Autumn Johnson’s debut in Hearing Loss Magazine

19 01 2012

I photographed Autumn Johnson this past fall to build up my hearing-related stock photo file. Leslie Lesner, an audiologist and owner of Lesner Hearing Center in Alexandria, graciously help us set up the shots in her office and she also modeled for me. I also got shots of several of my favorite subjects (Hannah, Margot and Karen) getting their hearing tested, being shown various models of hearing aids and getting fitted for hearing aids. The images will be used in the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine and other materials for the Hearing Loss Association of America.

In this shot below, Autumn is getting her hearing tested by Leslie. The shot was used to illustrate the feature article, Getting it Right the First Time: Best Hearing Aid Practices by author Brad Ingrao, AuD.

From the small world department: When Autumn and her mother, Virginia, arrived at Leslie’s office, they realized that Leslie had actually been one of Autumn’s audiologists during her hearing loss diagnosis many years ago!

A literary nod: Autumn’s mother, Virginia Johnson, is a librarian at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. She and co-author Barbara Crookshanks wrote Virginia Horse Racing: Triumphs of the Turf, published by The History Press in 2008 and reprinted in 2011. Read more about their book here and order it on Amazon here.





Mandy Harvey: Musically Inclined

14 01 2012

Mandy Harvey, a jazz vocalist and songwriter from northern Colorado, was one of the feature articles in the January/February 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met and photographed Mandy at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI, host to HLAA’s Convention 2010. Mandy was the guest entertainer at Friday night’s Rumble event at the Museum.

Barbara Kelley, editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine and deputy executive director of HLAA, interviewed Mandy for this issue of the magazine. Learn more about Mandy here and listen to her music and buy CDs here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Mandy showed an early talent for singing, but also had infrequent periods of hearing loss. At age ten, her family moved to Colorado. Her vocal talent blossomed and she won numerous school awards, notably Top Female Vocalist of 2006 as a high school senior.

After high school, Mandy went to Colorado State University. During her first semester, Mandy noticed she had to move closer to hear recordings. Hearing aids helped at first. Six months later, she had no hearing left. Discouraged, Mandy returned home to take American Sign Language classes and pursue Elementary Education at a local community college.

Once she returned home Mandy decided that she would take a year off from singing, but continued to play the guitar with her father. One day, while searching the Internet, Mandy and her father discovered a song titled Come Home by One Republic. Mandy’s father suggested that she learn the lyrics. Mandy thought this would be impossible but she gave it her best effort, and to her surprise she was able to learn the lyrics. She realized then that she didn’t have to give up singing.

I met Mandy in 2010 in Milwaukee at the HLAA Convention where she sang at one of our events at the Harley-Davidson Museum. HLAA photographer Cindy Dyer photographed her at the Museum before her performance. We were pleased to catch up with her recently to ask her a few questions.

Tell me about your hearing loss.
My hearing loss is due to neurological damage and the last it was tested showed it around 110 dB in both ears.

Do you use any type of assistive technology?
I had hearing aids when I was first losing my hearing, which was around winter 2006 and the beginning of 2007. Once my hearing loss progressed to a specific stage hearing aids didn’t help much. Because of the nerve damage, a cochlear implant was not an option for me. At this point I rely mostly on lip reading and American Sign Language.

Talk about your aspirations to become a music teacher.
I went to Colorado State University in the hopes of becoming a vocal jazz teacher. In all honesty I wouldn’t feel right about giving my professional opinion to students wanting to study voice. If I cannot hear them to give advice or to teach 100 percent, I would end up just getting frustrated and feeling as if I was wasting their money. Instead, I have turned my life to performing jazz as well as working in the medical field.

What about your personal life and family?
I currently live in Denver with my hearing service dog, Annie, and my love, Travis. My family is extremely supportive and they have learned some American Sign Language. My sister, Sammi, is fluent in the language now. It helps a lot to be able to communicate with your loved ones. Travis is currently learning the language for me.

Where is your singing career right now?
My singing career is in a beautiful place right now. As things stand I work a regular 8-5, Monday through Friday, job. The weekend is mine for performing. Having the regular job mixed with weekend work relieves the pressure of having to do a bunch of gigs just to be able to pay the bills. Instead I am able to do gigs that inspire me and that bring joy.

