Hearing Life: Katherine Pawlowski

21 07 2020
I photographed Katherine Pawlowski for her cover feature in the July/August issue of Hearing Life magazine, a bimonthly publication that I design for the Hearing Loss Association of America (www.hearingloss.org).

Katherine was named the first Walk4Hearing ambassador in 2014, and she and her mother traveled to many Walks to represent children with hearing loss. A few months ago, I visited with Katherine, now 14, to catch up on her life and learn about her continuing advocacy efforts.

I photographed the family in 2014 for a Walk4Hearing cover feature, and was happy to catch up with them again for this feature shoot. Thanks to my friend Michael Powell (see his wonderful blog here), for serving as my trusty assistant, holding the diffuser and reflector during the shoot.

You can read my interview with Katherine here:

HLAA Hearing Life magazine NovDec 2019 1019




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.





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





In the studio: Ann

22 06 2016

Ann Rancourt is the new National Walk4Hearing coordinator for the Hearing Loss Association of America.

I used my Westcott Eyelighter Reflective Panel to add a little twinkle to her eyes and a glow to her skin (she has gorgeous skin to begin with!). I love the results, so I’ll be incorporating it into future portrait sessions. (I am gadget girl after all—so don’t you judge me!)

Good review of this gadget with sample photos: http://fundydesigner.com/tip-westcott-eyelighter-review-for-headshots/

I got mine on sale online but you can save $$$ and build a similar one using this tutorial I found online: http://www.diyphotography.net/build-diy-eyelighter/

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

WEB Ann Rancourt Portraits





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





Cover Shoot: Hearing Loss Magazine

4 03 2016

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

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

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

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

HLM MarchApril 2016 Cover





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





Seen & Heard: Chameen Stratton

7 09 2015

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

Chameen S&H

CHAMEEN STRATTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANY PETS? Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix named Jade

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

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

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

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

I MOST DEFINITELY AM NOT… shy.

HAPPINESS IS… being surrounded by family and friends!

HOBBIES? photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAVORITE COLOR? pink

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

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

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

FAVORITE FOODS… tuna melt sandwiches, chocolate milkshakes and strawberries

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

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

I AM… adventurous, energetic, and sympathetic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Morgan Fairchild

BIGGEST PET PEEVE… people smoking near me and my kids

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

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

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





Seen & Heard: Larry Herbert

8 07 2015

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

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

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

Larry S&H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOUNDS YOU LOVE…beach, blues, and country music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT…two great sons

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





Seen & Heard: Betty Proctor

9 01 2015

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Seen & Heard Betty Proctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… chocolate!

I SIMPLY CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT… chocolate!

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

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

THE BEST THING SLICED BREAD IS… warm sliced bread!

I COLLECT… coffee mugs from every state.

LEARNING NEW THINGS… how to write radio commercials

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

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

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

MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS… my children and grandchildren.

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

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





Hearing Loss Magazine, 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. 





Seen & Heard: Meredith Segal

27 08 2014

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

MeredithSegalS&H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 





Revisited: Richard Reed, musician

1 08 2014

Originally posted 9.01.2010

Back in the summer of 2010, I traveled to Maine for vacation and stopped in Providence, RI en route on assignment to photograph musician Richard Reed for Cochlear Americas. I was really happy with the way the portraits turned out and got some nice shots using my ring light.

A full-time musician who wears a cochlear implant, Reed is the developer of HOPE Notes, a cochlear implant music appreciation program. You can read all about my photography assignment and meet Richard Reed in the blog re-post below:

https://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/photo-assignment-richard-reed-musician/

Richard Reed 3





Seen & Heard: Molly Corum

30 06 2014

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

Like artist Timothy Chambers, who is our cover feature in this same issue, Molly has Usher syndrome, an inherited condition characterized by hearing impairment and progressive vision loss. The vision loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative condition of the retina, and usually appears during adolescence or early adulthood.

Molly S&H

 

 

MOLLY CORUM   Tampa, Florida / Born August 4, 1948, in Tampa

MY HEARING LOSS… I had a high fever when I was a few days old. I was profoundly deaf. I started speech therapy at age three at a local oral-deaf residential school. I was mainstreamed in kindergarten and received my first hearing aid in first grade. School wasn’t easy—my teachers had no training to help a ‘handicapped’ child.

I noticed my vision changing in my mid-30s. I was diagnosed with Usher syndrome in 1988 at age 40. I started using my white cane in 2006. I named it after my late boyfriend and it feels like we are still holding hands. Today I have a small tunnel of vision in my left eye, but the vision in the right eye is gone.

