In the studio with Michael Powell (in action!)

9 07 2021

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

When Michael P. and I were doing our fun portrait session last month in our shared studio, we decided to “loosen up” and get some silly shots. We were trying to decide how to show up the shoes (especially the soles) and not just by him sitting down. So the ever-energetic Michael came up with jumping and I must say I tired him out after about 20 shots! I told him to pretend he was a Rockette dancer and he should be very proud that he can kick his leg up THAT high at 66 years old (and in a suit, no less)! We knew the background wouldn’t hold his tall frame (especially when jumping that high), so we decided to share these anyway—consider them behind-the-scenes studio shots! Also, I’m not known for action shots, so there will be a technical learning curve if I pursue this type of portraiture…but we sure had fun creating the silly ones. Now if we could only build a cyclorama in the studio…..




In the studio with Michael Powell

25 06 2021
In the studio with Michael #ConversePride
Michael P says: I am celebrating Pride Month 2021 with sole. T-shirt from the Converse 2021 Pride Collection, hightop Converse All-star Sneakers 2020 Pride Edition, and white Levi’s 501 jeans.
Michael is an accomplished nature/wildlife photographer as well as a gifted storyteller. Check out his blog here: https://michaelqpowell.com/




In the studio with Michael Powell

22 06 2021

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





In the studio: Michael Powell

2 01 2021

Having fun with my studio partner, Michael Powell—shooting with the mirrorless Nikon Z50 and the 16-50mm kit lens (and a fun, inexpensive (less than $20!) paint splatter background I ordered from Amazon). You can see Michael’s gorgeous nature photography on his blog here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





In the studio: Barbara Kelley (installment #3)

16 12 2020

Model: Barbara Kelley, Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. (Nikon D850, Nikkor 85mm lens)





In the studio: Barbara Kelley (installment #2)

16 12 2020

Model: Barbara Kelley, Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. (Nikon D850, Nikkor 85mm lens)

 

 





In the studio: Monica

26 02 2019

Just finished a really fun photo session with Monica. She works at an Apple store and when I saw her the first time, she had her hair pulled back and I thought to myself, “she sure would make a great photo subject.” The next time I saw her, she had her hair loose and natural like this and I was compelled to ask her to pose for me. I’m so thankful she did, because we just got some really great shots. She’s never modeled before, but she’s a natural at it. More shots to come! (Thanks for modeling for me, Monica. I’m so pleased with the results!) Nikon D850 and 85mm Nikkor lens

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

DSC_9103 WEB

DSC_9097 WEB





In the studio: Charles Mokotoff

25 11 2018

More shots from my studio session with classical guitarist Charles Mokotoff

Visit http://www.charlesmokotoff.com to hear his music!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Charles 4up





In the studio with Mia Elise

4 03 2018

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Mia Pigtail web

Mia Closeup

DSC_4621 DONE WEB





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





Payton Diantha McLean

11 08 2013

Introducing Payton Diantha McLean, daughter of my second cousin, Ashley, and his wife, Amber. Ashley is my first cousin Lamar’s son. Lamar’s father, Charles, is my mother’s younger brother. (Got all that?) Payton just turned one year old recently and is my third cousin (and quite photogenic!). I photographed everyone at the big family reunion in Broxton, Georgia, at the end of June. More photos of Payton (and other reunion shots) to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Payton in Zebra Outfit





In the studio: Marisa

23 07 2013

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Marisa Modeling 4-up





Seen & Heard: Barbara Johnson

12 07 2013

Barbara Johnson is one of two Seen & Heard profiles in the July/August 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Barbara at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Barbara Johnson S&H

BARBARA JOHNSON

Newton, Massachusetts / Born March 23 in Lowell, Massachusetts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I DEFINITELY AM NOT… a couch potato!

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

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

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

I AM… optimistic, energetic and fun.

I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR… home-baked goods.

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

I SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT… coffee.

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

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

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

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

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

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





Seen & Heard: Edward Ogiba

12 07 2013

Edward Ogiba is one of two Seen & Heard profiles in the July/August 2013 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. I met and photographed Ed at HLAA’s Convention 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Photo © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Edward S&H

EDWARD F. OGIBA

Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida / I came flying out on August 4 in New York City in the final year of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s reign.