I have two albums, Smile and After You’ve Gone, which are both full of jazz standard, though the latter contains some original work by myself and Mark Sloniker. I am currently saving up to make a Christmas album this year.

Tell me something about yourself you would like people to know; something that would surprise people.
That’s a hard question. I used to be fascinated by insects and toads and non-girly things like that. When I was a child I wanted to travel the world and discover amazing finds on archeological digs.

You have a fascination with the 40s. How has this genre influenced you and your music?
I have been fascinated with the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s my entire life. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Doobie Brothers, and classic jazz. I love everything in those eras from the clothing to the inventions. It truly was a beautiful time in history…seems to have had lots of details that were not as obvious as things are today. Back then, there could be a song about someone’s smile and how it would capture the imagination. I feel music today has lost some of that mystery and has become far too blunt.

What are your favorite songs?
My Funny Valentine, Someone to Watch Over Me, Come Fly with Me, Over the Rainbow, and of course, Smile…this list is never ending. I find passion in the music and it makes you feel something different every time you sing them.

What music don’t you care for?
I love most everything but I am not a huge fan of most Rap or R&B. I will admit I do enjoy a few songs here and there but in general they all tend to feel the same.

Who is your favorite artist and why?
Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Blossom Dearie, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Thelonius Monk, Duke…oh my goodness, my list could go on and on. They are brilliant and the work they have done inspires me every time I think of them.

What one place in the world would you like to visit?
I have always had a dream to live in Scotland. The country has always called my name. My goal is in the next 10 years to have been there for at least three months continuously. If you are there for only a week you cannot understand the culture.

To find some of her recordings, go to YouTube.com and search for Mandy Harvey. You will find several videos, including her rendition of Smile.

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

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, Costco membership, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.





Senthil Srinivasan: Opening Up

15 11 2011

Senthil Srinivasan is our cover feature for the November/December 2011 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met Senthil online after discovering his website, Outerchat, and asked him if he would be interested in being profiled for the magazine. Three years later, he has written an article for the magazine. He flew from Milwaukee to Northern Virginia in mid-September so I could photograph him for the publication.

Since he was a guest in our home during his stay, I got to play tour guide. This was his first visit to the Washington, D.C. area. Immediately after I picked him up at the airport Friday morning, we did what I call “drive-by sightseeing” in downtown D.C. and he even got to see the smallest house in Old Towne Alexandria (shown at right) and possibly the U.S. The house measures just 7 feet wide and 36 feet long—a mere 350 square feet total! Learn more about this tiny house here.

We spent the rest of the afternoon touring Mount Vernon. The next day, Michael, Senthil and I attended the Walk4Hearing kick-off brunch at Clyde’s in D.C., which just happened to be taking place the weekend he was visiting! He had already met some of the HLAA staff at the Milwaukee Convention in 2010, so there were some familiar faces in the room. After a delicious brunch, we did some more “drive-by sightseeing,” with Senthil jumping out at various sites to get some quick snapshots. Some stops included the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Ford’s Theatre, the house where Lincoln died, and the Washington Monument.

Afterward, Senthil, Michael and I had the opportunity to see the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial for the first time. What a sobering but beautiful tribute to the lives lost that day. I will share some of my photos of the memorial in a future post. On Sunday morning, Senthil and I did the cover session by the Potomac River in Old Towne, Alexandria. I did the interior shots in my studio later that evening. On Monday morning, Michael dropped him off in D.C. so tour a few of the Smithsonian museums and do some solo sightseeing for the day before he headed back to Wisconsin in the late afternoon. It was a whirlwind visit and we accomplished quite a bit!

Senthil Srinivasan: Opening Up

The author (36) shares his personal story. Read about his journey to opening up about his hearing loss and finally realizing he is not alone.

I was born with bilateral, mild-to-moderate hearing loss. With the exception of early childhood, I grew up around hearing people. My first four years of school were in special education classes with students with various degrees of hearing loss. In fourth grade, I was integrated into regular classes with hearing students. It was not easy being the only kid with a hearing loss. I started to shy away from other students to avoid teasing and bullying, of which I had my fair share. When I attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee for my degree in graphic design, I focused mainly on studies. My lack of socialization didn’t bother me much. Once I graduated, I shifted my focus to building a career. Then there came a point when I started longing for friends, and even wanted to date someone. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any success. With not having a lot of friends at work or outside, I was looking for an answer. It got to the point where I was starting to hate myself.

