Convention 2014 Hearing Loss Association of America – Austin Texas June 26-29

Will You Meet Us in St Louis for HLAA Convention June 25-28, 2015?

I went to Austin and hope to see many people reading this blog article at the convention next year in St Louis.   Why should we join HLAA and go to St Louis convention?   I can give you ten reasons why to join HLAA. The mission of HLAA is to open the world of communication for 48 million Americans with hearing loss through information, education, support and advocacy. HLAA’s programs and services include:

  • Hearing Loss Magazine Published bimonthly to your address & digital format
  • Discounts on Hearing Aids & Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
  • Discounts to HLAA Annual Convention
  • Training: Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) Training Provides a train-the-trainer course in the use of assistive technology.
  • Hearing Loss Support Specialist Training (HLSST) An online, distance-learning program teaching core knowledge about hearing loss to consumers
  • Discounts on Cell Phone Plans
  • People find information about hearing aids, hearing loss management, advocacy, cochlear implants and other technology, resources and communication strategies for family and friends.
  • Webinars Educational webinars. See  for details and schedule of upcoming webinars.
  • National Support Network Includes 175 HLAA Local Chapters across US..
  • Public Policy and Advocacy Staff advocates for consumer issues such as the hearing aid tax credit initiative, captioning, affordable hearing health care, insurance coverage, cochlear implant reimbursement, newborn infant hearing screening, and telecommunications compatibility. HLAA has representation on corporate advisory boards, government agencies, coalitions, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations.

I want to make your 11th reason to join HLAA to help support our sister city, St Louis, in making next year a great time and well attended by many Kansas Citians gathering all under one roof together.   When you attend HLAA conventions you are in a world of communication with everyone who has been touched with hearing loss providing information, education, support and advocacy and having fun at the same time!

This is my second time to attend a HLAA Convention. This year I was very excited to go as our chapter’s delegate. I took a two-legged trip in June. I started in Kansas City to California for a week to visit family and friends. As I was waiting in Oakland CA airport to board to Austin, I found some friends from last year’s HLAA Portland convention were in the terminal.   We made fast friends with others we didn’t know yet. By the time we boarded we all sat together on the plane. We can find each other with our “FACE ME” buttons or some are signing. After landing in Austin at the baggage claim, I ran into more Tennessee HLAA people I met last year when their plane did a stop in KC to pick up people on the way to Portland.   It is nice everyone is always looking out for old and new friends to stay together to the hotel.

Next day I picked up my convention bag at registration desk. Inside the bag are some nice brochures, a convention T-Shirt, 1 GB flash drive and 60 page Convention 2014 Program and Exhibit Guide.   I will refer to pages of Convention 2014 Program and Exhibit Guide in this article. I had already planned all the workshops I wanted to attend before I left Kansas City with my Mobile Convention App and 2014 Convention Workshop Schedule which is provided online prior to leaving for my trip. I wanted to be ready for face time with friends and not have my nose in the guide trying to plan my schedule after I reached Austin.

The links are provided above for as long as the links stay live to give you opportunity to review all the workshops and events, plus nearly fifty exhibitors (page 27), plus List of Exhibitors with Company Descriptions (pages 28-35) and Convention 2014 Sponsors. You can choose 1 to 4 days to attend the convention. If you never thought of going to a convention because of the distance, St. Louis may be close enough to attend. You will have fun all the while you are learning so many cool things! Did you know all sessions have Communication Access Realtime Transcription (CART)?   Sign language interpretation was available for Opening Session, Research Symposium and Banquet. The convention has most all meeting rooms looped and one with infrared for people with T-Coils.

Exhibit Hall

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Thursday, at the first special workshop “The Wireless Industry: Finding the Cell or Mobile Devices to Meet Your Needs”(page 38), I sat next to an unfamiliar person who happened to be looking for a chapter near Kansas City.   He lives in Lawrence KS. Such a small world and he later connected me to others that live in Lawrence who were attending the convention.

The Wireless Industry: Finding the Cell or Mobile Devices to Meet Your Needs Workshop

The Wireless Industry: Finding the Cell or Mobile Devices to Meet Your Needs Workshop

At this workshop I learned there are 335 million wireless subscribers, more phones than there are people! There are 5 million apps out there. 87% of seniors, 65 and up have a mobile phone and 29% use smart phones.

As of January 2014:

90% of American adults have a cell phone
58% of American adults have a smartphone
32% of American adults own an e-reader
42% of American adults own a tablet computer

Panelists from T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T answered questions and took a lot of feedback (some not so happy comments) from audience about each carrier’s phone stores and services.   All comments were well accepted from the panelists and they are anxious to address the suggestions with their companies.   It was a great experience for people with hearing loss to ask questions and give constructive feedback. The audience could tell panelists showed appreciation knowing they have heard and will make improvements.

Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) showed several videos about hearing aid compatibility (HAC) with wireless handsets. is the most complete website, which has 5 portals designed to help people with disabilities, seniors and their families to find a cell phone and service!

Kevin Green from Verizon stated 911 texting is available in areas where it has been requested and it is in rolling out stages right now. FEMA is training and 911 texting is about a 6-month process to implement in your area.   If you want to find out if 911 texting is available in your area, please call the non-emergency police number and make suggestion, not complaint of your wishes.   If you live in apartment, location is more difficult.   Landline is copper wired and it is recommended to keep landline if you can. Kevin says Amazon sells a cell phone converter to landline, which I cannot give details, as I am not familiar with this device.   You also do not have to have GPS for voice 911 to have locator working. is a comprehensive resource for mobile phone shoppers, users, enthusiasts, and professionals, focusing on the U.S. market. Features include database of mobile phone information on web, user reviews, search-and-compare tool with side-by-side comparisons and online forums. Database is fully searchable using Phone Finder. Check out PhoneScoop for up-to-the-minute market and industry news.

“Hearing Loss and Memory Decline as We Age” workshop (page 39) was not exactly “fun”, but felt I should face my fears. Some spoken lines I felt worth taking notes on were: “Hearing loss is more visible than your hearing aids” and another was a joke, “I said I ordered hamburgers for 2 hungry people, not two hundred people”.   Research is showing a potential casual link that untreated hearing loss actually speeds up cognitive decline. Here’s one to pay attention to: You are two times more likely to have cognitive issues if not wearing hearing aids.

“Communication Strategies for Surviving the Workplace or Job Search” workshop (page 39) was presented by Valerie Stafford-Mallis.   She was informative on laws asking for accommodations and tips to make professional life and job search easier.   She pointed out the January 2014 Hearing Loss Magazine on page 32 is excellent resource for information. This digital issue of this is available to paying HLAA memberships.

During the discussion we learned many of us have strengths for being more symphathic towards others with disabilities, which often clients will seek a person such as that to reach out for their needs within the company you are working for.   I enjoyed learning that if you were to lose your office’s quiet environment to transfer to a cubical with lots of surrounding office noise; it is okay to request your needs without jeopardizing your job.

Ask Job Accommodation Network – provides free, confidential technical assistance about job accommodations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). National Association of the Deaf mission is to preserve, protect and promote the civil, human and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States of America. Valerie states it is a resource for reviewing lawsuits.   Valerie also suggested using Association of Late Deafened Adults resources for work related issues.

Wrapping up the day filled of workshops was the Opening Session presentation sponsored by INNOCaptions. HLAA Board of Trustee, Valerie Stafford-Mallis greeting all with a big Texas welcome and recognition of 2014 sponsors, delegates, State/Chapter Leaders, HLAA volunteers, distinguished guests and the Board of Trustees.   HLAA President, Anna Gilmore Hall presented National Access Award to Consumer’s Electronics Association (CEA) and two awards to James Snow, JR., M.D and Frank Lin, M.d., Ph.D. Richard Einhorn gave keynote address of A Life in Music After Hearing Loss.


HLAA’s new exhibitor and sponsor, INNOCaptions, showed a film of users demonstrating incoming and outgoing calls using INNOCaption’s new, free app. The app functions with nearly any smartphone that utilizes Android or iPhone operating systems available with virtually any network provider. The app is intended for people with hearing loss who want to use their voice on their smart phone, but need assistance hearing the third party. The smart phone must have a voice and data plan. INNOCaption uses a patented technology in conjunction with live steno writers.

HLAA President, Anna Gilmore Hall presented National Access Award to Consumer’s Electronics Association (CEA) and two awards to James Snow, JR., M.D and Frank Lin, M.d., Ph.D. Richard Einhorn gave keynote address of A Life in Music After Hearing Loss.

Later Thursday evening everyone attended a Get Acquainted Party sponsored by Caption Call from 8:30 – 10:30 to kick off the convention to meet up with old friends and meet new friends. Lite appetizers and cash bar got everyone off to a great time.   Those that stayed at the main hotel also continued catching up with friends in the lobby after the party was over.

IMG_3865Friday’s big event was “Emerging Technology for People with Hearing Loss” (page 44). The moderator, Steve Ewell from the CEA Foundation, supports seniors and people with disabilities through innovative programs. This session was about companies who have developed devices to help individuals with disabilities, which certain people with hearing loss had no answers to help make life easier for them.

