Where Hearing Loss is the Norm

There’s one event a year where my hearing loss is not afb_nyc_chapter FB profile factor in my ability to communicate.

That’s the Hearing Loss Association of America’s annual Convention.

This year’s convention was held in Minneapolis June 21st to June 24th. I don’t know how many attended but virtually everyone was deaf or hard of hearing – or accompanying someone deaf or hard of hearing. A few audiologists also attended – it’s great to see their interest in what people with hearing loss want and need.

Convention is a mix of lectures, workshops, parties, seeing old friends and making new ones.

At Convention, where hearing loss is the norm.

The larger events – the keynote address, the research forum, the awards brunch – offer three different forms of hearing accommodations: a hearing loop, CART captions, and ASL interpreters. The smaller workshop gatherings provide CART, some offer looping as well, and an ASL interpreter was available on request.  My hearing loss is severe enough that I need CART as well as the loop. The Deaf may use CART to elaborate on what they hear through the ASL interpretation. It’s actually thrilling to be in a place that offers so many different ways to hear

This year’s keynote speaker was Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. Consumer electronics are playing an ever larger role in correcting hearing loss. Shapiro’s talk was a guide to this exciting new field of hearing instruments.

The three-hour Friday morning research symposium consisted of a panel of four experts discussing listening in noise. They explained why it is so difficult for hearing aids and cochlear implants to correct for background noise, and technological innovations that  may solve this problem.

As always, there was a large exhibit hall where you could try out new devices, find out how to get a hearing dog, how to add an app to your smartphone to make it easier to understand on a cell phone. My cochlear implant manufacturer, Advanced Bionics, even made a minor adjustment to my cochlear implant at the convention, adding a small magnet to my headpiece, which had been slipping.

The themed Get Acquainted Party is always popular with newcomers and old hands alike. This year’s theme was the 70’s, complete with Go-Go dancers and hilarious costumes. On Saturday evening, Mandy Harvey, a deaf singer-songwriter who was also an America’s Got Talent winner, gave a concert for a few hundred people, some of whom could not resist getting up to dance.

Saturday night, a group went to the famed Guthrie Center for a performance of “West Side Story.”

Workshops on four educational tracks occupied the daytime hours. These tracks included Advocacy, Hearing Assistive Technology, Living with Hearing Loss, and Hearing Loss in Health Care settings. The last category is a new one for HLAA, and it addressed how people with hearing loss can make sure an encounter with the health-care system includes clear communication from health-care professional to patient, and vice versa.

In between formal events, friends met for meals, or a walk in beautiful Minneapolis, or took a trip to the Walker Art Museum and the adjacent outdoor sculpture park. Big name tags with large print make it easy to strike up conversations with new people or those you may have met at other conventions. As a person with hearing loss, I find name tags one of the most gratifying aspects of convention. I am bad at hearing names and bad at remembering them, which makes it hard to initiate a conversation with someone new, and sometimes even with people I know quite well, when the mind balks at remembering. Name tags do the work for me.

Almost everyone at Convention is hard of hearing, and accommodations are provided as a matter of course.  It’s fun – and also something of a relief – to be the norm for a change. Next year’s Convention is in Rochester, N.Y., home to what may be HLAA’s largest chapter as well as the Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. If any city in America can be said to specialize in hearing loss, Rochester is it.


18 thoughts on “Where Hearing Loss is the Norm

  1. Thank you, Katherine, for re-capping the HLAA convention so well. It was my first and it was amazing. I’ve heard that it can be a life-changing event and now I understand why. It was so powerful to be with 1000 other people who have so much in common – a huge contradiction to the isolation we can be prone to in daily life even with those we love. I have never been surrounded by so much kindness and goodwill.
    Thank you so much for all you do contribute to the hearing loss community.


  2. Why do I have to phone or fax to communicate with my doctor when I have an iphone with texting, email, capability even video, also voicemail? I respond better to closed caption than signing. These great devises are here let’s get people to use them.
    Roger ……….84yrs old, 75% hearing loss


    • Ask your doctor? A lot of medical centers now have Patient Portals that allow you to connect with the doctor’s staff and sometimes the doctor him/herself. Several of my doctors also use email — it’s not only easier for them but it’s easier for me. They do have to go through hoops making sure the email is secure, and you do too to respond.


  3. Thank you for the recap, Katherine. It was a worthwhile convention, as usual. I’m sorry I missed Gary Shapiro’s presentation because I know there is a lot of new technology in the pipeline. Next year in Rochester!


  4. I hope it was okay that I posted this wonderful article on my Facebook page. We feel so frustrated when folks have so little patience when one does not understand what they say….or if one has a squealing aid and can’t hear it themself. We did have friends attending the meeting. Reta Johnson


    • Thanks so much. You’re most welcome to post on FB. For an experience I had about rude and ignorant people, read a post I did a few years ago called Gobsmacked by Rudeness. You should be able to google it.


  5. One of the highlights of the convention for me was the presentation about the app,
    GalaPro. I had given up on theater, but now I can attend because of captioning, which is shown on
    my iPhone. Currently it is available in 41 theaters in NYC, and will grow around the

    Thank you, Katherine, for your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I should have mentioned Gala Pro. It’s a great new app for all theater lovers with even minimal hearing loss. Captions stream to your own smart phone or tablet, or you can use one of the theater’s devices. The screen is black so it doesn’t bother anyone, Airplane mode so it doesn’t ring. I”m going to blog about it in a week or two but meanwhile check it out on the Web.
      Nice to see you Adelaide– sorry it was so much in passing!


  6. I’m excited next year will be in New York ! I live in Virginia and am not a fan of air travel and this is driving distance for me so I hope to be able to attend ! this will be my first convention and they sound wonderful! thanks for posting all the info !


  7. Katherine, this was my first HLAA Convention and even though I have been home for three days my head is still spinning with all the exciting things we saw and heard.

    Our SonicCloud app was well received and we want to follow through on our promise to provide maximum support to your chapter as well as all the others who wish to keep abreast of the latest technologies available to make life easier for the hearing impaired.

    Watching “getaway day” struggles, members trying to hear the cab driver, the desk clerk, bell man, waitress etc. at the hotel and the airport as well really brought home for me how it can be one struggle after another. The members tremendous ability to cope and deal with each challenge without getting frustrated was great to observe. HLAA is going to get our full support going forward for sure.


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