MY HEARING LOSS… My hearing loss started in the military and progressed until Ménière’s disease left me deaf. Today I am totally grateful for the cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other.

SAGE ADVICE FOR SOMEONE NEWLY-DIAGNOSED WITH HEARING LOSS… Find the right audiologist and give him or her the feedback they need to help you get the most out of your hearing devices. Join an HLAA chapter. Focus at communication strategies with your family, friends and co-workers so they know how to best help you hear them.

MY FUNNY HEARING LOSS MOMENT… When I got my cochlear implant, my vanity prevented me from wearing it to client meetings. But when I had to facilitate an all-day workshop for a board of 24 people I had no choice. After the meeting, a board member approached me and she said: “I will give you credit as this was the most productive meeting we have had in a long time. But you are the rudest person whom I have ever encountered in a meeting.” I was mortified and said: “I am sorry, madam. What did I do?” She barked: “What did you do? How can you be so inconsiderate to carry on multiple conversations? Not once all day did you have the courtesy to turn off your cell phone.” I checked to confirm my cell phone was off before I realized: “Do you mean this?”pointing to my implant. She gave a disapproving nod, snipping “you must be a phone freak to have one implanted.” I laughed and told her, “This is a cochlear implant that allows me to hear despite my hearing loss.” There was a chuckle from another board member as he apparently had told her it was an implant. She then expressed her embarrassment and apology, but I countered: “You have given me a wonderful gift. If you thought it was a phone, others might too, and regardless you have given me the courage to stop being such a bozo about wearing it.”

WHEN I GREW UP, I WANTED TO BE… the starting second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY… Ebbets Field at age five. I never saw grass greener.

FIRST THING I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY WAS… a ’57 Caddy convertible.

PETS? Moka. She’s a crazy Russian Bear Hound.

MUSICALLY INCLINED? I play a mean shower. With my hearing aids out, I can actually stand my own singing.

DO YOU SPEAK ANY LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH? Mon Français est pathétique, mais le langage est si romantique et la cuisine est si fabuleux. Il ne m’échoue jamais excepté toutes les fois que je suis servi les goûts d’un plateau de cendre sautéed. (Translation: My French is pathetic, but the language is so romantic and the food is so fabulous. It never fails me except when I have used the likes of “ash tray sautéed.”)

YOU JUST WON A $10,000,000 LOTTERY. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? CPR.

I WOULD LOVE TO MEET…Thomas Jefferson, the consummate multi-tasker.

FAVORITE COLOR? I used to say “blue.” But after living in Martha Stewart’s county for 16 years, I have been conditioned to say Araucana Teal or perhaps Aragon Sky.

FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED… Long Island, Manhattan, Toronto, Weston (CT), Sarasota

WORKING NINE TO FIVE… an ad or Mad Man in Manhattan, again in Toronto, head of New Products Company in Toronto, again in Connecticut, development director for the Ear Research Foundation.

EVER MEET ANYONE FAMOUS? Prince Phillip, Barbara Streisand, Doris Day, Ricardo Montalbán, Margaret Hamilton, Patricia Neal, Peter Ustinov—some of the few sane moments for me as a Mad Man.

Hearing Loss Magazine always delivers a warm hug of support, the inspiration to do more and the guidance from the legions of superheroes in hearing loss nation to blaze the way. Thank you, HLM.





In the studio: Jeff, Angela and Annabella

27 05 2013

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Jeff Angela Anabella 1





Chris & Chase

21 01 2013

Here’s a portrait I did of my niece Lauren’s boyfriend, Chris, with his son, Chase

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Chris&Chase lorez





Lauren

21 01 2013

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

LaurenSmiling lorez





Senthil Srinivasan: Opening Up

15 11 2011

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

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

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

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

Senthil Srinivasan: Opening Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Seen & Heard debuts in Hearing Loss Magazine!

6 09 2011

Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) members Danielle Nicosia and John Kinstler are my first Seen & Heard profiles in the Hearing Loss Magazine (September/October 2011 issue). I came up with the idea as a way to profile even more HLAA members in the magazine.

