HHF Attends HLAA 2018 Convention

By Nadine Dehgan

I was fortunate to attend my very first Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention last week in Minneapolis, MN with Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s Program Associate, Maria Bibi.

Nadine Dehgan and Maria Bibi at HLAA 2018.

Nadine Dehgan and Maria Bibi at HLAA 2018.

We spent much of our time serving as resources to the highly engaged attendees. In the exhibit hall at our HHF booth, we answered questions related to our critical research and awareness programming. Maria and I were humbled to learn of the deep appreciation for our work from our booth’s visitors.

Several educational sessions were held beyond the exhibit hall. I was particularly grateful to witness John Brigande, Ph.D., and Ronna Hertzano, M.D., Ph.D., speak about HHF’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), the international scientific consortium dedicated to identifying better treatments and cures for hearing loss and tinnitus. Here, I met a supporter of HHF, who said, “[Drs. Brigande and Hertzano] were both informative, encouraging, and enthusiastic about their work and the possible outcomes. I will continue to follow their progress even more closely now.”

HHF Emerging Research Grants (ERG) 2018 recipient Evelyn Davies Venn, Au.D, Ph.D, also delivered a compelling presentation. An Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Venn’s research focuses on a highly personalized hearing technology to help individuals better understand speech in noise. She discussed a new hearing aid in concept phase that will convert the sense of touch into sound electricity.

A shift from typical days in our quiet New York City office, the four-day convention connected us with many inspirational people—folks with hearing loss and scientists alike. Buzzing with energy, optimism, and knowledge about hearing loss, the convention was an important representation of how HHF’s work impacts so many individuals.

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Let's Get Looped!

By Yishane Lee

We’re talking about hearing loop systems, of course. As writer Elizabeth Stump describes in “Keeping You in the Loop,” in our new Spring issue of Hearing Health magazine, hearing loop systems deliver clear sound—free from background noise, echo, or distortion—directly into hearing aids that are equipped with telecoils (T-coils). About two-thirds of hearing aids have T-coils, and hearing loop systems are available at a growing number of public venues, ranging from churches and other places of worship to New York City taxis to auditorium ticket booths.

But hearing loop system advocates think we can do better. Here is advice from Juliëtte Sterkens, Au.D., the consumer and hearing loop advocate for the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and a member of the National HLAA/American Academy of Audiology Hearing Loop Task Force.

What are your recommendations to others on how to advocate successfully for looping systems in their community?

I usually make a phone call or a pay a visit and explain why people with hearing loss (even if they use hearing aids or cochlear implants) have trouble hearing. Most facilities are unaware of the difficulties people with hearing loss experience—it is my experience that they want to help. During the visit I often play parts of sound demos in and out of hearing loops. These sound demos can be eye—or should I say ear—opening?

I have also let some of the responses from hearing loop users help me in the process. Many comments can be found online, such as at LoopWisconsin.com.

Advocating is made easier if I know that a facility will soon be undergoing remodeling because the installation of the loop wire is usually easier and less expensive if completed when the carpeting is going to be replaced anyway.

If cost is going to be of concern, I will offer information as to how other venues have handled this. For example, there are grant monies available for some venues (libraries, some houses of worship), and many communities have a community foundation is interested in knowing what can be done to improve access.  

For example in Oshkosh, Wis., the community foundation was helping to fund a remodel of the Oshkosh Convention Center in the fall of 2008. I made a couple of phone calls and sent a letter with information to the executive director. The result was they helped fund two hearing loops at the convention center about two weeks before the carpeting was to be laid down. 

The executive director believed me when I told her that having a hearing loop at the convention center would convince other venues to do the same. Oshkosh now has more than 40 hearing loops including its 100-plus-year-old Grand Opera House, a funeral home, several retirement communities, a court room, and a new conference center at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

To increase attention to a need, I have found that a letter to the editor of a newspaper can be of tremendous help—and the best part is that this is free!

There is strength in numbers: If you are advocating for improved access ask a friend or family member or a hearing professional to write a short letter of support as well.  

The last resort would be playing the ADA card (Americans with Disability Act). The ADA mandates that facilities offer assistive technology. If a facility is unwilling one could file a complaint with the Department of Justice.

The HLAA has more tips to help you advocate for loops in your community, and we have additional links including looped spaces at hhf.org/loops.

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All About Assistive Listening DevicesAll About Assistive Listening Devices

By Yishane Lee

Assistive listening devices, or ALDs, are an especially handy type of device for people with hearing loss. While you don’t need hearing test results or a doctor’s visit to use them, the category is so broad and diverse—alarms, amplifiers, FM systems, loops, and phones, among others—that it helps to have someone who knows them well to help you figure out which ones can help you the most.

To this end we are introducing a new column in Hearing Health magazine. In the Winter 2014 issue, writer George Khal presents the first “Assistive Advice” column. Khal is the founder and former president of Sound Clarity, an international retail company specializing in ALDs. He has had a severe bilateral hearing loss since early adulthood. We spoke with him about the inspiration for the column and company, as well as his go-to ALDs.

What is your inspiration for “Assistive Advice”?

There is a need to provide unbiased information to consumers by helping them understand how ALDs can help them in their personal and professional lives, and I hope to help other consumers through sharing my knowledge from personal and professional experiences.

I had noticed consumers were aware of hearing aids but often unaware of ALDs, and that hearing healthcare professionals often did not promote ALDs. I feel that many consumers want to learn more about these devices but that it is not readily available in a format they could understand. I hope to be able to remedy that situation.

In addition, I feel that many consumers are unaware of the implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and of State Telecommunications Access programs.

How did Sound Clarity come to be created?

In 1999 I was contemplating a career change from information technology. I was also advising the University of Iowa on how to make its facilities hearing accessible, in order to comply with the ADA. My ALD experience at that time was leading the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) support groups throughout Iowa and working with audiologists from the Speech and Hearing Center in Iowa City to connect people with hearing loss to our local group.  

Over years of leading our local HLAA chapter, I came into contact with people who were hungry for information that can help their daily lives, since hearing aids were not enough for many of them. Using parts from local electronics stores I also had built some of my own ALDs—an FM system, personal amplifiers, and neck loops—and was aware of how many of the devices worked.

After attending HLAA conventions as a consumer, it made me realize that my knowledge of the technology combined with my IT background gave me skills to start Sound Clarity. After founding the company, I was the president for a decade, till 2010.

What are the ALDs you are never without or that you use daily?

The T-coil (telecoil) is the ALD I use the most. I use it when I talk on the telephone or watch television. I also use an audio loop mostly when I watch television. When driving I use a wireless Bluetooth neck loop with my cell phone. I rely on a vibrating alarm clock to wake up in the morning—it’s especially necessary when I am home alone. Just as important is the visual smoke alarm, with a strobe light, that gives me peace of mind. And although not an ALD, a hearing aid dryer is a device I use daily to keep my hearing aids clean and free of moisture.

We hope you enjoy the debut “Assistive Advice” column!

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