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.”
 





Seen & Heard: Cindy R. Jagger

10 01 2017

Cindy Jagger is our Seen & Heard profile in the January/February 2017 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met and photographed Cindy at HLAA Convention 2016 in Washington, D.C. this past June. Cindy is a member of the HLAA Diablo Valley Chapter in Walnut Creek, CA.

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-cindy-jagger

CINDY R. JAGGER

Suisun City, CA / Born January 16, 1948 in Washington, D.C.

DO YOU BELONG TO A CHAPTER? Yes, the HLAA Diablo Valley Chapter in Walnut Creek, California. HLAA is a passion of mine and I enjoy helping other people with hearing loss. I’ve been a chapter leader for the past 29 years and I have held many positions, including secretary, vice president, and president of the Diablo Valley Chapter. I also started a chapter in Solano County and served as the northern California state chapter coordinator for 11 years.

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT HLAA? I got a flyer at work to attend a workshop with Sam Trychin, Ph.D., about how to cope with hearing loss. It was at the workshop I found out about HLAA. I joined in 1987, when it was called SHHH.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT HLAA CONVENTIONS? I like meeting people from all walks of life and remembering that people are not alone with their hearing loss.

MY HEARING LOSS… was discovered when I was three years old. I am not sure what caused it but the theory is that it was from a high fever I developed when I was six months old. I started wearing hearing aids when I was six and wore them for 43 years. I got my first cochlear implant (CI) in 1999 and second in 2008. My CIs are the most miraculous gift I have received to enhance my life!

FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT…  After receiving my first cochlear implant, I was in a small meeting room alone and kept hearing “tick-tick-tick.” My first thought was that maybe there is a bomb under the table. When someone who was hearing arrived in the room, I asked what that “tick-tick-tick” sound was. “Oh, that is the clock on the wall,” said my friend.

MY FAVORITE LAZY DAY IS… reading a book on a rainy day. I also enjoy researching genealogy and doing crafts.

MY BEST ROAD TRIP EVER WAS… to Arizona in our new car and seeing three days of major league baseball spring training.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS… earning my associates degree and continuing my education at a state college.

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT I…  am the first CI recipient to climb the bridge at Sydney Harbor in Sydney, Australia.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS… dancing.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR…  sweets.

I HAVE A FEAR OF…  being stuck in a crowded elevator (it has happened twice!)

I COLLECT… angels and bears.

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS?  Red Skelton, Nelson Rockefeller, Heather Whitestone

THE MOST RECENT SKILL I HAVE ACQUIRED IS…  interior design.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF…  ocean waves, rain drops, and music.

YOU JUST WON A $10 MILLION LOTTERY. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? I give a gift to HLAA, pay bills, invest, remodel my house, and then travel the world.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED…  California, Japan, Maryland, Virginia, and Rhode Island

FIVE JOBS I HAVE HAD…  Third party collections (medical insurance for the Department of Defense), medical claims adjuster at an insurance company, travel voucher clerk, human resources clerk for a major contractor and engineering firm, and dance school teacher

I AM…  easygoing, loving, and positive.

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM…  fun, brave, and creative.

KINDEST THING ANYONE HAS DONE FOR ME… My husband, Jim, was so caring and loving during my cancer journey.

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as an intellectual and loving person who had a thirst for knowledge and enjoyed life.

I love articles regarding new studies and new technologies regarding hearing loss in Hearing Loss Magazine.





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.

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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.

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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.

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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.





Seen & Heard: Mike Gannon

6 09 2016

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

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Mike Gannon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… being a relentless questioner.

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

I AM… unrelenting, introspective and purposeful.

MY FRIENDS SAY I AM… the energizer bunny!

I REALLY SHOULD STOP… listening to my inner critic.

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

WORDS I OVERUSE… drop down and give me 20

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

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

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

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

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





Seen & Heard: Brenda Schmidt

6 09 2016

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

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

S&H Brenda Schmidt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… Cheetos.

I COLLECT… dust bunnies.

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

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

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

I AM… positive, cheerful, and optimistic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 





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.





Shilo & Scout

8 07 2016

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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

WEB lorez Shilo Scout





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





HLM Cover Feature: Carmen Iraida Franceschi

8 05 2016

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

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM MayJune 2016 Cover Small.jpg

Iraida Spread lorez

 

Carmen “Iraida” Franceschi: The Power of Perseverance

Interview by Cindy Dyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HLM: What was it like wearing hearing aids?

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

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

HLM: Did your hearing loss affect your schoolwork?

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

HLM: What did you study in college?