I photographed 48 (!) members (in just three hours!) in Crystal City, Virginia during HLAA’s annual convention this past June. I had help from my two able assistants, Michael Schwehr and Ed Fagan. Some members posed solo, some with their spouses, some with friends and some with a sister or daughter.

I prepared a questionnaire with more than 30 questions (some fun, some insightful) for each participant and we’ve got some great profiles in the works for future issues of the magazine. I included basic information such as name, birth date, home base, origin of hearing loss, etc., as well as questions about jobs, hobbies, family, favorite things, sage advice, life lessons learned, etc. I then picked my favorite answers from each questionnaire and paired them with a great portrait of that member.

I’ll try to fit in at least one profile per issue, but space-permitting, we may be able to include two (like we did with this issue). For those of you who had in-depth and very detailed responses, don’t be too surprised if your profile warranted a two-page spread! You can download and read Danielle and John’s complete profiles here: Danielle&JohnProfiles

Danielle wins a gold star for being first to respond to the “call for entries” via my Facebook promo, first to submit her answers and first in line for her portrait. Thanks for participating, Danielle and John!

(Oh, and to John, a fellow John Denver fan—I learned to play “Looking for Space” on the piano when I was a teenager. It’s one of my favorite songs of his to sing!)

Excerpts from “Looking for Space” (lyrics by John Denver)

On the road of experience, I’m trying to find my own way
Sometimes I wish that I could fly away
When I think that I’m moving, suddently things stand still
I’m afraid ’cause I think they always will

And I’m looking for space
And to find out who I am
And I’m looking to know and understand
It’s a sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I’m almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I’m deep in despair

All alone in the universe, sometimes that’s how it seems
I get lost in the sadness and the screams
Then I look in the center, suddenly everything’s clear
I find myself in the sunshine and my dreams

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Michael Eury, Superhero

6 09 2011

Michael Eury is our cover feature article for the September/October 2011 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Michael approached Barbara Kelley (the editor-in-chief) and me this past spring and proposed writing his story for the magazine and pitched an idea for a conceptual cover. We’re so excited with the results of our collaboration. (Congratulations and accolades to HLAA and their webmaster, Susan Parras, for the recent debut of the beautifully redesigned website here. Of course, I’m kind of partial to the changing “billboard” photos since they’re mine!)

Binder Clips, Booth Curtains, Wire and a Whole Lot of Enthusiasm!
With the help of my trusty sidekicks Michael Schwehr and Ed Fagan, not to mention a very willing model, I think we pulled off the concept brilliantly! Although Michael Eury was prepared with his Clark Kent suit, glasses and superhero demeanor, neither of us remembered to bring the infamous red satin cape. I was also hired to photograph the HLAA Convention, set up a few cover shoots and begin my newest addition to the magazine—a one-page 20+ questions member profile series called “Seen & Heard,” which also debuts in this issue. I knew I had some red satin in my fabric stash, but in the mad rush to get everything ready, it fell off my radar.

So, since necessity is the mother of invention, I dispatched Ed to “borrow” a burgundy convention booth drape to serve as a cape (with the color and texture modified afterward in Photoshop to the requisite glowing red, of course). With the aid of wire and binder clips and Michael and Ed serving as puppeteers, we had our Superhero flying in no time. I also bent a thick wire through Michael’s tie to really show him in action.

We couldn’t have had a better subject—it’s been his childhood dream to be a superhero, and he said we made his dream come true, if only for a couple of hours. His enthusiasm was contagious and his expressions would rival those of Jim Carrey! After viewing a few of the cover shots on my screen, I told him, “you really look like Charlie Sheen in some of these.” Then I added, “before the booze, ladies of the night and W-I-N-N-I-N-G, of course!” We’re so happy with the photos and Michael’s well-written article was the perfect complement. I’ve reprinted his article below, but you can see it in layout form by downloading the pdf file here: MichaelEurySuperhero. All photos © Cindy Dyer

by Michael Eury

I look nothing like Lois Lane, but I was saved by Superman! And today, like DC Comics’ legendary Man of Steel, I am also a superhero, the realization of a lifelong dream. Believe it or not, I have my adult-onset hearing loss to thank for this. But as with any superhero’s story, we must begin with…an origin!

