a nearby chapter that hosted their meetings in a library where I used to work. Since I knew right where the place was, there was no excuse for me not to go. Attending my very first meeting I knew I had come to the right place. When I entered the meeting room, the greeter looked directly at me when she spoke. I found a seat next to Julie, a woman around my age who also wore a hearing aid. She and I became friends and discovered we had more in common than hearing loss.

Through my involvement with the HLAA Northwest Indiana Chapter, I made more friends and took my first baby steps in advocacy. One of the desires this group had was to increase access to open-captioned films at a local theater. We became inspired to pursue this goal after hosting a chapter meeting with speakers from Fifth Freedom (fifthfreedom.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disability support groups learn how to make a difference in their local areas. I wrote a letter to the theater manager requesting more showings than the two per month on weeknights that were currently available. I explained that without captions, I missed parts of the movie dialog and that I wanted to be able to attend a film on a weekend with my family.

Experiencing Accessible Theater

I never received a response to my letter; but that did not deter me from promoting open-captioned movies on my blog and learning about other communication accessible theater options like Rear Window® Captioning and closed-captioning devices. One exciting evening I went into Chicago with my newfound support group friends to see a play. At the theater, we had two captioning options available to us—looking at the script projected onto a side wall or looking down onto a portable closed-captioning device on a stand placed on the floor by your seat. Julie and I took one of the stands and positioned it between our seats so we could try out both options and see which we liked better.

Even though it was annoying to have to turn my head to see the words on the wall, I found I could not stop reading them. I told myself the volume was loud enough that I could just watch the action on stage but I found myself watching the words nonetheless. It was so much easier than having to listen and figure out what was said! I didn’t like reading the much smaller print on the portable device and its brightness level also bothered me. However, Julie preferred this captioning option so I was glad we had given it a try. This experience and others with captioning at live performances and the movies reinforced for me what a difference it made to my enjoyment of theater when I was able to read the dialog and understand what was being said.

Sarah with bookThe ABCs of a Big Idea

A few years later, I took my advocacy efforts to a higher level. In 2012, I spearheaded a national campaign called Show Us the Captions to educate people about the new closed-captioning equipment (Sony’s Entertainment Access Glasses and the Dolby CaptiView Closed Caption Viewing System) available at movie theaters.

My big idea was along the lines of the Great American Smoke-out sponsored by the American Cancer Society: What would happen if people all over the United States with hearing loss went out to the movies on the same day and requested communication access? 

At the time, I was unaware of HLAA national and chapter activities in promoting cinema captioning, including work with major theater chains, but I knew there had been past lawsuits to require theaters to provide this access. I wanted to be part of a second wave of advocacy of getting people out to the theaters to:

A.  Use the devices that had been acquired.

B. Show the theater staff what the faces of hearing loss look like.

C. Express appreciation for the improved accessibility.

I chose to plan the event for a date in November, a month with a holiday associated with thankfulness and spending time with family and friends.

The first cinema I chose for the project was located a 30-minute drive from my home. This was because when I started the campaign I had no idea that my own neighborhood theater had CaptiView devices available. Once I learned this I realized the word was not getting out to the public if someone as informed on the subject as I was had not known this. I became even more motivated to spread the news.

Getting Others Involved

To make my Show Us the Captions event a national one, I partnered with Lauren E. Storck, Ph.D., of Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning (ccacaptioning.org). Together, we worked at getting individuals and organizations across America involved. I created a Facebook page, flyers, a slideshow, a publicity website, and a Google map showing participating theaters. Lauren posted updates on the CCAC website and our Show Us the Captions Facebook page. Both of us answered many emails from people who were interested in joining us.

Over time we expanded the idea from people coming out on a single day to any time during the month of November so we could increase the number of people involved. One group even used the first week of December. Within the Chicagoland area, I organized six locations for November 17, 2012, with the help and support of the Association of Late-Deafened Adults Chicago Chapter and the HLAA Lincoln Park Chapter.

Ultimately, Show Us the Captions had participation in the United States from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. Because CCAC is an international organization, we also had people join in from France, England, and Australia. Hundreds of people engaged with this advocacy campaign! This fascinated me so much I wrote my first graduate school research paper on the potential of websites and social media for nonprofit organizations’ advocacy communication.

Wanting to Learn More about Communication Behavior

Concurrent with my work on Show Us the Captions, I had started graduate school at the university where I worked. I became inspired to go back for a master’s degree in communication studies after reading Bruno Kahne’s Lessons of Silence. In this article, Kahne describes his unique training program that uses people who are deaf to teach corporate executives how to communicate more effectively. They don’t do this by learning sign language. Instead, Kahne and his trainers teach better interaction behaviors that are common in Deaf culture.

After reading about Kahne’s work, I realized the significance of the behavioral changes I had made and continue to make as I face communication challenges on a daily basis. I began to consider how experiencing hearing loss had made me become a more attentive and strategic listener.

For example, if I am going to a work meeting, I make sure to arrive early so I can figure out the best seat for acoustics. For a lecture this is often a front row seat directly in front of the speaker; but in a small group session, it might be sitting closest to the person who called the meeting or next to the person with the softest voice. Reading the script of a play in advance is another habit that helps my comprehension. When traveling, I prepare myself for new situations by looking at websites to familiarize myself with background information. This makes me feel more comfortable knowing what I can expect when I arrive.

When communicating interpersonally, I have learned that most people speak on subjects important to themselves. I need to be cognizant of this because my brain will often make hearing mistakes if I assume people are talking about what is uppermost in my mind at the time.

Here are a few examples of my mishearing: fat and accurate instead of fast and accurate, bad eggs instead of mayonnaise, and A-bomb instead of Avon. For a listener with hearing loss, it’s easy for a conversation to go astray.

By returning to school, I hoped to further my knowledge of communication dynamics as well as to hone my writing and speaking skills so I could be a more effective advocate. This past semester, I combined these interests when I created a workshop on “How to Communicate Effectively with Adults Who Have Hearing Loss” for my Communication Training class. One of my primary goals was for participants to experience what hearing loss sounds like. I thought this could increase their understanding of the listening challenges involved. On the day of my presentation, I had a great turnout with 19 people attending. My target audience was hearing people and eight of my attendees were friends and family members of people with hearing loss. Because CART was provided, their loved ones with hearing loss could attend with them. Feedback from the participants showed their workshop experience had been meaningful and helpful which made all the work I had put into developing it worthwhile.

Sarah with DogInterning at the HLAA Office in Bethesda

This summer I had the marvelous opportunity of volunteering at the HLAA office in Bethesda, Maryland, as a communications intern. I will receive six hours of college credit upon my completion of 180 hours of service, submission of a comprehensive internship report, and presentation to my peers and professors. HLAA does not have an official internship program in place, but I made arrangements with Executive Director Anna Gilmore Hall for working there when I attended Convention 2014 in Austin. I’m glad I made that request because my experience in the Washington, D.C. area has been an incredibly enriching one.

In addition to my daily work of copy editing, writing, and researching, I participated in a staff meeting where Convention 2015 was reviewed. I also had some enjoyable times outside the office touring Gallaudet University with HLAA staff member Lisa Devlin; making a pilgrimage to the Library of Congress with HLAA volunteer Hollace Goodman, visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where I met military therapy dogs, Annie and Archie; and attending two celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

(Photo below, right: HLAA Executive Director Anna Gilmore-Hall, Sarah Wegley, and Barbara Kelley, Editor-in-Chief of Hearing Loss Magazine and Deputy Executive Director of HLAA.)

HLAA StaffYou might be wondering what is next for me. When I complete my degree, I want to make a career change. Last year, I was asked where I hoped to be five years from then. I responded, ‘I see myself working full-time devoting my energy and creativity toward making the world more accessible for people with hearing loss. I want to work with great people for a cause I strongly believe in.’ HLM

Sarah Wegley, M.L.S., is a library operations associate for Digital Metadata and Web Services at Governors State University. She is responsible for management of the university repository, digital collections, library website, and library portal site. She has a master’s degree in Library Science from Indiana University and expects to complete her second master’s degree in Communication Studies in spring 2016. She lives in Chicago Heights, Illinois, with her husband, Rob, and two golden retrievers, Blondie and Melody. They have one son, Charlie, who is serving in the military. Sarah has been writing about hearing loss since 2006 on her blog, Speak Up Librarian. Contact her by email at speakuplibrarian@yahoo.com.





Seen & Heard: Chameen Stratton

7 09 2015

Chameen Stratton is our Seen & Heard profile in the September/October issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed Chameen at Convention 2014 in Austin, TX.

Chameen S&H

CHAMEEN STRATTON

Denver, Colorado / Born March 10, grew up in Freemont, California

“The HLAA Convention is one of my absolute favorites to attend! HLAA provides a unique experience that brings together people of all ages with one thing in common—hearing loss. I like the resources, the communication access and the people!”

CHAMEEN, WHY ARE YOU WEARING A COWBOY HAT? They just put it on my head for the Seen & Heard photo, no special reason other than we are shooting this photo in Austin, Texas at HLAA Convention 2014.

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT HLAA? through working at Sprint

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born without any signs of hearing loss. Around age two my parents noticed that I wasn’t responding to them or any loud sounds when my back was to them. Even after several visits to various doctors the results were the same: my hearing was fine and that I was ‘just a kid being selective to what I responded to.’ My parents didn’t agree and took me to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA. The doctors administered a BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test. The results surprised the doctors and my parents. I had a 90 dB loss in my right ear and a 70 dB loss in my left. I was fitted for my first hearing aid shortly after.

Back then (late 1970s) no one knew why I had experienced a hearing loss. Genetics and pregnancy complications were ruled out immediately. Overall I was a healthy child so it was puzzling to many as to what caused my hearing loss. In 2004, I met with an ENT who administered some tests and diagnosed Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome, one of the most common inner ear deformities which results in hearing loss during childhood.

WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL? I communicated well using my hearing aid—sitting in the front of classrooms and didn’t use any special services. It wasn’t until I went to college at California State University, Northridge, that I began to use note takers, CART, services and, once in a while, sign language interpreters.

ANY CHANGES IN YOUR HEARING LOSS SINCE THEN? In 1998 I woke up one morning, put my hearing aid on and nothing sounded right. I had tinnitus in both ears, sound was muffled and I couldn’t understand a thing! My parents quickly called the House Ear Institute (now known as House Research Institute) in Los Angeles. I met with the doctor that afternoon and was diagnosed with a sudden hearing loss (yes, one with hearing loss can also experience sudden hearing loss!). It was crucial that I begin Prednisone to reduce the inflammation of the ear immediately. After about ten days, I could hear some sounds again with my hearing aid and, by the time I was done with the medication, my hearing was restored back to its ‘before’ state. Since then, I’ve had eight episodes of sudden hearing loss and each time I must get to an ENT doctor within 24 hours to get medication. After the medication my hearing has been restored each time. Today my hearing loss is stable.

DISADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… It confuses people. I can hear well enough to have a conversation in most environments and I speak well. As a result, many people forget that I have a hearing loss which causes frustrations, many misunderstandings and a lot of assumptions!

ADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… peace and quiet when I take out my hearing aid!

WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP? a teacher

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… babysitting. I loved the Babysitters Club books and actually started up a similar business with a few good friends. Parents would call me and let me know the date/time/location they needed a sitter. If I couldn’t take the job, I would reach out to five others to find a babysitter who could work at that time and then report back to the parent on who was assigned to that job. It was a one-phone-call-away approach to finding a babysitter. The parents LOVED it!

A YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR, WHAT ELSE? Each of us babysitters had a Babysitters Kit that we’d always take to our assignments. The kit was filled with various activities, simple toys and a stopwatch (because every kid knows that other kids’ toys are a lot more fun than their own!). Just before parents would arrive home from their outing, we would pull out our stopwatch and document how fast the kids cleaned up the play area. The next time we were asked to babysit, we’d encourage them to beat their previous times. The parents loved this (clean house), the kids loved this (a challenge) and we loved it too (being called back to babysit again).

ANY PETS? Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix named Jade

HARDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE? delivering my first child

FIRST MEMORY OF BEING REALLY EXCITED… holding my first-born son for the very first time

I LOVE THE SOUNDS OF… my kids’ giggles and laughter, music, the ocean.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… spend as much time as I can with my kids and husband outside hiking, running around and enjoying all that Colorado has to offer! When not with the family, I love creating photo albums to preserve all the amazing moments in life!

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… shy.

HAPPINESS IS… being surrounded by family and friends!

HOBBIES? photography

IF YOU COULD LIVE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD FOR A YEAR, WHERE WOULD IT BE? Wellington, New Zealand

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? My mom. She’s always been my rock, my role model and best friend.

CITY, BEACH, COUNTRY OR MOUNTAINS? All of the above! That’s one of the best things about Denver—we get three out of the four all within driving distance.

FAVORITE PLACE… outside doing anything from hiking to running to playing around in the backyard with the kids and the dog

FAVORITE SEASON… fall—the colors, the crisp cool air and football

I COLLECT… memories. From photographs to keepsakes, I enjoy preserving my family’s moments in albums for future generations to see.

FAVORITE COLOR? pink

HIGH SCHOOL JOB… stage crew for the Mega-Mess-a-Mania Show at Paramount’s Great America Theme Park. I got to dump slime on contestant’s heads and throw whipped cream pies in their faces.

ANY JOBS IN COLLEGE? I worked for the National Center on Deafness, California State University, Northridge. I researched and wrote sections of curriculum.

JOBS AFTER COLLEGE? marketing manager for Sprint Relay/Sprint CapTel and program manager for Wyoming and South Dakota Relay Services. I started as an administrative assistant and have been with them for 12 years—an amazing journey!

FAVORITE FOODS… tuna melt sandwiches, chocolate milkshakes and strawberries

FIVE FAVORITE MOVIES… Rock of Ages, Where the Heart Is, Footloose, Men in Black, The Blind Side

FIVE FAVORITE SONGS… Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen; Happy, Pharrell Williams; Dizzy, The Goo Goo Dolls; Patience, Guns N’ Roses; Counting Stars, One Republic

I AM… adventurous, energetic, and sympathetic.

MY KIDS HAVE TAUGHT ME… the meaning of patience and how to see the world through a child’s eyes!

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… about the bond of a family and how to cherish every moment.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… punctuality; importance of being on time (if not early) when someone else is expecting you

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? Sprint CapTel Services and having access to everything in the palm of your hand (smartphones).

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… my amazing circle of family and friends.

THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… DSLR Camera, CapTel Phone, Hydro Flask Water Bottle

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Morgan Fairchild

BIGGEST PET PEEVE… people smoking near me and my kids

RIGHT NOW I AM CRAVING… a good hike in the mountains!

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT?… my kids (both birth and stepchildren). They are growing up to be such amazing people!

“I enjoy the articles and stories about others experiencing hearing loss in Hearing Loss Magazine. Hearing loss comes in so many different shapes and sizes. No two people are exactly alike, nor are their experiences. Reading about the different causes, experiences and solutions available help me make choices and decisions about my own hearing loss and the technology available to me.”





Seen & Heard: Larry Herbert

8 07 2015

Larry Herbert is profiled in the Seen & Heard column of the July/August 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I photographed Larry at Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

LARRY HERBERT, Richmond, Virginia
Born May 24 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Larry says, “I’m a Baby Boomer!

Larry joined HLAA in 2010 and has been a member of the Augusta, Georgia and Central Virginia, and Greater Richmond, Virginia Chapters.

Larry S&H

MY HEARING LOSS…moderate-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss, from my maternal grandmother’s side of the family. I first realized my hearing loss when I was in my 40s, and I have worn wear hearing aids for about 15 years.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS…go to hearingloss.org and read HLAA’s materials on getting hearing aids. Get a copy of your hearing test so you can
shop around.

TECHNOLOGY I USED 25 YEARS AGO…sitting in the front row when I was in graduate school

TECHNOLOGY I USED 15 YEARS AGO…texting with my father, who couldn’t communicate with me over the phone. He used a pager dedicated to texting.

TECHNOLOGY I USE TODAY…hearing loops, personal FM system, Bluetooth streamer

TECH DREAMS…a smartphone with a telecoil; accurate, real-time, voice-to-text translation for captioning; teleaudiology with my audiologist, including remote tweaks; wireless, automatic charging of my devices by harnessing the electric power already in my home; a “universal ear”

TECH PET PEEVES…the high cost of hearing aids, hearing health care professionals clueless about the benefits of telecoils and hearing loops

IN YOUR DREAMS…a dance with Julianne Hough or Cheryl Burke (from “Dancing with the Stars”)

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT…I thought someone had stolen my golf clubs when they had fallen unnoticed (and unheard) off the back of my cart.

BUCKET LIST…participate in Starkey’s Hearing Foundation mission, join the Peace Corps

BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN HLAA MEMBER…the annual HLAA Convention—getting to know HLAA members and leaders, the workshops, exhibits, and visiting different parts of the country

TECHNOLOGY FAILED ME WHEN…thinking a hardware upgrade would have no effect on setting up remote captioning for my chapter meeting—WRONG!—then frowns from my fellow chapter members

TECHNOLOGY MADE ME CHEER WHEN…I texted with my nearly deaf father before I had the Palm Treo, the Blackberry, and the iPhone.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?…a Major League Baseball player

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY…summer vacations at the beach, listening to the sounds of Ricky Nelson

IF YOU COULD SIT NEXT TO SOMEONE ON AN AIRPLANE WHO WOULD IT BE?…the late Arthur Ashe, tennis champion and humanitarian

SOUNDS YOU LOVE…beach, blues, and country music

SPARE TIME…I dance—Carolina Shag, West Coast Swing, and the Hustle.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT…I was a teacher’s union executive and a tennis instructor.

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM…congenial, curious, and compassionate.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT…books, chocolate, my iPhone, iPad, dancing and hearing assistive technology.

MY THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS…sunglasses, La-Z-Boy, and my iPad

THESE DAYS I’M LEARNING…some ballroom dances—rumba and foxtrot.

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?…a good friend and father

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT…two great sons

“I love the personal stories about members in Hearing Loss Magazine. Give me more readable (lay person perspective) tech articles and edginess—you asked!”





Seen & Heard: Betty Proctor

9 01 2015

Betty Proctor was our Seen & Heard profile for the January/February 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I photographed Betty at HLAA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Seen & Heard Betty Proctor

BETTY PROCTOR  / Chattanooga, Tennessee / Born October 3 in Elgin, Illinois

MY HEARING LOSS… When I was 18, I went for a physical exam for a job and they told me I had a hearing loss. I didn’t have any problems but it was not long before I started having problems. I have a bilateral hearing loss and wear two hearing aids.

I FOUND OUT ABOUT HLAA… through my VR counselor, Nelda Twitchell, when I began college in 1989.

HLAA CHAPTER MEMBER… the HLAA Chattanooga Chapter. There’s such a feeling of family and being able to help others.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Find an HLAA Chapter near you and join HLAA to keep up with the news that will help you cope and find out more about your rights as a person with a hearing loss.

A FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… After the Internet became popular finding out the words to songs with captioning was a hoot. For years, I thought the song “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive was “Dancing with the Fishes…” and that’s the way I sang it!

I DEFINITELY AM NOT… a person who worries about what others think.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Tom Hanks. I think he is one of the most gifted actors, directors and producers of my generation.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… ombudsman, senior care coordinator, aftercare worker, March of Dimes Mothers March coordinator, graphic designer

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate!

I SIMPLY CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT… chocolate!

PETS? I have a Schnauzer named Gigi, who is my six-year-old baby.

THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… my mother’s porcelain ‘genie’ lamp she received when she became an RN, my dad’s American flag I received when he died, Christmas ornaments my kids made when they were little

THE BEST THING SLICED BREAD IS… warm sliced bread!

I COLLECT… coffee mugs from every state.

LEARNING NEW THINGS… how to write radio commercials

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Vern Yip, an American interior designer who appeared on TLC’s Trading Spaces

SOMETHING I HAVE IN MY HOME THAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T… Walk4Hearing stuff!

THE KINDEST THING ANYONE EVER DID FOR ME… was helping me after my knee surgery. That was a big deal.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS… my children and grandchildren.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as someone who made a difference.

The best thing about being an HLAA member is the access to information and the feeling of being part of a family. HLAA Conventions? The feeling of camaraderie, Exhibit Hall and the feeling of family. Hearing Loss Magazine? I like all of it!





Hearing Loss Magazine: 2014 Recap

6 01 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Music to My Ears: Nancy Williams

27 08 2014

In the September/October 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine (published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America—HLAA), Barbara Chertok interviews pianist/author/publisher Nancy Williams. I photographed Nancy at HLAA’s Convention 2014 in June in Austin, TX.

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

NancyWilliamsCoverMusic to My Ears by Barbara Chertok



HLAA Member Barbara Chertok interviewed Nancy Williams, an HLAA member who despite a hearing loss, is an accomplished pianist and much more. Discover what inspired Nancy to reclaim her passions.

What caused your hearing loss and when did it begin?
Although I wasn’t diagnosed by an audiologist until age six, my parents suspect that I was essentially born with a hearing loss. My loss is genetic, as a result of a mutation in the Connexin 26 gene. For much of my childhood, my hearing loss was confined to the high frequencies, and my hearing in the low-to-mid frequencies was normal. In seventh grade, I was fitted with my first hearing aid, a behind-the-ear model, bulky by today’s standards.