My Hearing Loss Journey
My journey started when my parents and sister were vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells tourist area. They were in the Storybook Gardens, and an angel asked my sister for a wish. She wanted a baby brother. My parents were so touched by her wish that they brought me into this world. I was born three weeks ahead of schedule, fully developed but weighing just four-and-a-half pounds. However, I was also born hard of hearing. At the time, newborn infants were not tested for hearing loss, so nobody knew that I had a hearing loss for several years. (Right: Senthil and his sister Sheila)

I was a happy child and everything seemed normal to my parents for a few years. But, when I didn’t talk even at two years old, they became concerned. Others reassured them that some boys develop speech a little later than usual, and so they shouldn’t worry too much. Even so, my parents took me to the Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee for an evaluation.

After a half-day of evaluation, the doctors concluded that I was hyperactive, and at their suggestion, I was enrolled in a special class for young children with developmental needs. As far as I was concerned, I was just happy to go on the little school bus and get all the attention at school. Little did I know that I wasn’t hearing everything; my residual hearing fooled everybody! I used to say ‘oopa’ with much excitement when the school bus came to our house to pick me up, and my parents couldn’t figure out that what I was trying to say was ‘school bus.’

Fortunately, a breakthrough came when I visited India with my family a year later. My uncle took me to an excellent ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist and had him test me. The ENT just played with me, asked me questions, and mostly observed my responses. After his evaluation, he told my family that he strongly believed I had a hearing loss and recommended that we see an audiologist when we returned to the United States. Sure enough, proper auditory testing revealed that I had a bilateral, mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Right away, I was fitted with hearing aids. My mother told me that my face lit up the first time I wore them. She had never seen that look on my face and was happy to see such a big smile. I felt fortunate to hear many of the sounds a person with normal hearing would hear.

Education Challenges
I was placed in a special program for deaf and hard of hearing children at Lowell Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin. By then, I had lost about four years of hearing and language development, and was playing catch-up with my peers. The teachers at Lowell School were wonderful and I was just happy to finally hear and understand everything.

Every morning I would arrive early at school, put on a box with a transmitter and receiver, and then play with the school-supplied building blocks. The memory is so vivid that I can still see the sun rising as I stacked the blocks as high as possible before watching them come tumbling down. It was a special moment in my life as I began my journey in the hearing loss world. I believe this memory is the perfect metaphor for how hard I’ve been working to stand tall and never give up, even when it seems everything is tumbling down around me.

My years at Lowell Elementary School were the best times of my childhood. Thinking back, I suspect it was because I was with other deaf and hard of hearing students, and there was no one to make fun of me. Outside of school, not too many people knew that I had a hearing loss since my mom kept my hair long on the sides to cover my hearing aids. For many years after that I continued to hide my hearing loss but later I changed my hairstyle to be shorter. Looking at my old pictures, I ask myself, What was I thinking?!

When I reached fourth grade, the special education board decided that I was ready to join regular school with a few sessions of speech therapy. Since our house was closer to a different elementary and middle school, I had to leave all my friends and start over in the new school with hearing students. Making friends became much more challenging, and I kept most of my problems to myself, rarely going to my teachers or parents about them. I think this molded my adult life.

Some of my experiences at middle school, high school, and college included:

• On orientation day with the regular class, a teacher accompanied me in a group of hearing kids. I remember feeling anxious and nearly passing out, but I didn’t tell anyone about the incident, not even my parents.

• When I started middle school, one of my classmates asked me to sit with him during lunch. He was sitting at a cool table with popular kids. However, when I joined the group, the girls at the table gave me that look as if I didn’t belong there. Seeing their faces made me feel like an outsider, and I never sat at that table again.

• I took a band class in middle school because I loved playing drums. My drum teacher was very supportive of me, but other drummers used to tease me a lot during the class. If I messed up, they would giggle among themselves. I remember that a red-headed girl, who was the only girl playing the drums, would always pretend to like me by flirting and making facial expressions. When I moved away, the others would laugh with her. Eventually I dropped out of band just to avoid being teased.

• During high school, I became extremely shy and avoided any attempt at making friends. I was afraid of being teased and hurt even more. I spent most Friday nights with my parents rather than going to parties or other social outings.

