Kelly’s Take on the HLAA Convention

I was able to attend this year’s HLAA convention in Milwaukee thanks to Starkey’s Scholarship for Young Adults. Dennis and Sarah did a great job blogging about all the awesome lectures and events that went on during the convention!

For those of you who are curious about my background. I was born with bilateral profound hearing loss which wasn’t discovered until I was 20 months. Sign language is my preferred mode of communication even though I do have some speech. I went through 5 pairs of hearing aids and rebelled against hearing aids as a teenager before I decided to receive a cochlear implant last year at the age of 25.

I have to admit I didn’t think I would be as welcomed as I was. I’m used to being looked down on for using sign language. I’m also used to being looked down on by culturally deaf people for wanting to hear. I honestly thought there would be several situations where I would feel left out because I preferred sign language and didn’t have progressive or sudden hearing loss.

Boy, was I wrong.

I met an amazing group of people who were so eager to meet other people with hearing loss that they didn’t care how I communicated or how I became deaf. This was one of the most diverse group I’ve ever met. Everyone had different types of hearing loss, lost their hearing at different ages, and utilized different technology to hear. What struck me the most about this convention was how willing everyone wanted to communicate.

COMMUNICATION. Anyone with any type and degree of hearing loss know the importance of communicating. Not once did I hear or see anyone say, “never mind” or “oh, it’s not important.” Everyone wanted everyone to understand what was going on and what was being said. People were doing all they could to make sure no one was left out. It was a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of. I witnessed an amazing amount of ACCEPTANCE and PATIENCE that I never knew was possible.

Best of all, I didn’t have to explain myself and I didn’t feel lost. I have been to other conventions/conferences in the past where I was the only deaf person and I always feel so lost at those conventions/conferences. At this convention, I could attend any workshop I wanted at anytime I wanted without having to make prior arrangements which gave me a sense of FREEDOM and FLEXIBILITY that I’ve never had. Networking was easy. Everyone knew the importance of getting the other person’s attention before starting to speak, making eye contact, and speaking clearly but normally.

For once, people understood where I was coming from. I didn’t feel like I was the odd one out for being the only one who couldn’t hear.

I saw people take PRIDE in wearing their HAs/CIs. I saw people wearing decorative items on their HAs/CIs and they didn’t want to hide them. They saw their HAs/CIs as part of who they are and wanted to declare it to the world. That attitude made me feel refreshed, energized, and ready to take on the world.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s convention in D.C.!


Day 3 of HLAA 2010

I’m back home and already on my way out again to another conference on hearing loss! I figure I need to wrap up my experiences at HLAA – seriously, this year’s conference had a significant impact on me and especially with Day 3, I learned some things that I think I need to carry back to my chapter and talk about more in depth.

For day three, I managed to hit up 4 workshops:

The Battle for Movie Captioning – A Case Study of ADA in Practice – John Waldo from WA brought a ton of information and referenced several legal cases setting precedence on the legality of open and closed captioning in movie theatres. It was fascinating to see just how things have evolved into today’s situation where movie theatres continue to resist providing captions and hopefully paves a way to getting it into theatres or having the theatres attempt to fight ADA law.

Trying to Escape by Getting Trapped: Using Drugs and Alcohol to Cope with Hearing Loss – The drugs/alcohol workshop gave me some perspective on addiction. I have a brother who absolutely will not get off the computer – but is it an addiction, or a habit? In this case, the presenter helped me understand better how addiction manifests and what methods of treatment are worth looking into, and how people with hearing loss have approached methods of escape from their own hearing loss. Incredibly eye-opening.

Aural Rehabilitation for Adults with Cochlear Implants – while the presentation was a bit dry, it did help me understand what to look for when gauging my understanding of people around me. Perhaps the presentation was more for people who didn’t have hearing loss and didn’t understand why someone like me who has a CI couldn’t understand them, but I didn’t get much out of it.

Bluffing 201 – Masks – Gael Hannon is an absolute blast to listen to. This engaging speaker helped me exercise and admit to my behavior of bluffing (not understanding when in conversation but pretending I do). She stated something along the lines of “bluffing isn’t just for people with hearing loss, people who hear well also bluff too!” So it’s a universal problem and we all can benefit from learning how to not bluff. We took part in an exercise to explain how we identify ourselves as needing understanding in conversation (example, “I have difficulty hearing, please face me and speak clearly”) and to give an example of where we bluff (i.e., talking with someone while dancing in a loud club). One guy wrote that girl asked him something and he said yes, and 40 years, two kids and two grandkids later, he still doesn’t have the heart to tell her he didn’t understand what she said! At the end, we all took a pledge to not bluff anymore – at least I took it, I hear my traveling companions declined! :-p

Each of these workshops were fabulous and important. And I will definitely be parting that information out to my chapter meeting on July 13!

After all the workshops were done, Kelly, Sarah, Vic and I took a breather before getting everyone together at the Milwaukee Brat House. About 10 of us ate outside on the patio during a beautiful summer day, absolutely perfect temperature-wise, and sunny! Very tasty Italian sausage, would highly recommend in downtown MKE!