In an article you wrote, you revealed you not only denied your hearing loss to others but even to yourself. Now, you tell people about your hearing loss. What brought on the change?
I have to credit reclaiming the piano for helping me to be open about my hearing loss. Returning to the piano shortly after my 40th birthday spurred my desire to write about the intimate relationship between music and hearing, sound and silence. I wrote an article for my online magazine, Grand Piano Passion, about how wearing hearing aids figured into my piano recital.

After reading that piece, a friend asked me to attend, as a member of the press, a reception by the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), a New York-based nonprofit funding research for a cure for hearing loss. At the reception, I was elated by the prospect of a cure. For the first time in my life, I was in the company of a large group of people with hearing loss.

Shortly thereafter, I joined the HLAA Board. Becoming an active member of the hearing loss community solidified my commitment to write openly about my hearing loss, yet the catalyst was my love for playing the piano.

If people question how you can perform on the piano or interpret what the composer has written when you have a significant hearing loss, how do you respond?
I am fortunate in that no one has directly questioned my ability to play, although occasionally I have worried that people might be voicing those objections to themselves. I think the best way for me to respond to the potential objections is to simply play, demonstrating to people my love of the piano.

The Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss, founded by Wendy Cheng, a violist with cochlear implants in both ears, has a similar strategy. Their recent CD, Hear This!, is an inspiring example of musicians with hearing loss putting forth their music.

You claim to have a ‘listening profit’ when it comes to your piano playing. Would you explain that for us?
I coined the term ‘listening profit’ as a counterpoint to the much more familiar term ‘hearing loss.’ The act of listening is quite different from the act of hearing. Lindsey Dryden, a gifted filmmaker who is deaf in one ear and created the movie Lost and Sound, remarked in a Grand Piano Passion interview that she often wondered whether she was good on the piano as a child precisely because she was partially deaf. I believe that people with hearing loss listen more keenly and more consciously than musicians without hearing loss. I have found that striving to overcome the disability of not hearing is part of what aids my musicality.

Do you have tinnitus [ringing in the ears] and does it interfere with your piano playing?
My tinnitus is very mild. I am not sure whether that is because I have worn hearing aids for most of my life and using amplification can help mitigate the symptoms of tinnitus (the Hearing Heath Foundation, where I serve on the board, has a great treatment of this topic), or whether I have just been lucky. Occasionally I hear a rapping sound in my left ear, but my mild tinnitus does not interfere with my playing.

You have written about the stigma against hearing loss being real. What do you feel it will take to eradicate this stigma?
I think the most important ingredient in eradicating the stigma against hearing loss is for people who are functional in society but nonetheless suffer from hearing loss to be more candid about their condition. That is easier said than done, because our society stereotypes people with hearing loss as slow, out of touch, thickheaded, and unlikely to accomplish much.

I know people who work in worlds ranging from music to finance who are unwilling to be candid about their hearing loss for this exact reason. So it’s up to each person to decide how much candor they can risk. Every time someone with hearing loss unveils their condition and asks for what they need, we as a community take another step toward loosening the stigma. I believe we will be greatly helped by our current generation of children, who sport cochlear implant bling and other hearing aid fashions.

Do you feel a special kinship with Beethoven because of your mutual hearing loss? Do you hear the music within as he did?
I hesitate to answer this question in which Beethoven and I appear in the same sentence. However, he is one of my favorite composers, and the second movement of his Fifth Piano Concerto is about as close to heaven as I am able to get. I have always felt a tremendous empathy for the anguish he must have experienced as he lost both his hearing and the society of those close to him.

It fascinates me that we can in a sense hear music in our brain, and that is in essence how Beethoven managed to compose while he was deaf. I am able to hear within my mind the piano music that I study closely. In the years since my hearing loss was first diagnosed, my audiogram has been slowly worsening, such that my hearing loss is now moderate in both ears, sloping to severe in the high frequencies. I’ve tried to consciously develop the skill of hearing within, with the thought that if someday I am unable to hear at all, I still will be able to hear my music.

You founded Grand Piano Passion, an online magazine. What is its mission and purpose?
Grand Piano Passion celebrates all who make music despite a hearing loss, no matter their instrument, level, or age. We profile both amateur and professional musicians who have a hearing loss, and we also cover the best books and articles in this field. One of my favorite series is Hearing Health Affirmations, articles that showcase the positive affirmations of musicians with hearing loss. Also not to be missed is a series called Practice Listening by Jay Alan Zimmerman, a deaf composer who has been called ‘Broadway’s Beethoven.’

Do you use any assistive listening devices when you listen to music?
I purchased the Phonak ComPilot, which I use while using my iPhone—the ComPilot pipes sound directly from my iPhone into my hearing aid—as well as for listening to classical piano music on my computer. Listening to music is a big part of my job as the founding editor of Grand Piano Passion, so the ComPilot has been very useful for me when I review albums for my online magazine.

You refer to yourself as an ‘amateur’ pianist, yet you have performed at Carnegie Hall. Why is that?
In 2012, I took a master class on performance and our final recital was held at Carnegie Hall. Short of my wedding day and the birth of my two children, this was the best day of my life. I got a wonderful taste of the life of a concert pianist.

Although I am not a concert pianist in the strict sense of the term, performing [on] the piano is increasingly occupying a larger part of my professional life. I speak on finding your passion, and often my speaking engagements include performing a select repertoire on the piano. By sharing my music, I am able to demonstrate both via sound and emotion just how powerful a passion can be. I presented my workshop “Finding Your Calling… Despite a Hearing Loss” at the HLAA Convention 2014 in Austin this summer.

Do you ever choose to learn a piece of music because it falls within the range of the hearing you have in the lower frequencies and not in the higher frequencies where your hearing loss is more significant?
The frequency range of a piece of classical piano music is most definitely a consideration for me. For example, the wonderful fioritura, or series of grace notes, which concludes Chopin’s Nocturne in E-Flat Major begins on the second highest C on the piano keyboard, a region where even with my hearing aids I hear mostly the little plunk of the key hitting the key bed. I play these notes mostly by touch. When I studied Debussy’s Clair de Lune, a shimmering meditation on nighttime that is beloved by many pianists, I chose not to perfect the music, one reason being the concentration of notes in the upper end of the keyboard.

You returned to the piano after a 25-year hiatus. How much of your former repertoire were you able to retain?
When I first returned to the piano, the only note I could remember was middle C, that note on its own line, between the two staffs. I had to count all other notes from middle C. I had forgotten the notes, along with all the repertoire I had studied and performed as a teenager, as a defensive mechanism of sorts against reclaiming the piano. I think many adults carry a passion deep within, and excavating it can take a lot of commitment. I’m happy to say that now I have relearned Debussy’s Reverie, a piece I first performed in recital when I was 13, and now is one of my favorite pieces in my repertoire.

When you play the piano, whether for your teacher or in a concert, does it worry you that you might miss hearing a wrong note because of your hearing loss?
This is an interesting question because it gets at the distinction between hearing and listening. As a pianist, even if I physically hear myself play a wrong note, unless I am listening attentively to the music, the wrong note could escape my notice. So I think the bigger challenge is to truly listen to the music, both its melody and accompanying harmony.

What would you tell a budding pianist with hearing loss embarking on a career in music?
There are inspiring examples of pianists with hearing loss, such as Kori Linae Carothers, Jennifer Castellano, and Ricker Choi (whom we have featured in Grand Piano Passion).

For people with hearing loss who have a passion for the piano, or any instrument for that matter, I wholeheartedly encourage them to pursue their callings. Passions help all of us to develop the whole person. Many adults find that when they activate long dormant callings, they realign other parts of their life, strengthening their professions, forming new friendships, and even growing closer to their families and the people they love most deeply.

Barbara Liss Chertok lost her hearing suddenly in 1957 at age 21 from what was diagnosed 35 years later as Cogan’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. She hears with bilateral cochlear implants. She joined SHHH/HLAA in 1979 and is an active member of the HLAA Sarasota Chapter. A former lipreading/speechreading teacher, she is a freelance writer/interviewer for Hearing Loss Magazine. She serves on the National Advisory Board of the American Hearing Research Foundation. Barbara can be reached at barbchert@gmail.com.

Nancy Williams on the Web
www.grandpianopassion.com
http://www.Facebook.com/NancyWilliamsPiano
http://www.Twitter.com/NWilliamsPiano
www.youtube.com/nancywilliamspiano

Relevant Links
Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss: aamhl.org

Hearing Health Foundation: hearinghealthfoundation.org

Interview with Amateur Pianist Ricker Choi
http://bit.ly/GrandPianoPassion-Choi

Hearing Aids at My Piano Recital by Nancy Williams
http://bit.ly/PianoRecital-Williams

A Different Way of Listening—Lindsey Dryden on Hearing Loss, Her Music and Her Documentary
http://bit.ly/LindseyDryden-HearingLoss

 





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.

 





Timothy Chambers: Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome

29 06 2014

Artist Timothy Chambers is our cover feature for the July/August 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. I interviewed and photographed Timothy for this feature.

Timothy cover

 

Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome 

It was a breezy Sunday in May when I drove out to bucolic Berryville, Virginia, to meet Timothy Chambers and watch him paint a plein aire landscape. Tim has Usher syndrome, a condition characterized by hearing loss and progressive vision loss, but it certainly hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his passion for painting. He is funny, a great storyteller, a gifted artist and amazingly optimistic.

What is your earliest memory of hearing loss and vision loss?
In kindergarten, my teacher noticed that when she was facing me, I understood her. However, when she turned away from me toward the chalkboard, I did not. She brought this to my parents’ attention, and we visited an audiologist who confirmed that I had hearing loss, and fitted me with a set of hearing aids.

I then had speech therapy in first and second grade with Mrs. Mary Beard, who was amazing, as I have always been told that I speak much better than I hear. Although I began wearing glasses and contact lenses in middle school, it wasn’t until I was 30 years old before any doctor suggested that I had retinal issues.

Timothy Feature Page 1What was your first reaction to the diagnosis of Usher syndrome?
At the age of 30 and on the heels of coming in second place in an international portrait competition, I went for my annual routine eye checkup. It started fine, but routine quickly turned to horror when the doctor’s face went from relaxed to concerned. “Something’s not right. You need to see a retinal specialist.” The feeling was dread, it was silence, it was fear, it was unfamiliar, it couldn’t be. Please, no…

My wife (and best friend) Kim and I were referred to a retinal specialist in Washington, D.C. My worst fears were confirmed. I had Usher syndrome, a degenerative disease in which one steadily loses their hearing and vision. Unfortunately, my specialist lacked any sense of bedside manners. In an effort to provide him some background about me as we considered a plan of action, I brought a portfolio of my portrait paintings for him to view. He flipped through a few pages then thrust it back into my hands, and with the warmth of a surgical knife, said, “Find another profession.” Ugh. That hurt. To this day, I cringe when that tape plays in my mind.