Who He Is and How He Came to Be
I was not rocketed to Earth from a dying planet, nor have I been mutated by radiation (at least not to my knowledge). Instead, I was born in Concord, North Carolina, and grew up during the 1960s, the tumultuous decade when Americans wrestled with the ugliness of real-world crises by ducking for cover inside fantasy realms of bubblegum music, flashy pop-culture heroes, and cornball comedies.

On January 12, 1966, my life was forever changed when, as an impressionable third grader, I watched the first episode of ABC-TV’s Batman. My parents cackled when Adam West as Batman shimmied the “Batusi” on a dance floor, having been drugged by Molly (Jill St. John), the girlfriend of the Riddler (Frank Gorshin). In my young mind I thought my parents were suffering from some type of dementia—couldn’t they see that Batman was in peril? Mom and Dad, Batman’s acting weird because he was slipped a mickey by Molly. There’s nothing funny about this! What’s wrong with you people?!

Batman in 1966 opened a gateway to other superheroes and I became a voracious reader of comic books, learning the lore of Superman, the Justice League of America, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. Ask me to calculate a percentage or name the capital of Kansas and I’d respond with a blank stare, but I could tell you without hesitation that Gingold was the name of the serum consumed by Ralph Dibny to turn him into the Elongated Man, and on the backwards Bizarro World, Bizarros said “goodbye” when they meant “hello.”

I learned to appreciate the “camp” humor of TV’s Batman, but never outgrew my love of superheroes. Throughout adolescence I trekked each week to newsstands and convenience stores, searching for new “funnybooks.” I also wrote and drew my own comic books, crudely penciled on typing paper and hand-lettered in ballpoint ink and shared with fellow students. My comics starred my classmates as superheroes, their superpowers usually based upon a sophomoric nickname or trait.

The kid with a long neck (“Weasel”) became Weaselman, with the power to stretch his neck great distances, and a buddy renowned for hurling spit wads at classroom clocks became Wonder Wad! These and other homegrown superheroes (I couldn’t draw girls, so there were no superheroines) occasionally banded together as the Concord Crusaders.

As graduation approached, in my heart I wanted to study creative writing and art and become a professional comic book writer/artist, but played it safe by opting for Plan B: becoming a band director. Music was my other passion, and I played trombone in every ensemble available. And thus, in fall 1975, I became a music education major at East Carolina University (ECU). Throughout college, however, I continued to read comic books.

Look! Up in the Sky!
I was at ECU in December 1978 when another life-altering superhero experience happened: my first viewing of Superman: The Movie, starring Christopher Reeve, whose likable portrayal of the Last Son of Krypton convinced millions that “You’ll believe a man can fly.” I saw Superman multiple times. Reeve as Superman became my hero.

I graduated from ECU in 1980 and took a job teaching middle and high school band in eastern North Carolina. And I hated it. I had blundered into the wrong career. I taught for only a semester, quitting and returning home. During the early 1980s I worked as a substitute teacher, cable-access TV cameraman and talent, record and video stores clerk, graveyard shift convenience store clerk, singing telegrams messenger, comedy-improv group performer, and freelance writer for small press publications and community newspapers. I was able to leap from one dead-end job to another in a single bound!

My one success during this period of instability was finding the love of my life, Rose. We met in 1984 as co-workers at Monkey Business Singing Telegrams in Charlotte, North Carolina, and had an instant chemistry. After a year and half of dodging our feelings for each other, in January 1986 we could no longer ignore what was intended to be and have since lived happily ever after.

Throughout my mid-twenties, Superman begat movie sequels, and my obsession deepened. I even nurtured fantasies about being Superman! I dreamt of flying to the rescue of those in need. Inspired by the examples of superheroes, I had an innate desire to do good for others but lacked the maturity to cultivate a pragmatic way of realizing that desire.

My Own Private Kryptonite
A hero is generally defined by his archenemy. As I aged into my thirties, a supervillain conspired to topple me. My foe did not operate from a subterranean lair, nor did he hire underlings with henchmen names embroidered on their sweatshirts.

