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.

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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.

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Last week to see my exhibit at Green Spring Gardens!

18 10 2016

Be sure to sign the guestbook to enter your name in the drawing for a free gallery wrap canvas photograph from my exhibit! I’ll have photos from the reception in the next post.

Garden Muse Exhibit Postcard





Summer inspiration

1 07 2016

Inspired by summer and the beach (Polaroid transfers created from my favorite 35mm Fuji slides)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

WEB Beach Transfers





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





A burst of color on this very gray day…

19 11 2015

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Cindy Dyer Samples





Cloudspotting

11 11 2015

Perhaps it’s the lack of tall buildings to block the view, or maybe the weather patterns are different in the region, but the skies in Texas are just spectacular (and nearly every day they offer up something worth photographing!). I shot a plethora of sky vistas and cloud formations while I was in Texas for my niece’s wedding in October. This one caught my eye in the parking lot outside a Vietnamese restaurant in San Antonio. I immediately saw a face and thought, “Einstein!” I shared the image with my FB friends and the conversation took flight. My favorite response was from my FB friend and fellow blogger, Erik Gauger. He described in detail what he saw and then used his creative skills to bring the figure to life. (FYI, I’ve blogged about Erik’s gorgeous, award-winning photography/narrative/nature/travel website, but in case you missed it, check it out here: http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/)

iPhone 6, processed in Snapseed © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Einstein Cloud webCloud Conversation