Tim and wifeHave you availed yourself of any hearing or visual assistive technologies to help you live and work successfully with your dual loss?
I can get by fairly well with hearing aids and quite a bit of lip reading. Hearing over the phone, or without being able to see someone’s face, or being in a loud environment is really challenging. However I’m surrounded by people who don’t mind repeating things.

I have a good friend, Mike, who’s been incredibly thoughtful. Mike has provided me with updated computers and large monitors. But other than that, I haven’t made use of any visual aids… yet. Though I do enjoy a good pair of sunglasses with amber tint which works best to reduce glare and increase contrast.

My greatest asset is my wife Kim. She’s thoughtful in looking out for me. She makes sure that cabinets are closed, and teaches the kids to move their toys and shoes out of the way. Outdoors, she always alerts me of steps, curbs, anything I could trip over. She makes my life so much easier. Besides, it’s nice to have a beautiful woman by my side. Even my dog knows to get out of the way when she hears me coming.

What is the psychological impact of living with Usher syndrome?
It took me a couple of years to learn to deal with the news of the disease and the dual sensory loss. My worst fear was that I would lose my sight and hearing completely, and be relegated to a rocking chair, waiting for someone to come touch me and say hello. I feared that my life would become nothing, that I would have nothing to offer. I feared that I would be forgotten, dismissed, losing all dignity, a mere inconvenience in the lives of those who could still live fully. It was a deep fear, and it would take time for me to release it and trust that God truly does have plans for a future for me.

The original diagnosis and advice (“find another profession”) played mercilessly in my head, paralyzing me at times. In fact, I didn’t get a full night’s sleep for almost two years due to waking up in fear of what lay ahead.

Finally, it was our family physician who helped me get over the fears. He said, “Tim, this is an issue of faith and trust. You’re healthy. Go live.”

It wasn’t until I began to take my physician’s advice and begin to trust that God is greater than everything, including my disease and all my fears, that I began to move past the fear.

I recall sharing the original physician’s diagnosis with Dr. Irene Maumenee, head of Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins—one of the leading eye centers in the world. Her response was, “Find another profession? Why? You paint until you can’t!” Even now, as I write her charge, I get shivers of joy and thankfulness. Yes, that is how we should live, echoing Jonathan Swift: “May you live all the days of your life.”

I left there with a new lease on life. Instead of living in dread, I began to live with optimism again. Though fear might be a part of the battle, it need not prevail.

How do you compensate for both vision and hearing loss?
I’ve had a few audiologists say that one hearing aid would do me fine, but I always hear much better with two. Digital hearing aids are such a blessing. Audiologists are able to fine-tune the instruments to really hone in on what you can hear. Transpositioning is a wonderful technology, as it moves sounds outside of your hearing range to within your hearing range. Regarding my field of vision, it’s a definite challenge. I have to do a lot of scanning, and memorizing where things are really helps out a lot. I’m comfortable in familiar environments. Being in a new place or a place I haven’t been to in a long time can be stressful until I learn where everything is.

Last year, my doctor at Wilmer Eye Institute, Dr. Hendrik P. M. Scholl, told me that I have about a 17-degree visual field in each eye. That’s really small considering normally we have about a 200-degree visual field. When he told me that, I actually felt like a walking miracle, considering I’m able to do a lot of things with such a narrow range of vision.

For example, I still play tennis. The funny thing is, I can hit a ball coming at me 100 mph, but I have a difficult time finding the ball on the court two feet away. My friends help me with comments as, “Tim! nine o’clock short range!” to help me locate the ball. The perplexed look of bystanders is priceless!

Having a extremely narrow range of vision requires extra planning. Whenever I move I have to carefully look to my left and right to see if anybody’s coming. Going down the steps can be challenging because I can’t see the shadows that indicate the steps. I never know if I’m going to miss a step; falling kind of hurts, I try to avoid that!

Honestly, I am just very thankful that I still can paint. I don’t take it for granted, and each day I wake up and I can see, I smile and think “Yes! I can see!” It’s a great way to start the day to be able to see and hear and move. I’ve learned to give God many thanks for the told simple things. It doesn’t take much for me to be content like it used to.

How did you prepare—if one can prepare for such a thing—for losing so much of your sight and your hearing?
Honestly, I don’t think you can be prepared. I asked Dr. Maumanee, “Should I start learning Braille?” She replied, “No, you really can’t. When the time comes,
then you can go down that road.”

I remember seeing a book some time ago titled, Just Enough Light for the Step That I’m On, by Stormie Omartian. That’s how God has covered me; he doesn’t give me a beacon to shine a mile down the road, but he always provides enough light to get by right here, right now.

I’m going to take one step at a time, and try to enjoy the moment. And who knows? As Clint Eastwood said, “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” Enjoy and make the most of today.

How does the limited field of vision affect your everyday life?
I don’t yet walk with a cane or any other visual assistance, so to everybody else I look completely normal. My disability is invisible to them. But what they don’t know is that I can’t see anything except what’s right in front of me, which means I walk into people, cut people off, get too close to people, and so on.

For example, I would walk into a store, I see a line, and I get in at what I see as the end of it. Somebody taps me on my shoulder and says, “Who do you think you are? Cutting in front of people? Think you’re better than us?” Oftentimes, there’s not enough time to explain, so I get some dirty looks.

Every day, Kim and the kids—Lindsie (31), Drew (19) and Chloe (13)—are my eyes and ears, always working doubly hard to watch out for me. I marvel at their patience, repeating things over and over. Every day is an adventure.

I would imagine that one of the biggest changes you faced was giving up driving and the lack of freedom and independence that followed. The worst! Yes, it was hard, but it’s also a relief! I hated giving up independence, and I hated having to be a burden to everybody else, but I also didn’t want to cause an accident and hurt someone.

It’s definitely been an adjustment, especially for Kim, being the only driver at home. I have to do a lot more planning, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice when someone offers a ride. I keep a running list of things I need, so that when a ride becomes available, I’m ready. I guess I have to think a little bit more about details than I’m used to. Kim’s been great, adjusting without complaint.

Your father, William T. Chambers, is also a portrait painter. When did you discover you had talent?
I always loved to draw, and my parents gave me plenty of paper and writing instruments to draw with, and of course I learned a lot from my dad. I still do. Growing up, I spent most of my time playing outside. During the school year my favorite class was art. I would always go way overboard on the assignments and just loved it. My friends and I used to dream that we would play for the Chicago White Sox or the Cubs, but I always knew that I was going to be an artist.

Tell me about your art education.
My art education isn’t straightforward. I had a few scholarships out of high school to colleges, but I quickly realized I wasn’t going to learn anything. My dad had set a high standard of instruction for me.

During my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, my dad found an apprenticeship in an arts studio in Minneapolis. I studied with Richard Lack during the day, and took courses at the university in the evenings for two years. I began studying with Impressionist Henry Hensche at the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1983. It was there that I found my love for color.

Also, it was at Provincetown where I met Cedric Egeli, who invited me to study with him in Annapolis, Maryland. Cedric and his wife Joanette, both amazing artists, had a profound influence on my art. Cedric is a thinker, who believes understanding and keen observation are essential to good painting. Throughout the years I have continued to paint with them in the summers on the Cape.

I also studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, as well as with Sebastian Capella near San Diego.

How has your condition challenged you in your portrait business?
One question people ask me is, “Well, how in the world do you handle a portrait sitting?” People expect a portrait artist to have the best vision in the world, but I still can create beautiful paintings, even if I can’t always see where I’m walking. It’s a funny paradox. Kim and I go to portrait sittings together. I follow her around—she knows what I need to do and what I’m looking for. We set up, I get to know my surroundings, I get to know my subject, and I get to work.

I can see directly in front of me what I’m looking at; I just can’t see off to the side. But then again, a portrait is about the person in front of you. I just have to work at it a lot harder than I used to. With some customers, a friendship is established. After receiving a portrait that exceeds their expectations, I share with them about my condition, and they want to know more. But, if I share that I have an eye disease with a new client, most will view the combination of an artist with an eye malady as incompatible, and will politely show me the door. What a pleasure it is to produce a beautiful portrait for a client to cherish.

The truth is that a good portrait or painting requires a lot more than vision. It involves one with a heart and mind that truly is excited about life and is able to recognize the essence of it.

Tim Paintings

What attracts you to portraits? Do you paint other subjects?
I love painting landscapes, but portraits present the greatest challenge to an artist. My dad always said that portraiture is the king of art. He’s right. To capture the essence of a person is no small feat. I love getting to know my subjects, who they are, where life has taken them.

I’ve been asked what happens when I meet somebody who’s not pretty or handsome. I’ve never met somebody who is not beautiful. Every person whom I have painted, I look at in wonder, knowing that they are uniquely created by the hand of God. My goal is to learn what makes them unique, and to convey that in my painting.

Has developing your artwork into a means of earning a living changed either your work or your process?
That’s a great question. Yes, it has affected my work. Obviously, with a portrait, what I’m really painting is what is in the client’s mind, their expectation. When I paint a child, I am painting the mother’s perception of that child, not mine. I could have a portrait that a dozen people see in my studio, and they say, “Oh my goodness, Tim, you nailed that portrait.”

But then the mother might look at it and say, “That’s not my daughter.” Of course, it looks just like her daughter, but that mother knows something about her daughter that I haven’t quite yet captured. It could be something that’s in her mind, that no longer exists in her daughter. My job is to know what she’s thinking and then capture it. I spend time interviewing my subjects before I paint them.

With a landscape painting, the viewer is not as critical. My dad says, “Nobody’s going to say that tree is in the wrong place.” I can also take liberties with color, which excites me.

Define your painting style.
I define my work as Impressionistic with a complimentary focus on form and draftsmanship. I prefer a looser style, but then again I still have to have enough detail to capture a person’s unique likeness in a portrait. I am drawn to the freshness and vitality of a painting sketch, and I don’t possess the patience to finish something with a lot of detail. To this day, I still try to find that balance between a very loose painting and one that has sufficient detail. If I go too far in detail, I think the painting begins to look overworked. Students will ask me, “How do I know when my painting is done?” My answer is, “When you have achieved the concept that first struck you about your subject.”

Do you work on one painting at a time? What mediums do you use?
I’m at my best when I take one painting from start to finish. I usually have a few going at once though, because it allows me to step back and see the progress of them or what I could do to improve them before I jump back into them. I like working in oils the most, but also very much enjoy pastel and charcoal.

