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!



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