Hearing Assistive Technology workshop recap

 By Andy Chandler

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) workshop sponsored by HLAA and the Consumer Electronic Association Foundation (CEA).  CEA paid for the attendees’ hotel rooms and meals during the workshop (thanks, CEA!).  All I had to do was get myself to Bethesda, which I was able to do, thanks to Southwest Airline points (thanks Southwest!)

As you might guess from the title, the weekend workshop centered on using technology to address the challenges of hearing loss. It was like a mini-HLAA convention, which means the very best part of the workshop was meeting people from all over the country, including Hawaii!  There were about 25 of us, some old hands with assistive technology, and some brand new to the topic.

The workshop was presented by Brad Ingrao, an audiologist from Florida, and a frequent speaker at national HLAA events. You might recognize Brad’s name from the HLAA magazine, where he writes a monthly column. What I like about Brad is that he can be a curmudgeon about his profession. It’s not all peaches and roses, as some hearing aid and CI manufactures claim. Brad made two key points about hearing aids and cochlear implants:

  • They make bad hearing less bad (notice it doesn’t say, “make bad hearing good”).
  • They work well, up to 6 feet away from the source of the sound.

So that’s why we use assistive technology — to make hearing better beyond six feet. How do we do that?  That’s what we covered in the workshop, learning about technologies such as:

  • Looping, FM and infrared systems
  • Television and telephone amplification
  • Telephone relay services
  • Personal listening devices (which sometimes can work as well as hearing aids, and are a lot cheaper)
  • CART and captioning (my personal favorite!)
  • Smartphones and the Internet

We talked a lot about loops and telecoils. A lot of people think it’s outdated technology, as it’s been around for a while. In reality, it’s gotten better over the years, and it’s one of the most accessible and effective technologies — as long as your aids/CI have a telecoil. But to loop a space correctly, whether it’s a ticket booth or an auditorium, takes some audio engineering, and should be done by an experienced professional.

Of course, the best part of any HLAA gathering is the people you meet, and the gatherings that take place outside the official workshop events. There is something life-affirming about meeting others who share a hearing loss. At the workshop, at HLAA conventions and meetings, we are the majority. We understand what it means to live with a hearing loss and the challenges thereof. And darn if we weren’t going to do whatever was needed to understand one another!

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Here’s a picture of a few of us enjoying one of Bethesda’s finer restaurants (I’m the guy on the right, in blue). I’m sure the wait staff had never seen so many hearing aids, CIs and ALDs at one table!

The reason CEA and HLAA sponsored this workshop was not just for the benefit of the attendees. In return for providing a “scholarship” (i.e, paying for lodging and food), attendees agree to take the information back to their local communities.  So if you or your organization(s) are interested in learning more about Hearing Assistive Technology, I would be delighted to share what I learned. Just contact HLAAKC at hlaakc@gmail.com or give me a shout at aqchandler@gmail.com.

If you are interested in attending a HAT training weekend, the next one is September 6-8 in Sarasota, Fla. For more information, including how to apply for the class, visit HLAA’s website. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, Aug. 13. 

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HLAA 2013 Convention Recap – Portland, Oregon

Fellow committee member Terri Shirley and I had a fantastic time representing the Kansas City Chapter at the HLAA convention in Portland, Oregon this past June!  It was Terri’s first convention and my third convention (over the span of 10 years).

I hope that everyone with hearing loss has the opportunity to attend an HLAA convention someday.  It is an eye-opening, inspiring and motivational experience.  The convention allows me to recharge and embrace my hearing loss before being thrown back into the hearing world.  Here are my top convention highlights (in no particular order).

  1. Networking – It never fails to amaze me how quickly I can make acquaintances at HLAA conventions – young and old.  A simple hello can turn into a one-hour conversation and you are friends for life.
  2. Exhibit hall – I always enjoy talking to all the vendors in the exhibit hall.  It’s a great place to ask questions, try out new technology, and learn all about the programs that are out there to assist people with hearing loss.
  3. Jacob’s Ride – I had the pleasure of meeting Jacob Landis and learning about his mission to raise money for CI recipients by bicycling to baseball stadiums all over the country!  He will be coming to Kansas City on September 2, 2013 to attend the Royals game, so be sure to watch for announcements from HLAAKC about this exciting event!
  4. Opening Session – There was an impressive lineup of inspiring speakers at the opening session to kick off the convention.  Howard Weinstein fascinated us with his story of how he came to be the inventor of solar ear (a solar powered hearing aid) and his quest to help low-income people with hearing loss in the developing world.
  5. Accessibility – An HLAA convention is by far the most accessible convention you’ll ever go to.  CART was provided for all the sessions.  Sign language interpreters were available for the opening session, research symposium and banquet.  Looping and infrared technology (along with receivers) was available as well.
  6. People Watching – HLAA had the pleasure of sharing the convention hall with Leakycon, which is a Harry Potter fanfest – imagine costumes galore and 4,000 attendees that are all about Harry Potter!  The clever costumes brought a smile to my face more than once.
  7. Portland 100 – I enjoyed attending the happy hour and connecting with other young adults throughout the convention.  The young adult attendance has come a long way since my first convention in Atlanta in 2003; they were pretty much non-existent at the time.
  8. Playing Tourist – This was my first visit to Portland, so I took advantage of using my convention public transit pass to explore Portland’s many attractions. I also enjoyed attending the HLAA World Forestry Center event.
  9. Transitions – We had a great time praising executive director Brenda Battat for her past achievements and many contributions to HLAA and wishing her a happy retirement throughout the convention.  We also welcomed Anna Gilmore Hall as HLAA’s new executive director (as of July 8).
  10. Workshops – There was something for everyone in the many workshops offered throughout the convention.  Workshops covered topics related to advocacy, assistive technology, hearing aids and cochlear implants, and relationship and communication. There were also presentations geared toward veterans with hearing loss.  Additionally, there were beneficial demo room presentations where you could learn about a product or service.
  11. Future HLAA Conventions – Big announcements were made regarding future HLAA conventions! HLAA has been selected by the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH) to host their next Congress in 2016 in Washington D.C.  And next year’s HLAA convention is a little closer to home – Austin, Texas!  So I hope to see y‘all there!

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