Instead, this insidious mastermind quietly employed covert tactics. He began his assault as an embezzler, secreting away sounds—a consonant here, a high pitch there. He sometimes brandished weapons of mass destruction—otosclerosis, tinnitus, and noise exposure. His attacks, however, were gradual and unannounced, allowing me to make minor lifestyle adjustments along the way. I did not realize—until it was too late!—the havoc he had wreaked. The name of this scoundrel? Hearing loss.

In January 1988 my long-time passion for comic books finally blossomed into a vocation. I took a job as an assistant editor at a small publisher called Comico the Comic Company, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. It was here that I was first bothered by hearing problems, especially in restaurants, where I learned to position myself with my “good ear” facing the table’s conversation.

In the summer of 1989 I landed my dream job: I became an editor at DC Comics, the publisher of Superman and Batman. DC Comics, headquartered in midtown Manhattan, was a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Living in the Big Apple and working for an entertainment empire was an exhilarating experience for this small-town southern boy!

Within eight months I had been promoted to editorial management, working as the assistant to Vice President/Editorial Director Dick Giordano, and seemed to be on the fast track. A few freelancers called me the “heir apparent” of the editorial department, the “guy to get to know.” (An aside about my boss: Dick, coincidentally, was profoundly hard of hearing. We often held private conversations in the elevator so I could speak loudly enough for him to understand me without being overheard by editors loitering outside his office door.)

I began having difficulties processing information. When people would speak to me while I was on the phone, their comments, heard through my “bad ear,” were muffled. DC’s president had a high-pitched, soft voice, and I rarely understood what she said. I began to mishear in editorial meetings, and some colleagues questioned my competence or sobriety. A few editors still stinging from my promotion took advantage of my unsteadiness and bullied me. My self-confidence, along with my hearing, was fading away.

Of course, a true hero would rise above such adversity. I was not heroic in any way. I allowed my progressive hearing loss to crush my spirit, and the bullies and professional stress to make me miserable. Three years after taking my dream job, I resigned from it and slunk back home to be a freelance writer of comic books, a job I could do without having to rely upon my failing hearing.

Trapped in the Phantom Zone
Rose and I spent the summer of 1992 in New Bern, North Carolina, in a house my grandfather had built decades earlier. The house was in disrepair, souring my disposition, and culture shock also waylaid me. I was extremely unhappy and anxious to retreat.

That fall we moved—again!—to Philadelphia, to familiar territory and friends. I was depressed, however, although I usually put on a happy face to friends, keeping most folks at arm’s length. My depression adversely affected my work, and writing assignments withered away. I accepted an editorial position at Dark Horse Comics in the Portland, Oregon, suburb of Milwaukie, and, in August 1993, Rose and I moved from the East to the West Coast.

Once again in an office environment, the pattern from my DC Comics job replayed itself. I was quickly promoted into management, becoming a “group editor” (overseeing an entire line of titles and staff), but fell prey to communication breakdowns. Some editors considered me aloof because I didn’t hang out with them, or rude because I sometimes didn’t answer when they addressed me from a distance or from behind. The day that one of Dark Horse’s executives—a low-talker—mumbled a question that I answered inappropriately, earning a bewildered gape from him; I realized that I could no longer deny my problem.

In spring 1994 I visited an audiologist, had a hearing test, was diagnosed with otosclerosis, and acquired an analog full-shell hearing aid for my right ear. This helped me hear some of the things I had been missing, but did not cure my depression. Actually, I choked on self-pity when I first wore the aid, whining that I was going deaf and would one day be left with nothing but that incessant ringing (tinnitus) in my ears!

I was also having difficulty modulating the volume of my voice. Sometimes I’d speak too loudly, and sometimes, too softly. I remember being at a gathering in a noisy Portland nightclub and greeting an old friend from behind. He didn’t hear me, I was speaking so softly. I repeated myself and it wasn’t until he saw me that he noticed I was there. He called me “the Invisible Man.” While I’d wanted a superpower, invisibility wasn’t it.