My life improved when I read an Ann Landers column in 1988 that referenced the SHHH Journal. I sent in for a copy, read it, and five seconds later I wrote a check for dues! In 1992 I learned about Foundation Fighting Blindness and attended their convention in Orlando. It was a positive experience.

I experienced a drop in my hearing in 1993 and learned I was a candidate for a cochlear implant. I attended my first HLAA Convention in 1994. For someone with hearing loss, it was the perfect place to be—captions everywhere! The vendors, volunteers and staff were all very understanding. I received my first cochlear implant in 1995 and went bilateral in 2006. Now I’m surrounded by a beautiful symphony of sounds!

I am encouraged because a lot has happened in the medical field since I was diagnosed with Usher syndrome. More genes have been identified and there are more trials and positive research. I am an avid advocate and participate in the Walk4Hearing and VisionWalk.

SAGE ADVICE… I was born in 1948. We never discussed disabilities in those days. With 48 million people having some degree of hearing loss, you are not alone. Research is easier with computers. Meet others with hearing loss, learn how they cope, and find out what services and products are available. Help us to advocate. Your hearing loss might be stable. Some hearing folks have had sudden deafness and became candidates for cochlear implants.

WHEN I WAS LITTLE, I WANTED TO BE… a speech teacher. In 1970 I volunteered with my speech teacher, Mrs. Denney Bolesta of Tampa. Two of the students are now my Facebook friends.

THE FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a movie ticket. I then understood my dad’s quote, “Do you know how long it took me to make this much?”

PETS? I had a few pets growing up. From 1962–67, I showed American Saddlebred Horses in Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. I loved the competition, made lots of friends and loved the parties. I also won a few blue ribbons.

I LOVE THE SOUND OF… classical music, happy conversation, squawking seagulls, the wind and the waves at the beach, babbling brooks (just as long as it is not dripping water in my condo!). After my cochlear implant, I was microwaving a small pizza. I opened the door and heard
the amazing sound of cheese bubbling.

MUSICALLY INCLINED? I once asked my mom if I could hear better, could I carry a tune? She said my dad could hear and he could not carry a tune. That made me feel so much better.

IN MY SPARE TIME, I… will talk your ear off about my fabulous cochlear implants, Hearing Loss Association of America, Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB), Walk4Hearing, and VisionWalk. FFB has their newsletter and they share on Facebook the updated medical trials and research. I believe that in my lifetime we will have a cure for blindness.

BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD… Cochlear implants. I have two and they are my diamonds!

MY FRIENDS WOULD SAY I AM… Sassy. I say thank you.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME… I am a fifth generation Floridian.

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… I worked at the Tampa Public Library for two years, the Tribune Times library for two years and for Hillsborough County Property Appraiser for 11 years.

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1958. I still have a picture of us together. I was a scrawny kid. I met her again in 1991 and asked for a re-take! I met Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995, at the HLAA Convention in Atlanta in 2003. In Savannah, Georgia, in 1973 I was in a hotel elevator with my mom and saw Van Cliburn, the concert pianist. I’ve also met April Lufriu of Tampa. She became Mrs. Florida, Mrs. America, then Mrs. World.

LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT ME… I enjoyed my ballet lessons and I was good! I know the basics of water skiing and snow skiing and love the speed. The surgeon who did my first cochlear implant surgery taught me how to water ski in ninth grade. And finally, I am good at whacking my white cane—I am like the Red Sea—people jump out of my way!

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET… Dr. Samuel Nunez. Through genealogy research I have learned about my new Jewish heritage. I am a descendant of Dr. Samuel Nunez of Portugal (1668–1744), the first Jewish person to step foot in Savannah on July 11, 1733. The original colonist’s only doctor had died and Dr. Nunez was a great help. His great-great-grandson was Uriah Phillips Levy (1792-1862), the first Jewish Commodore of the U.S. Navy. Uriah was a great admirer of President Thomas Jefferson. He purchased and restored Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE… In 2000, I had to take my dad’s car away from him because he was in the early stages of dementia. I could not have done this without my wonderful brother. I stopped driving in 1996.

IF I RULED THE WORLD… children would be required to read more books and to memorize English grammar rules. I think texting is ruining kids’ writing skills.

Hearing Loss Magazine is a very professional magazine that highlights personal stories of people with hearing loss.

 





Timothy Chambers: Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome

29 06 2014

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

Timothy cover

 

Living a Creative Life with Usher Syndrome 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Paintings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





The Pawlowski family

13 05 2014

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

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MayJune2014cover

 





Seen & Heard: Jane Seifert

12 03 2014

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

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America! Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Sign up for membership here.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Jane Seifert S&H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I AM…  inquiring, hopeful and adaptable.

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

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

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

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