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.!

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