Describe your favorite portrait.
Two that come to mind are my portraits of Charles “Chuck” Colson (Prison Fellowship Ministries and Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon), and some outdoor family portraits.

Painting Chuck Colson’s portrait was a wonderful challenge. My goal was to convey the man who had such a great love for people, but was also a great statesman. He was gracious in giving me A Creative Life from page 13 plenty of time to interview him. Mr. Colson always wore a suit and tie, but if you look at his portrait, he obliged my request to remove his jacket. This gave him an approachable look, for he was a very kind man. When I arrived for the sittings, he would help me carry my equipment.

At the unveiling, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Prison Fellowship Ministries and Colson’s 75th birthday, many people exclaimed how the portrait really captured so many different things about him. That’s what a portrait artist wants to hear.

What is the best advice you were ever given as an artist?
I’ve been given plenty of good advice. Here are a few: Work hard. Love what you do. Listen to what your teacher says. Don’t defend your work. Just listen, trust, and do. Get your big shapes and masses right. My advice to other artists is all of the above plus you need to love what you are painting or the painting won’t work.

How do you maintain the demands of being a self-employed artist and raising a family?
It’s not easy, but working at home really helps. When you have your own business, you have to wear all the hats, and you can never just leave your job at work. At least I can’t. But then again, I really love what I do. It’s who I am. I get excited about the colors, shapes, and the people I see. I’m always painting in my head.

In our home, Kim is the one who holds everything together. I couldn’t live without her. I love spending time with my kids, knowing what they’re up to. Kim does well with details, where I am more of a big picture person. We’re opposite, but as time goes on, a very good fit.

Tell me about your newly-launched online painting school.
I really enjoy teaching. I started teaching about 20 years ago, beginning with a weekly drawing class in my studio. The most amazing thing about teaching is seeing people enjoy the simplicity of creating art, even on a basic level. The other amazing thing is what I learn. It’s one thing to know a concept intrinsically, but it’s another thing to articulate it so others can understand. I love the challenge, and it makes me a better painter.

I started IguanaPaint Academy (www.IguanaPaint.com) four years ago when families began asking me if I would teach their kids art. The parents were saying, “I have a child who’s gifted in art but I have no idea what to teach.” I started with local workshops, but then some students couldn’t attend and asked if I could teach them long distance.

We launched IguanaPaint’s first courses this past January 2014 and we now have students from five continents! In addition to my drawing courses, we have courses in filmmaking, video, colored pencil, photography, and even an Art of Engineering course.

What is your dream as an artist that is yet to be fulfilled?
To have an established gallery or company sponsor a series of paintings from travels around the world; I’d like to record a response to the beauty of those different locations and people. That would be incredibly exciting.

What inspires you?
Honestly, being alive. I love light, I love new things, I love stories. One of the great definers of life is perseverance. Life is hard. Loving people is hard. Learning to know what’s important and keeping things simple seems to help me enjoy life and find the beauty in what I see.

Cindy Dyer is a freelance graphic designer, artist and photographer in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit her blog at cindydyer.wordpress.com. She can be reached at dyerdesign@aol.com.





The Pawlowski family

13 05 2014

I photographed the Pawlowski family for the cover of the May/June 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of American (HLAA). From left, Alex, Katherine, Megan (mom), Nicholas, Sebastian (dad), and Elizabeth. Eight-year-old Katherine is HLAA’s first Walk4Hearing Ambassador.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MayJune2014cover

 





Seen & Heard: Jane Seifert

12 03 2014

Jane Seifert, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the March/April 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine. I photographed Jane at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

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. Sign up for membership here.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Jane Seifert S&H

JANE A. SEIFERT   / New York City / Born July 25, 1949 in Detroit, MI

MY HEARING LOSS… I had slight hearing loss (called “sensitivity”) as early as high school. My hearing started deteriorating over the 30-year period when I was working off and on in Africa. I had to take anti-malarials (quinine) when I traveled or lived there. Quinine destroys the cilia in the ear. No one told me that until I came back from five months in Cameroon and my hearing had plummeted.  My audiologist and ENT were ordering brain scans and every imaginable test. Nothing showed up. Finally my audiologist of 10 years said, “When you go to all those strange places, you never take quinine, do you?” I said, “Of course I do.” “Well,” she said, “it took me long enough to ask.”

Six years ago I got a cochlear implant, and one-and-a-half years ago I got a second one. It’s like a miracle! I’ve even started listening to music and going to musicals, not because my friends want to, but because I enjoy them.

SAGE ADVICE… Don’t be in denial. It wastes a lot of time that could be used to figure out how to overcome the problem and avoid going into a cocoon.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE… I was totally without ambition. The assumption by my parents and everyone else was that I would go to college, marry the boy next door and raise little Janes and Johns. I knew I didn’t want to do that, but I had no idea what I did want to do. My subsequent careers (banking, international financial and economic development, teaching) happened quite serendipitously, with a combination of luck and seizing the moment.

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY IS… my mother reading to me at night before I went to sleep.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER RECEIVED… was my cats, Tuffy and Shadow—they have been very loyal friends. I never had a pet before and I’ve been astonished at how much positive influence they have over my life.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY… I didn’t buy a thing. I put every dime into a savings account so I would have the money to go to Paris for my junior year of college—and I did!

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… do word and number puzzles, work out, read voraciously, watch old and foreign movies, go to restaurants, tell stories, cultivate and maintain friendships. I am also a history buff and an avid traveler.

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR… drawing and painting. I would find it so relaxing to be able to paint and draw. I would settle for being a good photographer.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Bill and Melinda Gates. I feel they have been given bad advice on education and would hope they would be open to different viewpoints.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate and anything that’s blue and yellow—like the blues and yellows in Monet’s kitchen.

I COLLECT… jewelry from around the world, pottery, old lace, paintings, art books, friends and good memories of them.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… banker, economic and financial development officer, special ed teacher, teacher of English as a foreign language, translator/interpreter

HAPPINESS IS… a sunny Sunday afternoon. Brunch with friends. Coming home and reading the Sunday New York Times. Taking a nap with the cats curled around me.

I AM…  inquiring, hopeful and adaptable.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… use very few clues (mostly non-verbal) to deduce what is going on around me.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… good friends, good food and good conversation.

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… was making loans to Bosnian women after the Civil War so they could start their own businesses and recover—and they did.

The personal articles in Hearing Loss Magazine make me feel less lonely and isolated.





Seen & Heard: Chelle George

15 01 2014

Chelle George is our Seen & Heard profile in the January/February 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I  photographed Chelle at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, R.I.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Chelle George

CHELLE GEORGE

Salt Lake City, UT / Born 2.6.1968, in Redlands, CA

MY HEARING LOSS… I was talking to my mom on the phone, answering questions wrong when she said loud and clear, “For God’s sake, get some hearing aids!” I was 23 years old and 22 years later, I’m still wearing hearing aids.  My current pair are translucent red and I love to show them off.

SAGE ADVICE… In the beginning, have the audiologist adjust the hearing aids to a lower volume to get used to noise again.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… Getting lyrics wrong. Some years ago, my kids popped a new Eminem CD into the stereo while we were driving. A ballad came on and I just knew a big bad rapper wouldn’t be singing about that. I turned the music off with a smile and asked the kids, ‘Is he singing about being queen of his carpet?’ When their laughter died down, they told me he was singing, “I’m cleaning out my closet.” We never could sing the right lyrics after that.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Watching thunderstorms with my family in the middle of the night. We would get up and gather in front of the sliding glass door to watch.

PETS? Squeaker, my 19 lb. cat. He’s my buddy. The reason I named him Squeaker was I thought his meow was ‘broken.’ Only later did my family tell me his meow is fine and it was my hearing that was broken! At least Squeaker meows a lot, so the name still fits.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… hairdresser, day care, hairdresser again, worked with people with intellectual disabilities (loved working with them) and back to hairdresser again.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… I love it when it’s quiet enough I can hear the clock tick (only possible with my hearing aids in). Big wind chimes charm me. I love my grandson’s laughter and listening to drums.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… write about hearing loss trying to get hearing people to understand what it’s like. There are so many misconceptions and I want to set them straight as much as I can.

I COLLECT… butterflies. Butterflies are about transformation, metamorphosis, a process of becoming which I identify with. A friend once told me, ‘Butterflies are Free’, and proceeded to tell me about the movie. I like that too. “There is nothing in the caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” —R. Buckminster Fuller

I AM… dependable, honest and easy going.

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… Digital hearing aids. When I switched from analog to digital, I was amazed at the difference. There are so many options to chose from now and I’m glad I live in the technology age.

I AM DEFINITELY NOT… stuck up as many people assume. I just can’t hear them until they have my attention first.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… attended the Burning Man event for years. I still go to the regional events and find that all the people are patient and accepting of hearing loss.

MY THREE FAVORITE THINGS ARE… My computer, my smartphone and my car. They keep me independent.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… Helping to pull together Salt Lake City’s first Walk4Hearing in 2010. It was the first big event I ever organized and it was all done by volunteers.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… homemade cookies!

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Blythe, CA; Twentynine Palms, CA; Albany, GA; Bullhead City, AZ; Salt Lake City, UT

I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… my hearing aids, a book in my hand and laughter.

FAVORITE QUOTE… From Auntie Mame—“Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

I like reading people’s personal stories in Hearing Loss Magazine.

 




Seen & Heard: Debbie Mohney

7 09 2013

Debbie Mohney is our Seen & Heard profile in the September/October 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Debbie at HLAA’s Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Debbie Mohney

Debbie Mohney / Boulder, CO / born June 5 in Boulder, CO

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born with a bilateral high-frequency hearing loss, but it wasn’t discovered until I was in kindergarten. I had speech therapy in kindergarten, and then learned how to advocate for myself by sitting in the front row and getting to know my teachers very well. I got my first hearing aid at 18 when I realized I needed to be able to hear professors in college who often face the blackboard while they write. I now wear two BTE Phonak Nios. They have Sound Recover, which is a frequency transposition program. I make sure all my hearing aids have a telecoil so I can use assistive listening systems. I also have an iCom—a Bluetooth streamer—which allows me to use my cell phone, listen to my iPod, and gives me TV in stereo surround sound—very cool!

SAGE ADVICE… Learn everything you can and attend a Hearing Loss Association of America chapter meeting. Learn what works from other people and all you can about the technology that is available. Stop bluffing your way through conversations and start educating about your needs. Easier said than done sometimes, but I used to be the same way.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… The funniest one that wasn’t at the time: I would often meet my parents for lunch, and one day my Mom called and said “We are going to be a little late, Daddy’s dead in the car.” My heart started racing and I shouted out “What???” She replied, “Yeah… Daddy’s down in the garage and the battery is dead in the car.” For many days after that, every time I saw or talked to my Dad, I asked him how he was doing.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… a teacher and a writer.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER RECEIVED… My grandma taught me how to read when I was three years old, so I have no memory of actually learning how to read. It gave me advantages that I would not otherwise have with my hearing loss.