• My days at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee were fine since I was dealing with more mature students, and I had a lot of support from the University. I didn’t have much time to think of anything except studying hard and getting a good job. I graduated with a high GPA and even got a full-time job before my graduation! As I said earlier, my primary goal in college and in my career was work, not friends and fun—although I had to work much harder than hearing people to compete in the workforce.

As a result of these experiences, I had trouble socializing in my adult life, and ran into several communication barriers when it came to meeting people and making friends. Although I can hear almost everything with my hearing aids, I still struggle to understand what everyone is saying, especially with background noise. There were times when people would talk to me using their low voices and I would nod along, even though I couldn’t catch all the words. And it was frustrating to constantly ask people to repeat themselves.

Seeking and Getting Help Lifting the Communication Barriers
When I attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UMW) in the late 1990s, I was eligible to receive DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) funding. They helped cover the cost for hearing aids, tuition, and services provided at UMW. I found UWM’s services beneficial, especially note takers—students who UWM hired to take notes during lectures for me. Even with my hearing aids, sometimes I struggled to take notes while listening to professors, and note takers helped me keep up with the classes. I also knew some deaf and hard of hearing students who used sign language interpreters. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’m sure even more services are being offered in schools today thanks to advances in technology and expertise. I accomplished a lot more in my life than my parents ever imagined. My mother told me that she doubted I would ever learn to speak or understand people. She even thought I might not get to graduate from college someday. Fortunately, hearing aids, speech therapy, and hard work have gotten me to where I am today. As the school years went on, I got out of the special education classes and became fully mainstreamed into classrooms with hearing students. I graduated from college and secured a full-time job as a web designer.

I was not happy with the way I looked back in high school and college, and I have come to realize that the hearing aids were a major reason why I was and still am so isolated from the outside world. There were also other reasons that played a big role, such as my shyness and not having an outgoing personality. Rather than analyzing the past each and every day, I have decided to open up and share my life experiences and the path that led me to where I am today.

Reaching Out to Others Through Blogs
In 2008, I started an online forum as a way of getting out of my shell and reaching out to others. From that day, my life started to change. My first posting explained my reason for starting the blog: to express my thoughts, feelings, and tell stories about my hearing loss, with hopes of creating an interactive forum to benefit everyone. I learned more about how the Internet-driven world, especially social networks, could be used to connect people with hearing loss. When I created a group in Facebook including a link to my website, it attracted more members to DeafandHOH.com and encouraged them to share their experiences and struggles.

I was so excited, I started two more websites: one for blogs (www.OuterChat.com) and one for a hearing loss forum (www.OuterDialog.com). I wrote more than 100 posts, and it became the journey of my life! It felt good to let out my feelings after all these years. After reading other people’s responses to my postings, I learned that I wasn’t the only one in this world struggling with hearing loss. As the discussions grew in the forum, people started asking for places where they could meet and chat with others. I began Open Chat Night. Some inspiring moments from the chat:

• A 10-year-old girl, accompanied by her mother, needed to vent her feelings for not having friends at school. That really touched my heart and reminded me of how I felt in school. Listening to other people who had gone through similar experiences helped her to feel not so alone, and she realized that she didn’t have to let these setbacks limit her.

• A young man from Iowa who couldn’t afford a computer would make trips to the local library, using their computers to talk with the other Open Chat Night members until closing time,

• A deaf teenage girl from Canada with cerebral palsy comes regularly to our sessions. The chat means the world to her; she tries not to miss a single session and always informs us if she can’t make it.

• One time a person from Egypt came to the chat in spite of the time difference!

I truly had no idea when I started this venture that it would have such a positive impact on so many lives! I have about 300 subscribers and the Facebook group is slowly expanding with more members as well. I have taken steps to actively get involved in the community, such as the Milwaukee Walk4Hearing and the HLAA Chapter meetings in the Milwaukee/Racine area. I am also getting tremendous support from a few people at work, when before I would not have allowed myself to make any friends there. (Above: Sentil with his family at a wedding in New York this past September. Left to right: nephew Nathan, father Nallaswamy, mother Lakshmi, niece Anika, sister Sheila and her husband Mike.)