On May 27, 1995, my hero, Christopher Reeve, had a horseback-riding accident that left him a quadriplegic, forever banishing him to a wheelchair. Through the support of his family, he “stood tall” as an advocate for people with spinal cord injuries. What an inspiration he was! Reeve truly became a superman.

While I was impressed, I wasn’t prompted to fully address my own disability. In the fall of 1995, I resigned from my staff job and once again retreated into the quiet world of freelance writing. My hearing loss worsened, and so did my attitude. I was also aging out of comics, finding less and less work. I came close to breaking into writing for animation, but that was predicated upon relocating to Los Angeles, a move my wife and I considered ill-advised.

By the late 1990s, I felt that I was a failure and rarely connected with others. I continued to reside in Oregon, more than 3,000 miles away from family and old friends who didn’t have to witness my shortcomings. And I was drowning in despair about my hearing loss. I blamed God for it—hearing is one of our vital senses, and, like air, should always be there, right? At least that was my thinking at the time. At my lowest, I took my Bible—the same Bible I had studied for years, one that was saturated with yellow-highlighted passages—and chucked it into the trash can. I reasoned that God had forsaken me by allowing my hearing to pull a vanishing act, so this was my way of returning the “favor.”

Summoned into Action
In 1999, I took a part-time job as a clerk at a small community-based corporation in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where Rose and I had settled. My hearing worsened. My job involved dealing with the public, and some folks had little patience for someone with a disability. I remember one woman rudely biting my head off after my mishearing of a name.

Still, I began to regain some confidence and became the part-time communications director of this organization. I started wearing two in-the-canal digital hearing aids, which I purchased in 2001 once my single analog was no longer cutting it.

I also inched my way back into publishing, in 2002 producing my first book, the history of a collectible toy. Another book followed the next year. My publisher offered me the opportunity to edit a start-up magazine that would examine comic books and related media of the 1970s and 1980s.

In summer 2003 I became a full-time freelance writer and editor with no shortage of work. Professionally, things were looking up, but I worked from my Fortress of Solitude, limiting my face-to-face contact with others. Hearing loss had become my kryptonite, and I was embarrassed by my condition. I grew my hair long to conceal my hearing aids.

Online I discovered SHHH–Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, the original name of the Hearing Loss Association of America. There was a chapter in Lake Oswego, and one in Portland. I marked their meeting dates in my calendar and swore I’d attend. But when these dates would roll around, I’d find an excuse not to go.

That was my life—not taking ownership of my hearing loss, not learning how to cope with it. I had become a pale imitation of the person I was before I lost my hearing.

And then Superman came to my rescue!

Christopher Reeve died on October 10, 2004, nine years after his debilitating injury. Reeve’s death affected me deeply. I’d never met the man, but it was like I had lost a close friend or brother. Then my grief morphed into something else … a sensation of peace, and of empowerment.

I firmly believe that God used Christopher Reeve as an “angel” to send me a message about dealing with my hearing loss. At that transformational moment, I stopped bellyaching, “Why me?” but instead pondered the question, “What do I do next?”

The answer to my question led me to the next meeting of the Clackamas County, Oregon, SHHH Chapter, which happened to be a hearing resource fair held at the Chapter’s meeting site at the Lake Oswego Senior Center. I learned a great deal about assistive listening devices; was inspired by a speech by David Viers, then the Oregon state president of SHHH (and who soon became my friend); and met other people like me! At the end of the meeting I asked the program director, Ed Larson, if I could join the chapter—I thought I might be too young, since most of the others in the room had gray hair! Not only did he say yes, he recruited me to replace him as program director, since he was moving into a retirement village in a different city. Ed detected a fire within me that I had thought long extinguished.

At the next chapter meeting, Ed introduced me to the group as a “godsend.” I dismissed that remark, but now realize that I was sent there for a higher purpose. I knew absolutely nothing about shaping programs for people with hearing loss—my motivation was initially one individual’s search for information—but having been thrown into the deep end, this time, unlike my previous challenges, I did not quit. The questions I had about hearing loss became program topics, and through curiosity and the help of other SHHH leaders and professionals, I made contacts and booked speakers.

And there I learned a lesson that has since enriched my life: helping people is the path to happiness. As program director, and later president, of that chapter, I was able to console and guide many who felt marginalized by their hearing loss.