MY FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY IS… sitting in my Dad’s lap to go to sleep as a toddler, watching Johnny Carson. Really, I think I watched more Johnny Carson than I got sleep!

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… I’ve been a babysitter. I’ve worked in a print shop putting publications together. I’ve been an accounts receivable clerk and an office manager.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Disneyland and Disneyland.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… my son playing saxophone. He has a swing band and his music has inspired me to learn how to dance.

IN MY SPARE TIME… I volunteer with HLAA and other hearing loss-related organizations and Boy Scouts. I love to listen to music and enjoy museums, movies and hiking.

MEETING ROCKY STONE… I met Rocky Stone several times—the first time at the New Orleans SHHH Convention. He was so warm and friendly to talk to, and he always asked me about Ann Pruitt from Colorado. From then on, he always remembered me and always had a big smile for me.

Hearing Loss Magazine is a great magazine. In each issue there is so much timely information about everything to do with hearing loss. From more technical articles to personal stories and advocacy, you come away from the magazine empowered to do something.





Seen & Heard: Barbara Johnson

12 07 2013

Barbara Johnson 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 Barbara at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Barbara Johnson S&H

BARBARA JOHNSON

Newton, Massachusetts / Born March 23 in Lowell, Massachusetts

MY HEARING LOSS… I stopped cheating on my hearing tests in the fourth grade. Each year the school nurse gathered us in her office where we’d put on heavy rubber headphones and I would raise my hand when I saw the other kids raising theirs. I finally realized the point of this test and stopped raising my hand unless I actually heard the tone.

Hearing loss runs in my family—four out of my five brothers have serious hearing loss and I am the one sister out of four who has hearing loss. My oldest brother wears two hearing aids. My second brother has bilateral cochlear implants. My fourth and fifth brothers are deaf in one ear.

We didn’t talk about our hearing loss when I was growing up. My loss was essentially untreated until I decided this year, at 51, to get my first cochlear implant. I still have about 30 percent residual hearing in my non-implanted ear.

I’m very new with my cochlear implant, activated March 23, 2012, on my birthday. It’s exciting and challenging.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Talk about it. Find out what technology can help you, such as hearing aids, assistive listening devices, captioning, CART. Figure out what you need to communicate your best and ask others in your life to help. Seek out others who also have hearing loss. They’re out there and it’s so helpful to connect with someone else who really “gets it.”

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… a teacher, a ballerina, or a stewardess (yes, that’s what we called flight attendants when I was a kid).

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… get a cochlear implant. It’s a big deal!

MY LITTLE-KNOWN TALENT IS… drinking coffee in the shower.

HOBBIES? dance, photography, foreign language study, backpack travel to far-flung corners of the globe

PETS? Hank the Cairn terrier, who thinks he’s a cat; Scooter the Jack Russell, who would love to eat a cat; Hildie the Aussie shepherd, who is a scaredy-cat; and Anoush, the Shitzu-terrier mix, who just cuddles better than a cat

I DEFINITELY AM NOT… a couch potato!

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… lifeguard, cashier, ice cream scooper, computer programmer, IT project manager

HAPPINESS IS… hanging out with my husband and four dogs.

MY FAVORITE SEASON IS… summer. I love being outside anywhere on the New England coast, especially the Outer Cape.

I AM… optimistic, energetic and fun.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… home-baked goods.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… connect with others no matter who they are and find common ground.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… coffee.

MY THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS ARE… my MacBook Air, orange ballet flats and my paid-for car!

IF I RULED THE WORLD… there would be mandatory global travel for all! Get to know the world, people!

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to make peace with my hearing loss. (Right now we’re kind of fighting…)

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS… being successful in life and love while living with a severe hearing loss.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a kind, loving, helpful and positive person who made a difference in someone’s life.

I love reading other peoples’ stories in Hearing Loss Magazine and encourage the publication to reach out to readership on a regular basis for input and ideas.





Marisa

18 11 2012

Here’s another shot I captured of Marisa Sarto in Providence, R.I. this past June. Marisa was the cover feature of the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design for the Hearing Loss Association of America. You can learn more about Marisa and her book project, Hear Nor There: Images of an Invisible Disability, in a recent post here and in her Seen & Heard debut here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Seen & Heard: George Kosovich

15 11 2012

George Kosovich, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), just made his Seen & Heard profile debut in the November/December 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which just arrived in member mailboxes. Other members previously profiled were Danielle NicosiaJohn KinstlerJudy Martin, Anne TaylorSam SpritzerJeff BonnellEloise SchwarzGlenice SwensonLaurie PullinsRosemary Tuite and Kathy BorzellTommy Thomas and Marisa Sarto.

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.

George Kosovich

Rockville, MD / Born December 10, 1941, Bingham Canyon, UT

MY HEARING LOSS… I had a hearing loss in childhood, but it wasn’t discovered right away. In elementary school, I started wearing a body aid and hated it. Now, I use both a cochlear implant and a hearing aid and love it.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Get that hearing aid—you don’t know what you’re missing!

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… School was hard—all the way from elementary school through my two master degrees!

IN MY SPARE TIME… I play golf, tennis and pool.

MY LITTLE-KNOWN TALENT IS… dancing.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… the angel Gabriel.

I MISS… my brother, Jerry.

I AM… friendly, lovable and handsome.

FAVORITE COLOR? Purple

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… not to smoke cigarettes. The one time I did try when I was 10, she caught me. That day, I smoked until I was sick and told her. She told me I was not going to find any sympathy from her. I suffered that time but learned my lesson and I never smoked again.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… the basics of football, and then was a big support to me when I was playing football in high school and college.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… OSERS at the U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.; VR counselor in Portland, OR; juvenile center counselor, Portland, OR; Short order cook at the Sheraton, Portland, OR; Newspaper delivery boy, Portland, OR

I HAVE A FEAR OF… guns. One time I shot a guy. I was around 12 years old, working at a berry picking farm in the summer. It was in the evening and we had gone back to the workers’ cabins. My brother and a guy also named Jerry were in the cabin. I was playing around with a rifle and I thought I took all the bullets out, but when I pulled the trigger, a bullet hit him in the thigh. I was shocked. My heart was racing. We carried him out down to the house which was quite a ways down. We took him to the hospital in a car—it was the longest ride of my life. The guy was okay once patched up, but he couldn’t play football for a year. And I never played around with a gun again!

IF I RULED THE WORLD… everyone would have a smile on their face!

WHAT IS THE KINDEST THING ANYONE HAS EVER DONE FOR YOU? Love me

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? Being a father

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED? As a good guy

Hearing Loss Magazine is great! I like the stories about people and how they deal with hearing loss, but I also like the information about technology that makes our lives easier.





Laurie Pullins: Dances with Sounds

17 07 2012

Laurie Pullins is the “cover girl” for the July/August 2012 issue of the Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA).

Here’s how Laurie came to be the latest HLAA member to grace the magazine’s cover. 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 Kelley that we entice Laurie to write a feature article for the magazine. Barbara is the editor of the magazine and HLAA’s deputy executive director (she is a Sneezeguard Heiress as well—check out her hospitality blog here). 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.

She was here about three days and in addition to getting some beautiful shots of her at a local park and in my studio, she was able to do the tourist thing, too. Michael and I took her to the Air Force Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial and we did quite a bit of drive-by sightseeing as well. Laurie is an avid photographer and a fellow Nikonian. We had such a great time during her visit and she was on pins and needles with excitement about keeping it a secret, especially to her friend Jennifer Thorpe, whom she sees every month when Jen comes to her city to work. Even Jen didn’t know about it until the issue was released!

Laurie is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside and I consider her a very dear friend now. I appreciate her support of my work and am thrilled that she has a spotlight in the magazine with beautiful photos and her honest and inspiring writing. Much love for and appreciation of you, Laurie!

Below is Laurie’s feature in its entirety or you can download the pdf here: Laurie Pullins Feature

Dances with Sounds by Laurie D. Pullins

We enter this world with nothing and leave it with nothing. In between there is a “dance” called life. What we do with that dance defines who we are and how we embrace the world around us.

It’s 11:34 a.m. and I see the rain falling on the pavement outside. I’m enamored by the glitter of each raindrop as it splatters in the puddles between the uneven blocks of sidewalk; I’m compelled to go outside and play. As I dance in the puddles, weaving through the trees lining the sidewalk, I catch a glimpse of a small cat pouncing through the grass and I am again compelled to follow after it.

It is springtime in 1959 and as a small child collecting rain and grass all over my tiny, wet feet, I couldn’t be happier. Living in a small town in upstate New York, there is not much to hear on a daily basis, with only a grocery store and a post office as the main businesses of the town. I am like a sponge soaking up the new information being presented to me and I don’t even realize that I am missing the noise of my surroundings, until I take an unexpected path and darted across the street, barely being missed by an oncoming car. My mother, Betty, calls out to me and I simply do not respond. Here begins my “Dance with Sound…”

EARLY YEARS
I was the first child for my parents and was full of mischief and was often disobedient. By the time I was 18 months old they became uneasy about my lack of speech but did not connect it with hearing loss. Even though I was not verbalizing like other children my age, I was highly observant and always seemed to notice things first before anyone else did.

My severe-to-profound hearing loss was diagnosed at the age of two, shortly after the “running across the street after the cat” incident. My parents were told that I was deaf—not completely so, but to a degree that I would probably never learn to speak normally or understand spoken language without a great deal of therapy and training. Their dreams were shattered and they were deeply distressed and discouraged when they heard the words “bilateral,” “congenital,” “sensorineural.” It was suggested that I could be sent to an institution for the deaf where I would learn sign language as a means of communication. This choice usually meant that children sent there never learned to talk and communicate normally.

Shortly after meeting with an audiologist and psychologist at Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, they were encouraged because I still had some residual hearing and had been responding to training and voice stimuli. With extensive effort and training I could possibly be mainstreamed into the hearing world. From that moment on, they were focused on guiding me through the long and difficult process of learning to communicate verbally.

They were naively optimistic and unaware about the challenges that were ahead but they persevered. They knew they did not want me to be trapped in a world of silence. It was unconventional in the late 1950s and early 60s to teach children who were hard of hearing or deaf to speak.