At some point, most of us have allowed hearing loss to become a roadblock to enjoying life to the fullest. One of the most important roadblocks is communication. Communication is a crucial part of our daily lives and it can affect relationships with family and friends. It can affect your communication skills with co-workers on the job, and even your grades. I am sure many of us with hearing loss have dealt with at least one of these communication roadblocks, each of which leads to endless problems for the present and future. We have to keep finding ways to integrate solutions to these barriers. The use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, captioning, and loop systems help us to become a part of society where we can more easily communicate with others.

I am always saddened and surprised to hear about people who have gone through so many years of dealing with hearing loss without using the technology that would change their entire life instantly. We need to advocate more strongly for the supply of technological information to these people.

The Journey Continues
Using the Internet really helped me to open up, share my experiences, and reach out to others. I am slowly becoming more social and getting out of the house more than ever before. Rather than curling up in a ball and quitting, I will continue to reach out to people. It makes me feel good about myself to contribute and help others. Over the past several years, I’ve learned that I’m not the only person in this world facing these challenges. That’s what I want everyone to realize when they join this community; they’ve become a part of a group where everyone cares about you and will support who you are. Just remember—you’re not alone.

Giving up is not part of my vocabulary. I have learned that you must like yourself for other people to like you, so I will continue to move forward with my goals and stay positive about myself. I know good things and people are all around me. I can’t wait to experience whatever comes next!

Senthil Srinivasan lives in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and for the past six years has worked as a web designer for PowerSports Network in Sussex, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. You can read his blog at OuterChat.com.





Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms

2 07 2011

Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms was one of the exhibitors at the annual Hearing Loss Association of America Convention, held last month in nearby Crystal City, Virginia.

HAYLEIGH’S ROCKY START
Before Hayleigh Scott was born, a sonogram revealed that she had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which displaced her organs. Her parents, Rachel and Andrew, were given options to terminate one baby, in-utero surgery, or to just “watch and wait.” They opted for the latter, with much prayer and support from family and friends. Her twin, Vienna, was healthy at birth; Hayleigh was not. She was in the ICU for two and half months and had to be quarantined for the first two years of her life. They noticed her hearing loss when she was 18 months old. She was diagnosed with severe-to-profound hearing loss and has been wearing hearing aids (and decorating them!) ever since.

AN ENTREPRENEUR IS BORN
When Hayleigh was five, she decided she wanted to show off her hearing aids with some “bling.” She started drawing sketches with her sisters and a few years later, their mom helped them make the designs into jewelry. With the help of her mother, father, twin sister Vienna and younger sister Sarah, Hayleigh turned this kitchen table venture into a full-fledged business, Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms. She encourages her customers to celebrate their uniqueness by embellishing their hearing aids and cochlear implants and not trying to hide them.

She and her two sisters make all the jewelry, which includes more than 50 hearing aid charms (see sample at left). They also create cochlear implant bling, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Their newest creations are colorful and fun Tube Twists (shown at right) and Snake Tube Twists. And they’re not just for girly girls (and big girls)—they create charms for boys and tomboys, too! The charms are reasonably priced—from $10 to $25—and shipping on all orders is free in the U.S. and international shipping is just $5. Hayleigh is committed to giving back to the community she serves—ten percent of all proceeds are donated to furthering hearing research and education of the hard of hearing and deaf community.

A PASSION FOR BUSINESS
Her parents then applied for a provisional patent for her invention. A three-year process, this meant she couldn’t wear the charms, promote them or advertise them during that time. Now that’s what I call an extremely patient entrepreneur. Hayleigh and her sisters are so engaging and lively, and their enthusiasm for their products and their business is contagious! As a self-employed person for more than 20 years, I can relate to their joy and enthusiasm for their passion. Their booth was always busy and Vienna later told me that they did really well in their first time as exhibitors at an HLAA Convention.

Audiologist Douglas Beck conducted an interview last year with Hayleigh and her mother about Hayleigh’s hearing loss and her blossoming business for The American Academy of Audiology website. From that interview, I learned that Hayleigh and Vienna are “mirror twins.” I wasn’t familiar with that term until now. It means they have opposite identical features, like left versus right handedness and their hair parts on opposite sides. Read that interview transcript here. Author Maureen Doty Tomasula wrote about Hayleigh in her article, Sharing Her Special Charm, published in The Hearing Journal in September 2009.