We strolled leisurely to the busses that would drop us all of at the Comedy Club! Having heard there would be “some food” at the club, I did eat dinner lightly, and was surprised that the eats at the club were actually pretty substantial. It was just a bit late as the busses started at 8:15pm – had dinner started at 7, all would have been good! In any case, we had a spot of socializing, a good number of people who hid themselves in the confines of the conference finally came out of the woodwork and I was heartened to meet a ton of cool people!

However, the real meat of the night was the actual improv performance, done by the comedy club pros with captioning on the screen above their stage. I gotta tell ya, the comedians were really good, and especially had the best time with the captions – integrating it into the act, laughing at the occasional misspelling – “Poppy? I said Poopy!”

The best part was when they got the audience involved and Vic got dragged on stage! Hey, man! You’re a courteous/curious monkey! 🙂 They kept me in uproarious laughter with complete accessibility – and I hear Vic and Nabeel are gonna try to make something like that happen down in Houston! Go you, guys! Need any help?
The rest of the night was pure shenanigans by the young adult group. I’d say more, but I think I made a goof of myself. 😉 We’ll keep that in the house here! 🙂

In any case, even after said shenanigans, all four of us Musketeers actually made it on time to the awards ceremony on Sunday morning. Kelly and Sarah had received scholarships from the convention, and I thought it was appropriate that they be properly recognized. The rest of the young adults and convention goers appeared and I did want to applaud Rhi for doing a fabulous job throughout 2009 and 2010 for young adults. Kudos!

HLAA Convention Overview through Sarah’s eyes/ears

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sarah Mosher and I am hard of hearing and wear just one hearing aid. When I first started attending HLAA meetings last fall, I was quite awed at what the Chapter was accomplishing here in Kansas City. It spurred me to apply for a scholarship to attend the convention in Milwaukee this year. I was a lucky recipient of the Starkey Scholarship for Young Adults, and off I went to the convention last Thursday.

I’ll admit I didn’t think it would be all that awesome of a convention. I kinda figured a lot of the workshops would be rather dull and there wouldn’t be that many young people for me to meet. I’ll happily confess I was completely wrong! I’ll try to hit the highlights of the trip and not write a book here, but it’s going to be hard…

Milwaukee itself is a lovely city and the weather during the four days I was there was absolutely gorgeous! I enjoyed the food at several local restaurants and highly recommend Buck Bradley should you ever get out that way. Also, take a chance on the local Cheese Curds – they are quite a hit!

I’ll go over two of the many exceptional workshops I attended. These are the ones that really stuck in my head the most. The first was a medical workshop called “Regenerative Medical Therapies for Hearing Loss” by Samuel P. Gubbels, M.D. He went over a wide range of methods, successes and failures, but the gist of the speech is that they are working quite hard on developing ways to regenerate hair growth inside the cochlea. This regenerative hair cell, when done correctly, could eventually re-learn how to hear. While the hair cells have been successfully regenerated in mice, the re-learning to hear aspect has not been consistently successful. Dr. Gubbels believes it is possible, just not in our lifetime.

The second workshop that make a big impression on me was “Taking off the Mask-Strategies to Stop Bluffing (Bluffing 201)” by Gael Hannan. The main thing to be said of Ms. Hannan is this: she is hilarious! She took a subject matter that is quite common and often not funny and turned it into a great workshop where we were able to laugh at ourselves and some of the situations we’ve all been in. The basic definition of “bluffing” here is: to nod your head or acquiesce understanding when you really have no idea what is being said. She also went through a myriad of ways that we, as hard of hearing people, can kindly but firmly let others know what our needs our in daily conversations. It was a great learning workshop. I would definitely go see her again.

On the social side, there were more young adults in attendance than I had expected. I met many people and left with quite a few new friends. What I found interesting was that each of us was quite different in our hearing losses and our communication methods. There were several people who had severe hearing losses and did not voice for themselves but relied on sign language to communicate. Then there were several others who had had no exposure to sign language at all. And of course, there was quite a variety of people in-between. All of these people hung out together and communicated easily, no matter what method was being used. This show of acceptance and kinship was absolutely stunning. I’m still in awe.

On Friday evening, a small group of us attended the Harley Davidson Museum banquet and tour. The banquet was quite a spread of hearty biker food, and we were treated to the lovely vocals of Mandy Harvey, who sang jazz tunes for us. After satiating our hunger and our ears, we were allowed to travel through the huge, multi-floored museum of motorcycles. I can’t say how fabulous they were!

On Saturday night, HLAA set up a comedy club improv night for us to attend. I have never been to a real improv show because, of course, it’s quite hard to follow along. In this instance, a CART captioning screen was integrated into the set design. We had two captioners, Lisa and Lisa. I never did know if they were both really named Lisa, but the actors sure had fun with that! The “referee” of the improv had an absolute blast with our CART screen. He made this comment: “I don’t even have to remember what I’m saying! All I have to do is turn to the screen and read my own thoughts!!” The captioners did a fabulous job of keeping up with all the actors, and everyone had an awesome time. Even Vic, who was actually up on stage as a volunteer! Just call him the “Curious Monkey” and hopefully he’ll blog about his experience 😉

Now I’m far past the blogging mode and well on my way to writing a novel here, so I’ll close up just by saying that it was a fabulous experience and I have every intention of repeating it again next year. A shout-out to the lovely Kansans who attended the convention with me: Dennis, Kelly and Vic, and all the wonderful new friends I made in Milwaukee.