I began therapy three times a week after my hearing loss diagnosis. I was fitted with my first hearing aid, which was a bulky body aid that I wore on my chest. After the birth of my brother, we moved from New York to Ohio. I continued with speech therapy three days a week at the Speech & Hearing Center in Derby Hall at Ohio State University until I started public school. There was no organized program for deaf children but I was fortunate to have enthusiastic therapists.

My father credits my mother, a teacher, for ensuring my speech and hearing training and spending hours on end with me. She enrolled in the John Tracy Correspondence course at home and got a special packet each month. This program gave many practical suggestions and encouragement and answered many questions. We would sit at the kitchen table every day going through the scrapbook that she made with various words and matching pictures cut out of magazines and catalogs.

At the age of five, I entered the deaf program in the Columbus public school system for kindergarten. My first teacher was Mrs. Card, who was the wife of the director of Deaf Education. I vividly remember sitting on her lap in front of a mirror with my hand on her throat, trying to imitate and form the sounds and words that she was making. I was reading at the third grade level by the time I entered first grade because I had to learn to read in order to learn to speak. I was mainstreamed in the public school systems from first grade on and had speech therapy through the eighth grade.

FAMILY LIFE
I had the privilege to grow up in a loving home. My family included my parents, Ed and Betty Royer, my two brothers, Dan and Doug (who was later diagnosed with a hearing loss), my sister, Kathy, two sets of grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins who did everything within their power, no matter what the sacrifice was, to include me in the hearing world that was so familiar to them. They were great “therapy” for me! (The Royer family, from left, back: Kathy, Doug and Laurie; left, front: Danny, mother Betty and father Ed)

Still, the challenge of growing up as a child with a hearing loss in a hearing world was overwhelming and frustrating for me at times. I didn’t fit in the hearing world. I didn’t fit in the deaf world either because I did not know any sign language. I was fortunate to have good, understanding teachers. I even had a science teacher who shaved his mustache so I could read his lips!

As a teenager in the 60s and 70s, life was hard. Peer pressure reared its ugly head and I felt isolated. I went to a large high school in Centerville, Ohio, with more than 550 students in my graduating class. I had very few friends because I “talked funny” and couldn’t hear very well. I contemplated suicide several times but worked through my issues with the help of my support system. I couldn’t use the phone and even if I wanted to communicate with someone, I had to do it by mail or in person.

I just wanted someone to listen to me and validate my feelings. I wanted to have a sense of belonging. Thankfully, I had a wonderful family. However, not every teenager has that in today’s world. It was a struggle to have a conversation in the dark or hang out with a group of friends when multiple people were speaking. I knew firsthand the frustration of trying to understand what people were saying when I could not read or see their lips.

I also knew what it was like to misunderstand others and be misunderstood. It was difficult to meet new people because they just did not understand or did not want to take the time to talk to me. I was often labeled as a snob because people did not understand that I did not hear them when they called out to me. I had a small circle of friends, but still felt lonely because I was not always included in their activities. I had a few boyfriends but was never invited to a high school dance or prom. I immersed myself in books and music. I took swimming lessons and joined a synchronized swimming team, took piano lessons, wrote poetry, took gymnastics, learned baton twirling, and was involved in my youth group at church and Girl Scouts. I also had several regular babysitting jobs in the neighborhood. Deep down in my heart I wanted to get married and have a family, but I did not think it was possible with a hearing loss. A part of my world was taken away from me because it was a common misconception of our society at that time that not being able to hear well would hinder me from having a normal life. I became good at bluffing and hiding my hearing loss.

COLLEGE AND MARRIED LIFE
After graduating from high school in 1975, I was determined to start a new life with new friends and new goals. As I entered college that fall with a full scholarship, my plan was to leave the past behind and focus on getting my college degree in accounting so that I could have a career, travel and be independent. There were no accommodations for students with hearing loss, so I had to work twice as hard to “get the message.”

The freshman classes had at least 150 students and were in large auditoriums, making it difficult to take notes and read lips at the same time. But, the best thing that happened to me that first year was meeting my husband, Steve Pullins, who was a senior at the time.

My hearing loss was never an issue for him and he was patient and kind (and still is!) dealing with it. My mother knew he was serious about our relationship when he built me a bookcase for my books as a Christmas present!

Steve and I were engaged the following spring and married in November 1976. Steve served as an officer in the U.S. Navy right out of college. We moved around quite a bit the first few years of our marriage. This made it difficult for me to continue with my college education. Every time we moved, I transferred my credits and enrolled in classes. After a professor told me that I needed psychological help because I could not understand her (another misconception), I dropped the class and put my college education on hold with a promise to my parents that I would return someday to finish my degree. (Left: Steve and Laurie on their wedding day, November 13, 1976)

IN THE WORKPLACE
In 1997, I decided to get a part-time job to help with our finances. It was a scary time for me because I had not worked with the public in a long time and knew that I faced many challenges. Among other things, I needed a position that did not require using the phone. I found a job working as a teller in a credit union. I had to ask customers to face me so I could read their lips. The staff and my co-workers were supportive and helped me when they could. This renewed my desire to return to school in my 40s. (Laurie with her siblings in 2006, from left—Doug, Kathy and Dan)

When I enrolled at the University of Tennessee the Office of Disability Services contacted me. They offered to provide sign language interpreters for my classes. When I told them that I was oral and did not sign, they told me that they had transcribers available. Two transcribers came to every single one of my classes with two computers. I had a computer in front of me and they had the other one. The transcribers used a special program and typed almost word for word everything that was said in class. I could read everything on the screen in front of me (and could sit anywhere in the classroom) and participate. After class, the transcript was saved in a file and e-mailed to me for my notes. I had the best notes. As an added bonus, at my graduation everything was transcribed for me (and others) on the Jumbotron in the stadium! I was glad I waited to return to college when I did because more than 25 years ago there were few resources available for people with hearing loss.

My mother lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 1992, but I kept my promise and graduated from college in 2003. I wore her picture on my gown as I walked across the podium. Mom was always there for me. And she still is, in a way. I truly believe she is my guardian angel, watching over all of us.

A RICH FAMILY LIFE
Steve and I have been blessed with four beautiful children—Jason, Chris, Brad, and Marissa. My mother always commented that our children were good “therapy” for me because my days were filled with teaching them to talk and conversing with them. They learned to take their pacifiers out of their mouths so that I could read their lips. Our children learned to be my “ears” for me at a very young age. They were trained how to talk on the phone and had to learn telephone etiquette to relay messages for me. They learned some valuable coping skills since I did not always hear everything that was going on. (Left, Christmas 2011: (back) Steve, son Jason and grandson Jackson, sons Brad and Chris, daughter Marissa’s boyfriend Howy Moulton; (front) Laurie, daughter-in-laws Jessica and Caitlyn (holding Madelyn), daughter Marissa Pullins holding Wyatt Moulton. Photo © Sabrina Lafon Photography)

They are our greatest accomplishments and successful young adults who are sensitive to others who are “differently-abled.” Many other highlights of our marriage included moving nine times in twelve years with the Navy and living in six different states, career changes and raising our four children.

PAYING IT FORWARD
I believe we were fashioned for fellowship and formed for friendships. My definition of friendship can often be defined more lasting than a marriage and closer than a brother or sister. The most unlikely people can end up as friends and I feel that often has to do with where we are in life.

I’ve had some wonderful friendships over the years but since I came to terms with my hearing loss and started my cochlear implant journey, some of my closest friends are also on a hearing journey as well.

I joined HLAA in 2005 when I started losing what little bit of hearing I had and soon discovered that HLAA was a lifeline for others like I am who are affected by hearing loss. I would not be where I am in my life if it wasn’t for their encouragement, advocacy, information, and support. Not everyone has that type of support and that is where HLAA comes in at the national and local level. I have used the Internet as an opportunity to connect, meet and even mentor to others, including parents of deaf children. I am passionate about HLAA and it is no accident that I am in a position to “pay it forward” and help others with the challenges that they face every day. (Above: HLA of Knoxville Christmas party; Laurie is in the front row, far right.)

Someone asked me once that if I could name the one person who has made a difference in my life, who would it be and why. Although I’ve been blessed with many friends and supportive people, it would be my mother. She was a great advocate for me and my younger brother, Doug, and did everything in her power to help us be the successful people we are today. Because of her love and dedication, I can “pay it forward” and advocate for others with hearing loss. Mom is still very much a part of my life today.

WHY I DANCE
When I started my cochlear implant journey in 2005, I created a blog and named it “Laurie’s Dance with Sound.” Little did I know that I would embrace the world of dance in a brand new way six years later.

In January of 2011, Steve and I walked into the Let’s Dance Ballroom Dance Studio in our small town of Maryville, Tennessee, to explore ballroom dancing. We found a new passion that we could enjoy together as a couple in our new lives as empty nesters. Steve and I have been dancing the “dance of life,” so to speak, for the last 36 years and were looking forward to dancing together in a new and different way. After a few weeks of lessons, something stirred inside of me and I knew then that I needed more than just a few sessions a week. In addition to dancing with my husband, I started private lessons with our dance instructor to explore the world of ballroom dancing on a new and different level.

During one of my private dance lessons, Chris Rose, my dance instructor, asked me the question, “Why do you want to dance?” The question caught me off guard. I have pondered it ever since, searching for some better answers. As long as I can remember, music has always been a part of my life. Even though I could not hear well, it filled my heart with emotion and needed no words.

Victor Hugo describes it perfectly when he says, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.” When I wore my hearing aids, music was just “pretty noise.” I would play it as loud as I could so I could feel the beat and rhythm through the vibrations and sounds. Throughout the years, I have expressed music through many different forms, whether it was by playing the piano, ringing hand bells in church, dancing liturgically, signing to music, and even swimming on a synchronized swim team.

In August 2005, I underwent surgery for my first cochlear implant, and surgery for another cochlear implant followed in January 2007. These two surgeries changed my hearing and life dramatically. For the first time in my life, I was hearing sounds that I had never heard before, sounds others take for granted. I spent a year in auditory-verbal therapy relearning how to hear with my new “ears.” Now that I can hear almost perfectly with my cochlear implants—the sounds of music changed for me and became multi-dimensional with the variations of the different instruments and voices.

When I dance, I can leave the stressors of daily life outside the dance room door. I lose myself in the music and the dance. I cannot go more than a few days without music. And now I cannot go more than a few days without dance. I cannot find all the words to explain how I feel, but I do know that ballroom dancing has changed something deep inside me, and it is something that cannot be hidden or controlled.

When I dance, I feel a shift in my spirit and lose myself in the rhythm of the music on the dance floor. When I wear my dance “hat,” I only know that I am listening and responding to the music playing in my ear, and it makes me feel whole. Learning to ballroom dance has ignited a fervent passion and desire that I cannot deny. For when I dance, it is just the music and me.