SHARING A COMMON BOND
Hayleigh may not know this, but she shares an honor that I was privileged to receive a few years ago. She is the first place winner in the Student Category of the 2010 Oticon Focus on People Award. Congratulations, Hayleigh! I received first place in the Adult Category in 2008. Hearing Loss Magazine editor Barbara Kelley secretly nominated me for the award. Oticon flew all the winners and a guest to Denver for the ceremony, and I wrote about that amazing experience (thanks again, Barbara!) on my blog here.

To continue in the “six degrees of separation” vein, I met my friend and HLAA member Lynn Rousseau while in Denver at the Oticon Awards event. She was a first place award recipient in the Advocacy Category. We became fast friends and her life story was so interesting that I suggested to Barbara that we profile her in Hearing Loss Magazine. She made her cover feature debut in the May/June 2011 issue, which I wrote about here.

I photographed the entire Scott family (including Hayleigh’s adorable cherub of a brother, AJ) at the end of the Convention. Look for Hayleigh and her family in a future issue of Hearing Loss Magazine!

All photos (except product photos) © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Design Studio: HLAA Convention 2011 and Hearing Loop Conference Program Book

3 06 2011

The HLAA Convention 2011 Program Book is off to print! Included in this program is the 2nd International Hearing Loop Conference information as well. For an advance look at all these two events have to offer, I’ve prepared my final design pdfs for download in the two links below:

HLAA Convention 2011 Program

HLAA Hearing Loop Conference

CALL FOR ENTRIES FOR “SEEN & HEARD”
If you’re coming to Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C., and are interested in appearing in Hearing Loss Magazine‘s new column, “Seen & Heard,” please download and complete the questionnaire in the link below and return to me via e-mail prior to the Convention. Answer as many questions as you can, but keep in mind that we will select our favorite answers from each profile to print. This column is aimed to get to know you, your hearing loss, and fun facts about you.

You will also need to have your professional photo taken to accompany the profile. The photo shoot is tentatively set up for the back of the Exhibit Hall and will be from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, 2011. You can go solo or pose with your spouse/best friend/significant other/family member (who must also complete the questionnaire).

Thank you in advance for your participation! I’d love to get a rough estimate of how many are interested so I can plan my timing during the two-hour photo session.

(Special thanks to Danielle Nicosia, Judy Martin and Tina Fifer for your prompt—and great!—responses)

Download the questionnaire from the link below, fill it out, and return to me at dyerdesign@aol.com

Seen&Heard Questionnaire





Photo assignment: Richard Reed, musician

1 09 2010

I recently returned from a photography assignment in Providence, Rhode Island. I was contracted by Cochlear Americas to photograph Richard Reed, a full-time musician who wears a cochlear implant and is the developer of HOPE Notes, a cochlear implant music appreciation program.

HOPE Notes (from the Cochlear Americas website)
“HOPE Notes is the first of its kind—a program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional Folk, Blues & Country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways. HOPE Notes includes a CD, DVD, and a detailed User Guide including lyrics designed to assist and enrich your use of the program. The DVD incorporates both visual and audio cues while the CD (designed for use on the go) focuses solely on the audio component of the program.”

To learn more about HOPE Notes or to order, contact Cochlear at 1-(800)-523-5798 or check out their website here.

A Life Without Sound
A late-deafened adult, Richard lost his hearing due to an ototoxic antiobiotic he was given to treat peritonitis in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid-30s. His hearing loss progressed from mild to profound over the next two years. Read more about his hearing loss in Rick Massimo‘s insightful article in The Providence Journal here. Carolyn Smaka from AudiologyOnline interviewed Richard in July. It’s an excellent introduction to Reed’s hearing loss as well as the development of HOPE Notes. Check out her interview here.

When I asked Richard what it was like as a full-time musician to not be able to continue in the field, he told me about playing one night after his hearing loss. “While deaf and using useless powerful digital hearing aids, I used to sit in with my brother Tom in various Blues bands or with old friends. I could feel the bass and drums—thought I could hear myself a little. One night in Newport, it became painfully obvious just how little music I could actually hear. During a piano solo, a cord to my amplifier came loose, but I kept right on playing—with no sound coming out!”

After he retired from performing, he worked in his sister Roberta‘s antique store “refinishing and painting warped and wild folk art furniture, which was therapeutic but unfulfilling.” He wore hearing aids during this time, but didn’t pursue the cochlear implant until 2002. Richard wrote, What It Feels Like…to Regain Your Hearing, in a 2007 issue of Esquire magazine here.