Feel free to email me with any comments or questions you may have! Thanks!


Day 2 – 2010

Here in Milwaukee, it sure gets loud. And what I mean by loud is, man, fireworks and lightning shows sure know how to liven up the town!

I headed out to explore the town a bit and came across a fireworks show on the lake for a small gathering. It was fantastic to see the two pyrotechnicians running around with their red flares flaming, hearing the sizzle of the firework fuses lit up and then zooming into the sky to burst nearly directly above me. Meanwhile, in the not-too-distant horizon, there was a thunderstorm building, so much that it was becoming difficult to tell which flashes were of the fireworks and which were from the thunderstorm. But it was a beautiful and inspiring sight!
Yesterday, I got up early to participate in a Gallaudet research study for cochlear implant users and cell phones. For 90 minutes, I was subjected to a wide range of noises and interference sounds while listening to a voice talk about a trip to Arizona. The goal of the study was to identify what kind of impact does interference have on enjoying cell phone calls, and at what loudness or intensity did the noise make it uncomfortable to use. There were three levels of comfort – Excellent for a minimal amount of noise that was able to be easily ignored and listen to the voice; Acceptable, for the level of noise where I could have an extended conversation but would definitely complain about having on a call; and Maximum, where the noise was the loudest I could stand and still be able to have a short call. I noticed that my Excellent and Acceptable levels were close together and fairly low; I think I attribute this to being used to having good cell phone experiences when on a call and thus I’m not willing to deal with a bad amount of interference on a call. It’s vital that I hear clearly when on my calls, which are mostly for business, so that I can ensure all information comes across. I hope that this study will help set standards for noise levels with CIs!
I hit up the exhibit hall and checked out the CI booths – Med-El, Cochlear America, and Advanced Bionics were well represented and provided a wealth of information as to what’s new with their services. Cochlear America recently came out with a new Nucleus 5 processor, which has some water resistant features and is so thin that it requires a remote to change volumes and programs. Advanced Bionics was still touting their Harmony processor and HiRes 120 channels programming, and the rep let it slip that there were tests being done about a “Clear Voice” software coming down the wire. I’m going to visit the Med-El booth again to really understand this new electrode and processor they were putting out. But that’s just the CIs – I should be collecting into about hearing aids too!
The workshops were great – I jumped around and collected info about Hearing Loss and Cochlea Regeneration, then to the Employment and Hearing Loss, and even the Cultural, Family and Personal Causes of Stresses related to Hearing Loss. There was just so much info to collect about those three during the 75 minutes, and I’m still ruminating on it all. I’ll have to do a separate blogpost for each, and I’m actually going to invite the other KC chapter members who were present to write up as well. Kelly Rogel and Sarah Mosher both have excellent insights into their respective workshops as well.
At 2:30pm, I hit up the Walk 4 Hearing workshop on “How to Set up a Walk 4 Hearing, from A-Z” with Kelly, and really got a good session in with Ronnie Adler, the HLAA staff member coordinating Walk 4 Hearing, and her assistant Rebecca. For a little while there, we had a 2 on 2 session where we really got some great instruction and feedback on how to set up a walk for the KC chapter. If you’re interested in helping out, we’re planning on putting some information up here on the KC HLAA blog to kick off a meeting for a KC Walk 4 Hearing. So stay tuned!
The young group here at HLAA rocks! We had about 10-15 people all through the night meet up at Applebee’s for dinner then over to Rock Bottom Brewery for some late night beverages. A shout out goes to everyone who came – Kelly, Vic, Sarah M, Sarah S, Rhi, Alex, Sveta, Viral, Nabeel, Rachel A, Rachel M, Daniel, Michelle, Stephanie, and everyone else!

First day of 2010’s HLAA Convention!

Hey, all! I really should have blogged about this before coming to the conference, but I’m here now and I figure I should just write while I can!

Today, three KC chapter members have arrived in Milwaukee for HLAA’s 2010 convention. Even with about 800 people nationwide converging on the Frontier Airlines Center in downtown MKE, the KC folks stick out as part of the younger crowd of members! Sarah Mosher, Kelly Rogel and I just jumped into seeing the town and making connections right away.
I participated in the State Chapter meeting on Thursday afternoon, that was a good way to get to know other leaders out there and get some support in meeting fantastic people who can help out our chapter with fundraising, Walk for Hearing mentoring, and recruitment. So stay tuned for what help we’ll be getting!
I also attended the Cell Phones and Accessibility workshop for updated information on telecommunications access. There was a panel of experts from RIM, Motorola, AT&T and CTIA who shared their insights on how the cell phones are revolutionizing communications.
I’ll keep you all informed. Gotta run!