One of the speakers, Bruce Borenstein, won the Consumer Electronics Association’s 2013 Innovation Entrepreneur Award as Small Business Executive of the Year. Bruce is President and CEO of AfterShokz.  AfterShokz wireless stereo headphones use vibrations to conduct sound off of your cheekbones and deliver it straight to your inner ear. It bypasses the eardrum. It can be worn with or without hearing aids to hear environmental sounds. It does not work with cochlear implant users as this device works with people who have good cochlears.   People with sensorial loss also cannot wear the wireless headphones.   It is T-coil compatible.

There were also three other presentations.   Etomotic Research, Inc. had Dr Mead Killion and Dr Gail Gudmundsen present two assistive technologies: The Companion Mics and the BEAN – Quiet Sound Amplifier.   They have a saying, “if friends don’t want you to hold a mic to talk to you, then you should get some better friends”.   Maybe we all should check out their website, right?

Panasonic Corporation presentor, Tony Janionowski, presented Viera Accessible HDTVs that have voice Interaction to operator the TV, change settings and conduct online searches with verbal commands. It also has text-to-speech capability and can read aloud to you from on-screen web page content or SNS messages.

On Friday evening several bus loads traveled to feast on Texas BBQ at Historic Scholz Bier Garten, sponsored by Sprint CapTel, as some lively HLAA folks line-danced to sounds Hot Texas Swing Band. It was a lot of fun!  There was one lucky convention attendee who won two American Airline gift cards in the raffle drawing.   After the dancing, some convention attendees stay up long hours talking at the hotel.


Saturday schedule was another full day of another 20 workshops and 6 demos to choose from.   I attended several State/Chapter workshops, which I shared with our HLAAKC steering committee.   Saturday night’s banquet featured Gael Hannan – Where’s the Music.   Everyone had lots of laughs and Music by Kenny Luna playing songs from the last five decades.

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Sunday morning there was a Worship Service for anyone who wished to join and if we sung off key, no one would notice, would they?   Lastly, I attended the Awards Breakfast and Ceremony sponsored by Cap Tel Captioned Telephone.   It was good food and company with new friends around the table.   It is truly amazing listening to all the 75+ fancy awards given to so many who have excelled in contributing to Hearing Loss Association of America. All recipients deserve the recognition of their time and talents.

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After the awards, many went on their way back to their home.   Some of us stayed and toured Austin. We went to I Fly Austin, an indoor sky diving adventure. Our family also went bat watching on Lady Bird Lake.   We explored a 1968 special exhibit at the Bullock Museum and toured the Texas Capital.


Other benefits I received from attending were stopping at my manufacturer’s cochlear implant exhibit booth to find out new technology devices that are compatible with my implant. Sometimes your audiologist does not have enough time to cover every aspect of technology.   Exhibits are also a great place to compare brands of listening devices, phones, etc. all under one roof. At my manufacturer’s booth, I had a chance to catch up with Jacob Landis of Jacob’s Ride who is planning his next plight to reach his goal of $1 million to help those who could benefit from a CI, but cannot avoid one.

Another notable cherished moment was when I found another person who has a similar hearing loss story to mine who wears the same manufacturer of my cochlear implant.

Still another grateful reason has been connecting to a professor who was scheduled to present a slideshow at the convention.   It has been wonderful networking with her professional background to pursue new insight to hearing the best I can.

These exciting and unexpected networking opportunities can happen to you and all those attending who are connected to someone with hearing loss. I enjoyed meeting other people who have no hearing loss and know they equally enjoyed being there. Perhaps a hearing spouse or friend would enjoy themselves and get involved.

So, why not begin enjoying the top ten reasons to join HLAA now and my 11th reason to see many Kansas Citians in St. Louis next June?  Kansas City HLAA members also enjoy our popular annual spring picnic and vendor event, educational presentations, ice cream & coffee socials, special social events and annual Holiday party.   When you join HLAA (previous link) the headquarters will automatically enroll you as a member of the nearest HLAA Chapter by your zip code.   So, for most readers of this blog, your membership at the national level includes your membership to the HLAA KC Chapter.

It is my hopes that you have learned at least one new thing from my experience at 2014 HLAA Convention.   My decision to post this is to reach more people in the convenience of their home verses a one-time only presentation at a fixed date and time. There were more convention workshops I wanted to attend, but often very desirable workshops were scheduled at the same time and I had to choose. As you can tell, there was so much more to do than I have covered here. For a complete wrap up of this years convention watch for the Sept/Oct Hearing Loss Magazine which is a benefit for members. So, why not join HLAA now?

Some people earn HLAA Scholarships to the convention, posted by mid November and deadline is February 20, 2014.   By attending the 30th HLAA 2015 convention, you will come back richly rewarded with new information, have up-to-date information on all the laws which help us have equal access to communication and make new friends from all over America!! Keep in the loop with the latest news on HLAA’s 30th Convention in St. Louis June 25-28, 2015 and look forward to seeing you there!

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