Return to Music
After receiving his Nucleus 24 Contour CI in 2002, Richard noticed a significant improvement in his ability to hear and understand speech, but found listening to music frustrating. With patience, practice and the help of his aural therapist, music became a source of joy again. Not long after his CI was activated, he stayed away from playing the piano because to him it sounded out of tune. He had to go back to the basics with scales and eventually made enough progress to start playing with bands again. Learn more about his journey back to the hearing world in the article, Hero Spotlight: Richard Reed, available on Cochlear Americas website here. In that article, he says, “As ironic as it was for a musician to go deaf, I realized, too, how many friends’ conversations revolved around music—what’s new, who’s good, who’s playing where. Losing music was horrible, but the loss of everyday conversation was worse.”

At Long Last—I’m a Band Groupie!
On my assignment for Cochlear Americas a few weekends ago, I was honored and excited to photograph Richard and a few of his fellow musicians at The Music Complex in Pawtucket, R.I.

His brother, Tom Reed, plays bass. At just 13, Tom taught Richard, then 12, his first songs on the organ. Tom plays freelance—backing up various bands from week to week—and teaches private lessons. He plays electric bass in R&B bands, and upright bass for Blues, Jazz and Rockabilly. He recorded some bass parts for Richard’s HOPE Notes project. (Photo, left to right: Mark Cutler, Jack Moore, Tom Reed and Richard Reed)

Drummer Jack Moore, a high school teacher by day, has played with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Roomful of Blues and many others. He currently plays with Robert Graves Leonard’s Slippery Sneakers, a Rhode Island-based Zydeco band.

Acclaimed guitarist and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Mark Cutler‘s latest CD is Red. He has been the lead singer and songwriter for such renown rock bands as The Schemers, The Raindogs, and The Dino Club, and has toured with Warren Zevon, Bob Dylan and many others. The Providence Phoenix recently profiled Mark here. Cutler works in the software business during the week and reserves his very busy weekends for gigs with various ensembles. You’ll find Mark Cutler videos on youtube here. Richard has played many gigs as one of Mark’s sidemen—before going deaf and again post-CI.

Today, Richard plays two to three times a week in New England nightclubs, concerts and recording sessions. When not performing, he travels the world to lecture about his hearing loss experience and “CI music.” He recently returned from Europe, and played squeezebox on two-time Grammy award-winning children’s singer/songwriter Bill Harley‘s newest CD, tentatively titled Songs We Sing. Future travel plans include CI Music Workshops in Salt Lake City in November, Toronto and Orlando in February, then back to the UK in March. Richard is playing with Mark Cutler in a reunion of their old band, The Schemers, in Newport at an autumn festival next month. He says, “this time I’ll hear my piano parts!” When I asked him what inspired him to create HOPE Notes, he said, “it was a way to give CI users simple exercises to learn or relearn some basic songs and tonalities.” He has already starting writing songs for Volume II.

Upcoming Feature in Hearing Loss Magazine
Reed has written an article about his hearing loss and the development of HOPE Notes that will be published in the upcoming November/December 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. Donna Sorkin, Vice President of Consumer Affairs for Cochlear Americas, will contribute sidebars about strategies to appreciate music and another titled, “What the Research Says…and Why it Doesn’t Matter.” Some of the images from my photo session will appear in her feature article. Cochlear Americas manufactures Nucleus cochlear implants and the Baha programmable bone conduction system. My otolaryngologist, Dr. John Niparko of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, says that I am a candidate for the Baha system.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Notes
For the jam session photos, I used the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS)—with three Nikon Speedlights (with color-correcting gels)—an SB-900 fitted with an Alzo Mini Softbox as my main light, an SB-800 on the Nikon D300 as the trigger and an SB-600 on the side with a snoot. For the portraits with the beige background (shot in Richard’s home), I used my Nikon SB-800 Speedlight fitted with a Ray Flash, which replicates the lighting effect produced by more expensive studio ring flash units. It produces a shadowless light on your subject and a soft even shadow around the edges. I was very happy with the results of the ring flash in this session. If you’d like to try this type of lighting, check out the Coco Ring Flash Adapter—at just $49.95 on Amazon, it’s well below the $199 I paid for my Ray Flash a few years ago. (Hmmm….which product came first?—The Coco Ring Flash is an almost exact replicate—but I do agree with many of the online reviewers that, for a non-electronic, purely plastic gadget, the Ray Flash is still overpriced at $199. Having said that, I did buy it and am happy with it. When it first came out, it was listed for $299.99. It’s plastic people, plastic—no electronic parts, no cords, nothing—as one reviewer commented, “they were probably shamed into dropping the price.”). At any rate, whether you splurge on the Ray Flash or spring for the “poor man’s” version (which I was unaware of at the time of my purchase)—the Coco Ring Flash—it’s a really fun gadget to add to your photographic arsenal.