Before long I joined the Oregon SHHH (and later, HLAA, post-name change) Board of Trustees and edited the statewide newsletter. After Rose and I decided to return home to North Carolina in September 2007, I became an at-large member of the Board of Trustees of the Hearing Loss Association of North Carolina and the editor of its statewide newsletter. In 2008 I was elected state president, an office I am honored to maintain today.

Below: This Superman take-off, “Super-Antics,” by cartoonist Kerry Callen (kerrycallen.blogspot.com), shows that even a Man of Steel occasionally mishears! SupermanTM DC Comics. Used with permission.

Wanted: More Superheroes!
So how does this make me a superhero? A superhero is someone who does not give up, no matter the odds, and who does what he or she can to help others. Christopher Reeve certainly could have hidden from the spotlight after his accident. The man could not breathe without a respirator, yet he rose above his bodily prison to show us all that you don’t have to be “more powerful than a locomotive” to be a Man of Steel.

My conversion from a self-pitying introvert with hearing loss to a self-confident extrovert with hearing loss opened other doors for me. While I was looking for a community-service project, fate led me to accept a part-time job as executive director of my county’s historical nonprofit organization. I was concerned that my hearing loss might once again work against me, but my wonderful wife encouraged me to move forward.

And I’m so happy I did! My hearing loss has created an occasional hurdle, but I’m now in my fourth year overseeing the preservation of my community’s heritage. From young adults to veterans to senior citizens, I’m routinely showered with gratitude from people who are thrilled that I care about their past. My job has also led me to volunteer with civic organizations such as the Rotary Club, the public library, and my church.

You see, this is my superpower: community service. While I may be painting a portrait of altruism here, I admit that there remains a hint of selfishness behind my motivation: Nothing I’ve ever done before has made me feel so good!

Not long ago, I created for HLA-NC a leadership program called “Invisible No More,” which encourages people with hearing loss to stop hiding their condition. This program has been shared with national leaders and is available on the HLAA website. An important component of “Invisible No More” is the contention that it is the moral imperative of HLAA leaders to help others who have yet to reach our level of confidence or enlightenment.

And so, I invite you to become a superhero, too. Be proud of who you are. Seek guidance and resources to help you communicate and participate in life. Do not give up, no matter how insurmountable the odds may seem. You may not be able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” but you will soar to new heights. This, I promise you—and you know Superman would never tell a lie!

Michael Eury wears binaural hearing aids and has been a member of HLAA since 2005. He is the state president of HLA-NC and is a 2011 recipient of the Spirit of HLAA Award. He lives in Concord, North Carolina, with his wife, Rose, who has loyally stood by his side during his journey through life with hearing loss. Contact Michael at euryman@gmail.com and visit HLA-NC’s website at www.nchearingloss.org.

Books by Michael Eury
Michael is the editor of Back Issue, a comics history magazine published eight times a year by TwoMorrows Publishing of Raleigh, North Carolina. Visit their website at www.twomorrows.com. Back Issue premiered in November 2003.

Images of America: Concord (Arcadia Publishing, 2011)
Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure: Revised Second Edition
(TwoMorrows, 2009)
The Batcave Companion (with co-writer Michael Kronenberg) (TwoMorrows, 2009)
Adventures of the Mask Omnibus (Dark Horse Comics, 2009)
Comics Gone Ape: The Missing Link to Primates in Comics (TwoMorrows, 2007)
The Krypton Companion (TwoMorrows, 2006)
The Supervillain Book (with co-editor Gina Misiroglu) (Visible Ink, 2006)
The Justice League Companion (TwoMorrows, 2005)
Bugs Bunny: What’s Up, Doc? (contributing writer) (DC Comics, 2005)
Daffy Duck: You’re Despicable! (contributing writer) (DC Comics, 2005)
The Superhero Book: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Comic-Book Icons and Hollywood Heroes (contributing writer) (Visible Ink, 2004)
Dick Giordano: Changing Comics, One Day At a Time (TwoMorrows, 2003)
Captain Action: The Original Super-Hero Action Figure (TwoMorrows, 2002)