Dancing lets me live a dream that I have always had. Ballroom dancing has allowed me to let my hair down and be free. It helps me release the tension and stress I encounter in my daily dance of life, keeping my body and brain active, and helping me with my mental health. I have Meniere’s disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear that affects hearing and balance, characterized by episodes of vertigo, dizziness, and occasional “drop attacks.” I am learning how to balance and control my body and have had fewer episodes since I started dancing! I am gaining more confidence and coordination in my body, which is resulting in a better posture and a more positive outlook on life.

My dance instructor and his colleagues at the dance studio know that they have given me a new lease on life. Their faith, belief and trust in me that I can dance in spite of my challenges speak volumes. Chris is so patient with me, yet firm with constructive criticism. Since I’ve started dancing, I’ve performed four different routines with my husband, Steve, or with Chris and have entered and placed in several local ballroom dance competitions. I am nervous right up to the time of each performance but as soon as the music starts, the butterflies in my stomach go away and I just dance.

What a wonderful feeling it is to show my joy, my emotions, and deep gratitude that I am able to do what I love as I move across the floor with my dance partner. I would not have done this without the miracle of sound through my cochlear implants, and especially without the support of my parents, family and friends.

My mother always encouraged me to use the gifts that I was given and NEVER gave up on me. She said in 1974, “From our standpoint it is worth it all. I feel that even with all the modern help now available, too many parents set their sights too low and give up too easily. As a result, many deaf children are not realizing their full potential.”

A CHANGED LIFE
It doesn’t take much for the tears to well up in my eyes and start flowing down my cheeks when I hear the joyous sounds of the birds, the wind in the trees, music, voices of my family, especially my grandchildren, to be able to hear and understand people around me without having to read lips, to be able to use the phone, and everything else with two “ears.”

I am a changed life. Changed because of the technology that allows me to dream again, to go back to college, speak, dance, mentor, and hear the world all around me. So many of us are afraid of the unknown and are afraid to leave our comfort zone to try new things. And we run away from it when the very thing we should do is to embrace the challenges before us. And when we do accept the gifts and talents that we are blessed with, we will come out on the other side, surprised and better than we were before.

So, my friends, dance the dance of life that you are given. You will never ever be the same again.

Laurie Pullins has been the president of the HLA Knoxville Chapter for five years. The Chapter recently participated in the Chattanooga Walk4Hearing and was the highest fundraising team. She can be reached at ldpullins@gmail.com. Her blog is http://lauriescidance.blogspot.com.





Seen & Heard: Laurie D. Pullins

17 07 2012

Laurie D. Pullins, 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. Laurie is also the cover feature author for this issue. She had already signed up for the Seen & Heard column before we approached her to write her feature, and her answers were so interesting that we included her Seen & Heard profile as well! Seen & Heard is a new column I developed for the magazine in 2011 and we had 48 members get enthusiastically involved in our first outreach effort! During Convention 2012 in Providence last month, I photographed 21 new profile subjects. We’ll be publishing one or two profiles (as space allows) in each issue of the bimonthly magazine.

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.

LAURIE D. PULLINS    Maryville, TN / born April 1, 1957 in Columbus, OH

MY HEARING LOSS… My hearing loss was discovered at the age of two. There was no real explanation for it or a family history of hearing loss. I wore hearing aids for 40+ years and received my first cochlear implant in August of 2005 and my second in January 2007.

SAGE ADVICE… There is no better time than today to be deaf or hard of hearing. It is not the end of the world and there are so many options and services available today compared to 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Technology is improving by leaps and bounds, making it possible to hear in different ways through hearing aids and cochlear implants. Most importantly, surround yourself with a strong support system. Advocate for yourself or your family member who has the hearing loss.

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENTS… #1: Shortly after my hearing loss was discovered, I started therapy in Buffalo’s Children’s Hospital first and then transferred to Ohio State University’s program after my parents were relocated. The room where I had therapy was in a highrise building (don’t remember how many floors up). While my mother and therapist were discussing my latest therapy session, I climbed out the window and sat on the ledge, looking at the activity and passersby below me. Needless to say, I caused some anxiety for my mother and therapist and it was a challenge for them to get me back in the room off that ledge! #2: Forgetting to tell my husband that I set my Sonic Boom Alarm clock for the first time. I had to pry him off the ceiling the next morning! #3: I attended my first HLAA Convention in Oklahoma City with Jennifer Thorpe and we were roommates. Neither one of us had shared a room with a deaf person before. The first morning, I woke up before she did so I made sure I was quiet as I got dressed, tiptoeing around the room, not making a sound. She did the same for me when she got up before me. A day or two later we both realized, “Duh! Neither one of us can hear with our “ears” off as we sleep!” We could make all the noise we wanted and not wake each other up. We have laughed about that so many times.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE I WANTED TO BE A… dental hygienist. Today my passion is to “pay it forward” and help others with hearing loss.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… I remember swinging in a handmade swing in a big maple tree on my grandparents’ farm. I would swing for hours as high as I could over the garden and sing a song that was actually a poem “How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue…” I loved spending time with both sets of my grandparents on their farms.

THE BEST GIFT I EVER GOT… was the gift of time from my best friend, Dawn. When I got the call that my mother had slipped into a coma after a short battle with pancreatic cancer, Dawn helped me pack my suitcase and said, “Just go be with your mother. I will take care of your family for you.” She took care of our four children plus her own three (all the kids were between the ages of 2–11) for eight days so I could spend my mother’s last days with her. I love to be with people and the gift of time is always special to me.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… contact lenses. I wore glasses starting in third grade and wanted contact lenses so bad. My parents told me that if I saved $100, they would pay the rest. So, I saved my babysitting money and got my contacts at the age of 15.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… returning to college while working and raising a family of four children.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… music, the little voice of my grandson, the wind softly blowing through the trees, the sounds of the birds—just to name a few.

IN MY SPARE TIME I… love to write and read. I also love quilting, sewing, gardening, ballroom dancing, reading and knitting.

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… bored.

I MISS… my mother.

HAPPINESS IS… being loved and accepted.

MUSICALLY INCLINED… piano, hand bells, recorder

DO YOU SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Yes, a little bit of Latvian (just the basics). I’ve gone to Latvia several times on mission trips.

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? My mother was my best friend, prayer partner and confidant, and understood me better than anyone else.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… used to go deer hunting.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… synchronized swimming.

FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… Every year I escape to my aunt’s house in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, for a week-long sabbatical away from my obligations and family. We talk, eat, sleep and quilt to our heart’s content. “Gilead” means “healing waters” and this place is a “healing place” for me.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… crème brûlée, my favorite dessert.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Heather Whitestone McCallum.

I COLLECT… anything related to the Drummer Boy.

PLACES I’VE CALLED HOME… Ohio, Florida, Idaho, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Tennessee

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… dental assistant, department store manager, bank teller, information technology assistant, accountant

FAVORITE TUNES… Amazing Grace, Annie’s Song by John Denver, Colour My World (Chicago), Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel), Christian music, Loving You Forever (Carole King)

ON MY BOOKSHELF… The Bible, Heaven is for Real, Ken Follett books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, James Patterson books

ON THE BIG SCREEN… I love any movie with Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman (Book of Eli, Hurricane, etc.), The Sound of Music, Shall We Dance, The Ten Commandments, The Chronicles of Narnia series and Harry Potter movies.

THE LAST BOOK I READ WAS… Ken Follett’s World Without End and The Hunger Games.

I AM… loving, encouraging and industrious.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to hear and to communicate, that I could do anything that I put my mind to, and she encouraged me to try new things.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… how to play Scrabble and card games.

GET ANYTHING GOOD IN THE MAIL LATELY? My aunt sent me some old letters that my mother had written years ago.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD? The World Wide Web and technology (cell phones, Bluetooth, etc.) enables the deaf and hard of hearing to be “connected” to the outside world.

I HAVE A FEAR OF… bridges.

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… procrastinating.

I REALLY SHOULD START… spending more time with my grandchildren.

WORD OR PHRASE I OVERUSE… “Bless Your Heart” (it’s a southern thing!)

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… misplace everything.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… my cochlear implants or my glasses!

SONG YOU LOVE BUT ARE EMBARRASSED TO ADMIT TO… “Popcorn”—I used to listen to this all the time back in the
70s. It really sounds like popcorn popping!

NAME SOMETHING YOU HAVE IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU ARE SURE MOST PEOPLE DON’T… Latgale pottery from Latvia (bowl and plates)—they are my favorite pieces

MY THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… are my cell phone, computer, and my favorite chair.

MY LATEST OBSESSION… is ballroom dancing.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE… “As long as I live I’ll always hear birds, waterfalls, and winds sing.” —John Muir

MY MOTTO IS… “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” In other words, we should listen more than we talk!

MY LONG-TERM GOAL… is to retire and build an energy efficient “green home” in the Smoky Mountains.

MY SHORT-TERM GOAL… is to take photography classes at our local community college.

I LOVE… my husband, Steve Pullins. He has a great sense of humor and is a calming influence on me and others around him. He is my best friend and dance partner for life!

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS… our four children.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a kind, loving, and giving Christian woman making a small difference in someone’s life.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Seen & Heard: Eloise Schwarz

14 05 2012

Eloise Schwarz, a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), made her Seen & Heard profile debut in the May/June 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 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, Anne Taylor, Sam Spritzer and Jeff Bonnell.

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.

ELOISE SCHWARZ Born 7.9.1952 in Quincy, IL / Resides in Wauwatosa, WI

MY HEARING LOSS… I’ve had a hearing loss since birth. Ten years ago I got hearing aids.

SAGE ADVICE… Think about, ask about and learn about hearing loss—
find others with it and join them!

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… teacher.

FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY… a house

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… was getting my MBA.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… write.

HOBBIES? Sewing, playing piano, talking politics with family and friends

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I… stutter.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… grant writing.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… both President Bush’s.

I COLLECT… tiny cups and saucers.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… housekeeping, nursing, laundry, nurse’s aide

I AM… organized, objective and dependable.

I HAVE A FEAR OF… uncleanliness.

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… worrying!

I REALLY SHOULD START… laughing!

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… my computer.

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… my hearing loss and not being able to understand the technology and aids for it.

FAVORITE QUOTE… Life is a big canvas—throw all you can on it!

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Yes, the governor of Wisconsin and one of the prisoners from The Rock.

MY THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… my wedding rings and my car (a new VW)

KINDEST THING ANYONE HAS EVER DONE FOR ME… My husband loves me, married me and cares for me!

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS… to travel to all 50 states.

IF I RULED THE WORLD… We would all see and hear things through my ears and eyes!

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT… getting ahead, living even though I’ve had so many life-death encounters in my life

I love the real-life articles about real-life people in Hearing Loss Magazine.