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

HLM: Was that because the hearing loss was progressing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HLM: Tell me about your experience with cochlear implants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HLM: How is your hearing in noisy social situations?

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

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

HLM: Tell me about your family.

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

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

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

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

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

HLM: What are your favorite sounds? Least favorite?

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

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

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

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

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

__________________________________

FAMILY PERSPECTIVES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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





Seen & Heard: Doris & Guy McCloskey

8 02 2016

Doris & Guy McCloskey are our Seen & Heard profiles in the January/February 2016 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I photographed them at Convention 2014 in Austin, TX.

Doris Guy Single Small

Doris and Guy have a lot in common, one being hearing loss. They both joined HLAA in 2011 and are members of the HLAA Lincoln Park Chapter in Chicago. Doris says about the chapter, “I‘m always encouraged meeting others who have overcome the hearing challenges I’m currently encountering.”

They enjoy attending the HLAA Convention. Doris says she appreciates the informative talks and the camaraderie of all the wonderful people they meet. Guy likes the Exhibit Hall and seeing all the new technology.

DORIS MCCLOSKEY

MY HEARING LOSS… I was born with Ménière’s disease, but it wasn’t detected until late in life because I was able to pass the hearing tests given in elementary school. If I was seated at the front of the class, I did well, but if seated at the back I was labeled a ‘slow learner.’ Most people with Ménière’s have it on one side of their family and in one ear. It’s on both sides of my family and in both ears. My hearing loss became noticeable in mid-life. I’ve worn hearing aids for 20 years and received a cochlear implant in 2012.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS…
Get through the denial stage as soon as possible. I think we all go through it. Hearing aids are improving all the time and with hearing assistive technology, there’s something out there for everyone.

A FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… Most people don’t know I have hearing loss. I was giving a presentation and I talked about my hearing loss. Afterward, a colleague said,
‘All these years you’ve had a hearing loss? I thought you were just stuck up.’

DISADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… The tendency to withdraw from family and friends

ADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… I don’t have to be bothered by crying babies on airplanes.

WHEN I GREW UP I WANTED TO BE… I still haven’t figured that out.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Laughing with my mom. It lasted throughout our lives together. I still chuckle about many of those moments.

PETS? Not now, but we’ve had many—dogs and cats, birds, fish, turtles, hamsters and a lot of dried up salamanders that escaped their habitats.

IF YOU COULD SIT NEXT TO SOMEONE ON AN AIRPLANE WHO WOULD IT BE?
My husband

HARDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE? Survive the loss of our son

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… rain on the windowpane.

IN MY SPARE TIME… Spare time? Someone has spare time?

HAPPINESS IS… leading a contributive life and seeing others smile, even people I don’t know.

HOBBIES? Creating stained glass windows and tabletops

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? My mentor in life, Daisaku Ikeda

FAVORITE PLACE TO BE… Out in my community, especially with my husband and friends.

I COLLECT… Well, I wouldn’t say I collect them, but because so many friends know
I love Paris, I have an embarrassing collection of Eiffel Towers.

IF I RULED THE WORLD… there would be peace, not simply the absence of war.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Los Angeles; Guadalajara, Mexico; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Santa Monica, California

FIVE FAVORITE BOOKS… The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, Leaves of Grass, Scaramouch, Round Ireland with a Frig, The Butterfly and the Bulldozer

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… a good listener.

MY KIDS TAUGHT ME… about life.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to be confident and ask for what I want.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to be independent.

GET ANYTHING GOOD IN THE MAIL LATELY? A new MED-EL case for my cochlear implant remote, complimentary

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… My cochlear implant and hearing assistive technology

WORD I OVERUSE… FABULOUS!

MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL? Morning person—I love to see the sun rise

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… put my foot in my mouth.

SOMETHING IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU ARE SURE MOST PEOPLE DON’T… A Buddhist altar

THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS… My wedding ring, my mother-in-law’s wedding ring, my home

LEARNING ANYTHING NEW? To truly cook for only two people

FAVORITE QUOTE… “Life itself is the proper binge.” (Julia Child)

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Yes, many, starting with President Eisenhower.

LONG-TERM GOAL… to live a healthy long, contributive life

SHORT TERM GOALS… going paperless and getting rid of anything I don’t use or wear on a regular basis

BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… duplicity

RIGHT NOW I AM CRAVING… good weather for a long walk.

THE KINDEST THING ANYONE HAS DONE FOR YOU… introduce me to the self-empowering practice of Nichiren Buddhism

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? A happy marriage of 44 years

______________________________________

GUY MCCLOSKEY

BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN HLAA MEMBER… Sharing the hearing loss experience with others

MY HEARING LOSS… It started with my wife, but now I have moderate-to-severe hearing loss and tinnitus from my military service.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Don’t deny it! There are wonderful hearing assistive devices that help tremendously.

DISADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… isolation—not only socially and business-wise, but with family and friends

ADVANTAGES OF A HEARING LOSS… Sensitivity to others with similar losses

IF YOU COULD SIT NEXT TO SOMEONE ON AN AIRPLANE WHO WOULD IT BE? My wife

HARDEST THING YOU’VE EVER DONE? Go on after the death of our son

HAPPINESS IS… the conviction that I can advance, even late in life.

SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Japanese, French, American
Sign Language, and some Spanish, German and Italian

WHO HAS HAD THE MOST INFLUENCE IN YOUR LIFE? Daisaku Ikeda, my Buddhist mentor

PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED THAT… I am romantic. Doris doesn’t want me to tell anyone.

IF I RULED THE WORLD… people would respect their own lives and those of others.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Akron; Toledo; Detroit; Chicago; Los Angeles and D.C.

JOBS I’VE HAD… U.S. Army, Soka Gakkai International-USA

LAST BOOK I READ… L’Etranger by Albert Camus

I AM… true to myself, true to others, and consistent.

MY KIDS TAUGHT ME… that I’m not their boss.

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME… to love unreservedly.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME… to survive.

I HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO… recognize the truth in others.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… human interactions.

SOMETHING IN YOUR HOME THAT YOU’RE SURE PEOPLE DON’T HAVE…
The Gohonzon, Buddhist object of devotion

FAVORITE QUOTE… “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day that thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee! (Hamlet, I, iii)

HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED? For having contributed to the well-being of others

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? Developing human relationships





Fred & Honey in Hearing Loss Magazine

9 11 2015

My dear friend Fred and his beloved Honey made an appearance in the November/December 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Fred & Honey Spread





Re-post: Celebrate Home Magazine, Fall Issue

14 10 2015

In 2012, Barbara Kelley and I launched Celebrate Home Magazine, a quarterly lifestyle publication. Visit our website at www.celebratehomemagazine.com. We published four issues (fall 2012, winter 2013, spring 2013 and summer 2013).

Click the link below to download a two-page spread pdf of the magazine:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Spreads

Click the link below to download a pdf designed for single page printing:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Pages

Want to order a print copy of Celebrate Home Magazine? Click here, then sign up for a free magcloud.com account. You can download the FREE pdf or purchase a print copy on this link.





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: Dave and Carrie Welter

29 05 2015

Dave and Carrie Welter are profiled in the Seen & Heard column of the May/June 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I photographed Dave and Carrie in Austin at Convention 2014.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Dave&Carrie

DAVE WELTER   Augusta, Georgia / Born August 7, 1936 in Lorain, Ohio

MY HEARING LOSS…I don’t have a significant hearing loss.

I FOUND OUT ABOUT HLAA…from my wife, Carrie.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS…Join a chapter of HLAA and learn all you can learn.

DISADVANTAGES OF HEARING LOSS…it separates you from the real world.

ADVANTAGES OF HEARING LOSS…You don’t have to sit through boring lectures.

BEST THING ABOUT HLAA…information available on the website

I LIKE BEING INVOLVED IN AN HLAA CHAPTER BECAUSE…I am able to help people with hearing loss communicate better.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY…driving a 1935 John Deere tractor when I was five

THE BEST GIFT…my wife

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS…a college education.

THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE WAS…say good-bye to my 16-year-old brother when he died.

HOBBIES…wood-turning, fishing, vehicle restoration, historical preservation, etc.

MY LITTLE KNOWN TALENT IS…turning wood trash into treasures.

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR…playing the piano.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR…good beer.

I COLLECT…wood stumps, burls, walnut, cherry and any other beautiful wood.

IF I HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER, I WOULD…become more focused on my family.

YOU’VE WON A $1,000 SHOPPING SPREE TO A FAVORITE STORE…I would go to Highland Woodworking in Atlanta and buy woodworking tools.

FIVE JOBS I’VE HAD…mix mud for a plasterer, dig ditches for a plumber, lay brick, cut trees, and professor of cellular biology and anatomy

MY FRIENDS SAY I AM…can’t divulge that

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD…my one-way wood lathe

I HAVE A FEAR OF…not getting my chores done.

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS?…President Eisenhower

MY LONG-TERM GOAL IS…to live to 114.