Want to learn more about the Nikon Creative Lighting System? Check out the Nikon School Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting DVD, featuring photographers Bob Krist and Joe McNally. Joe McNally’s book, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, is an excellent resource as well. A lighting workshop with this master is definitely on my to-do checklist! Check out McNally’s excellent blog here and Bob Krist’s elegant website here. And for really comprehensive information on lighting, bookmark David Hobby’s blog, Strobist.

Whew! And finally, special thanks to my photo mentor, Brian Loflin, for his tips, troubleshooting and advice…and to Michael Schwehr for his service as my most excellent photo assistant.

All photos are by Cindy Dyer © 2010 Cochlear, Ltd.







Captioning: a first for the Grand Ole Opry

26 06 2009

One of the events at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention 2009 was a night at the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show that began in 1925. Before the show, several of us were treated to a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, including the back entrance where the artists enter, the mailroom, the green room and historic Studio A—where the music variety show Hee Haw was filmed. At the end of the tour, we got to stand in the background on stage during the first performance by Little Jimmy Dickens and the Opry Square Dancers.

Although we weren’t allowed to shoot photographs during the tour, I saw a photo opportunity tailor-made for HLAA when the Grand Ole Opry’s vice president and general manager, Pete Fisher, was introduced to us by our tour guide, Jamie Hulet. For the first time in its 83-year history, the Grand Ole Opry would be real-time captioned. I saw an opportunity to get a shot with some of the people who got that ball rolling. We were granted permission to shoot, and Fisher called Jimmy Dickens over to join us. The Opry was treating that night’s show as “somewhat of an experiment” and may continue the use of captioning in the future.

Thanks to Karyn Menck of Tennessee Captioning and her team of CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) writers, the HLAA staff, and to the Grand Ole Opry management, we enjoyed the show with real-time captions. Associated Press picked up the story about the captioning and the news spread across the country. Read more about the use of captioning at the Grand Ole Opry and HLAA’s involvement in this article on www.tennessean.com.

On the entertainment roster that night were: Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, bluegrass vocalist Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Allison Krauss with The Whites, Point of Grace, Jim Ed Brown, bluegrass legends Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, John Conlee, singer/songwriter Sammy Johns (who wrote Chevy Van, a hit in 1975), comedian and banjo champ Mike Snider (of Hee Haw fame), and the Opry Square Dancers.

My sister Debbie and I couldn’t get John Conlee’s 1980 hit song, Friday Night Blues, out of our heads after that night! We realized just how old we were when we remembered the words to that song and his 1983 hit, Common Man, which was also written by Sammy Johns.

Here’s a fact I didn’t know—if you’re inducted into the Opry Hall of Fame, you’re paid just $600 for your performance. If you’re not a member, you earn just $300. Clearly these artists do it for the love of the Opry and its history and their love of performing!

Kudos to Nancy Macklin, director of events for HLAA, for putting on a fantastic convention. I could hardly believe it when I learned this was her first time planning a convention—she was organized, professional and less stressed than any convention planner I’ve ever encountered—wonder what her secret is?

I’ll have more stories and photos to share from our evening at the Grand Ole Opry. See photos from our first visit to the Opry in 2008 on my blog posting here.

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Photo, from left: Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA; Pete Fisher, vice president and general manager of the Grand Ole Opry; longtime performer and oldest living Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy Dickens (then and now); and Barbara Kelley, deputy executive director of HLAA and editor of the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine (which I design and produce for the organization). Barbara wrote in a recent press release, “It was fun to be a part of history, satisfying to have communication access, and rewarding to know that the work of our organization and others is paying off. Thanks to the Grand Ole Opry for looking forward. We hope it continues.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

OpryBackstage