I’M CRAVING…a Red Bull.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT?…taught a lot of students human anatomy

_________________________________________

CARRIE WELTER

Augusta, Georgia / Born August 21, 1942 in Statesboro (Bulloch County) Georgia

MY HEARING LOSS…I inherited it from my father. When I was in the fourth grade a hearing test revealed a mild hearing loss, although I probably had it from birth. In my mid-thirties I got my first hearing aids and now have bilateral cochlear implants.

I FOUND OUT ABOUT HLAA…I got a notice about a chapter meeting in nearby Aiken, South Carolina, with Pat Pennington as the organizer. I truly found my place.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS…Acknowledge it, accept it, join HLAA and do all you can to communicate with others.

DISADVANTAGES OF HEARING LOSS…misunderstandings, loss of communication

ADVANTAGES OF HEARING LOSS…selective hearing—great excuse!

BEST THING ABOUT HLAA…meeting others with hearing loss and their families and friends

I LIKE BEING INVOLVED IN AN HLAA CHAPTER BECAUSE…I can help people with hearing loss at the local level, one-on-one.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY…happy family gatherings eating boiled peanuts, drinking Coca-Cola® in the hot summer, swimming in the river and eating fried chicken on our river picnics

MY FIRST MEMORY OF BEING REALLY EXCITED WAS…learning to swim at the river at age four.

THE BEST GIFT…my cochlear implants

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS…a 1963 Comet.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF…birds, which I can now hear with my cochlear implants.

IN MY SPARE TIME…I never seem to have any

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT…an artist.

HOBBIES…scrapbooking, gardening and hiking

I WISH I HAD A TALENT FOR…playing the piano.

FAVORITE PLACE TO BE…the mountains with their splendor

FIVE PLACES I’VE LIVED…just Georgia

FIVE JOBS I’VE HAD…Christmas wrapper, 45-rpm vinyl record salesperson, library clerk, English teacher and school media specialist

MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME…about God.

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME…to be honest.

GET ANYTHING GOOD IN THE MAIL LATELY?…Hearing Loss Magazine

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD…my cochlear implants

I HAVE A FEAR OF…the unknown.

I REALLY SHOULD…stop and smell the roses.

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT…my Dave.

THREE FAVORITE POSSESSIONS…my sight, my hearing, and my mind

MY MOTTO IS…serve others.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT? learning that I am not defined by my hearing loss—my hearing loss has made me stronger





Elise and Jackie

8 05 2015

The lovely Elise Williams and Jackie grace the cover of the May/June 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine! I photographed Elise and her family (father James, mother Irma, sister Tess and brother-in-law Chris) in San Antonio, TX earlier this year.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM MayJune 2015 Cover





On Assignment: HLM March/April 2015 cover shoot

6 03 2015

Cover “models” Bill, Debbie, Lauren, Chris and Chase grace the March/April 2015 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. They were photographed at the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio, TX.

This year’s HLAA Convention will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, at the beautiful St. Louis Union Station, a Doubletree by Hilton Hotel (hence our “All Aboard” cover for this issue!).

In a merely coincidental nod to the host convention state, they were photographed on former Missouri Pacific caboose 13083, one of the last cabooses ever built. It dates from the 1980s, not long before the use of cabooses was discontinued. When the museum acquired the caboose around 1990, it was a burnt out hulk, and has since undergone a radical transformation to passenger service, with both interior and exterior seating.

My “models” were instructed to “pack your bags, wear something really summery, wave and smile, and just pretend it’s the end of hot-hot-hot June and not 45 degrees in January!” Ah, such is the life of a model…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

TalbertCover

Train People Interior





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, January/February 2015 issue

8 01 2015

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

JanFeb 2015 cover





Hearing Loss Magazine: 2014 Recap

6 01 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Seen & Heard: Candace Meinders

6 01 2015

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

S&H Candace Meinders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE BOOKS… anything written by Joyce Meyer

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

I AM… honest, quiet and strong willed.

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

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

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

MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE IS… people smoking around me.

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

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

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

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

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… ice cream.

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

GREATEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… cochlear implants

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

I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… as a Christ follower.

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

 





The Intrepid Alice Marie Stone

3 11 2014

In the November/December 2014 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine (published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America—HLAA), Barbara Kelley profiles Alice Marie (Ahme) Stone, wife of Rocky Stone, who founded HLAA (then known as SHHH, Self Help for the Hard of Hearing) 35 years ago. I photographed Ahme at her home in Bethesda a few months ago. I learned lots of things I didn’t know about her, Rocky, his career with the CIA and family life on the road. It’s a really fascinating read!

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

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Ahme Stone Cover

The Intrepid Alice Marie Stone
by Barbara Kelley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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