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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

HLAA Convention: Day Three

Saturday, What a Day!
- Happy Days theme song 

My last full day at the convention was packed full of information and fun. The morning began for me with the workshop "Finding Your Calling...Despite Hearing Loss". This seminar was taught by Nancy Williams of Grand Piano Passion. She told us her story about returning to playing the piano after 25 years. She led us in private reflections on possible childhood passions we may have abandoned as adults. Then we considered how we might overcome challenges to participating in those activities today. Finally, we made a commitment to ourselves on what our first steps would be to reclaiming those pursuits.

While we were completing these written exercises in our handouts, Nancy played her music for us, not on a grand piano, but on a more portable instrument, a keyboard. To further inspire us during this thoughtful time, she had Power Point slides of beautiful paintings for us to enjoy. It wasn't all solitary though. She asked us to talk over our discoveries with the person sitting beside us. She also invited people to share at the microphone if they were comfortable. I really liked the way Nancy organized this workshop and I learned more about public speaking from experiencing her presentation style. In case you're curious, the passion that surfaced for me, surprisingly, was my love for learning foreign languages.

Next, I attended a panel discussion with Heroes with Hearing Loss. You may be unaware of this, but hearing loss is the number one service-related injury affecting veterans. In 2011 alone, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs documented hearing loss related treatment for 1.5 million service men and women. Often overshadowed by the other challenges our service men and women face, hearing loss is nevertheless intertwined both physically and emotionally — as a trigger, a constant reminder or an every day frustration. It is a very unique and personal challenge for many veterans. [Text source: Heroes with Hearing Loss website]

The panel featured a moderator, an audiologist, and several men with military service. I found it fascinating to learn how these servicemen have turned their traumatic experiences into a benefit to other military families by sharing information on the resources available for veterans. They said that military personnel believe they are indestructible and it can be difficult for them to seek help when they need it. If they seem unwilling to have a discussion about their hearing loss with concerned family members or friends, they may be more open to listening to "one of their own". As you and I know, being public about your hearing loss requires courage. I salute these men who are real heroes on and off the battlefield.

After this presentation, I met with Valerie, my new friend from Florida. The two of us ventured outside the hotel for lunch. We walked over to a nearby restaurant called Z'Tejas. I'm giving this restaurant a plug on my blog because the food and service were excellent. We were seated on the outdoor covered patio where we had a beautiful view of the Texas hillside. Our waiter brought us cornbread in a mini cast iron skillet. My entree was a grilled vegetable torta: portobello mushroom, zucchini, yellow squash, roasted red bell pepper, spinach and tomato with cilantro pesto and roasted green chile vinaigrette on a telera bun. Absolutely delicious. It was nice having some down time from the conference to kick back, relax, and get to know someone new. This was Valerie's first time at HLAA and I confided to her that I had felt overwhelmed in Milwaukee and that this second time around was a whole different experience.

While we were still at the restaurant, I received a text message from Leslie, the woman I had met on the plane to Austin. She and her boyfriend Sam had come to the expo at HLAA and wanted to meet up with me. As soon as I got back to the convention and parted company with Valerie, I saw them. It was like greeting old friends. I was so thrilled to show them around the wonders of the vendors' exhibits. They were especially interested in the Hamilton CapTel and Caption Call booths as they had not known about captioned phones. All too soon, I had to leave them to attend my next workshop. I'm so glad they took me up on the invitation to come over to the HLAA vendor hall. I hope they stay in touch and perhaps we will meet again in St. Louis, the site of next year's convention.

Sam Trychin, Ph.D.
The next workshop I went to was "Conflict Resolution: A Positive Approach" presented by Dr. Sam Trychin. I was excited to learn from this man who is well known in the hearing loss community for his teaching and writing on communication strategies for coping with hearing loss. My last grad school class was a whole semester on conflict management. What I had been expecting to learn there, but didn't, I learned from Sam in just over an hour. He presented a step by step approach to resolving conflicts. "Where has this man been all my life?" I thought. I could have used this information decades ago. Better late than never, I suppose. I didn't leave until I had purchased the two books he had for sale: Problem Solving in Families: Suggestions and Procedures for Negotiating Behavior Changes Related to Hearing Loss (which contains the content presented in this workshop) and Living with Hearing Loss Workbook, 4th ed. If you would like to read these books yourself, you can order them through his website.

My final workshop of the convention was "Managing Hearing Loss with a Smile on Your Face" presented by Rose Minette of Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. She talked to us about signal to noise ratio. People with normal hearing need a +6 stronger signal than noise, but people with hearing loss can require a +15 to +20 stronger signal than noise. So there you have proof that it's really hard for us to hear in noise. I know I have almost felt as if I were "drowning" in noise at times.

Despite the difficulties hearing loss presents, there are ways you can advocate for yourself and help others understand your needs better. Rose gave everyone who attended a DVD called Let's Make It Clear produced by Texas DARS and starring Gael Hannan. You can find it on YouTube at or watch it below if you have the time. I highly recommend this nearly 20 minute captioned video. I could certainly relate to Louise's experiences and I need to use her technique of stopping a conversation gone wrong and starting over again.

The final event of my day was the Fiesta Banquet held in the conference hotel ballroom. The meal was delicious and the entertainer for the evening was comedienne Gael Hannen! She did a hilarious impersonation of the strategies us hard of hearing folk use to try to hear just that little bit better. I thought to myself, "Has she been spying on me?" I felt completely exposed but since I had never met her and people all around me were nodding their heads in agreement, I guess that's just how it is when you're hard of hearing. Pretty soon everyone in the room was laughing at how ridiculous we can be when we think we are fitting in and fooling everyone around us (not). Gael even put several of the moves into a lahn* dance routine and had us following along in our seats. At the end of the evening, she brought down the house with her declaration that we are all hohs - which of course sounds the same as the less flattering hos. I really can't explain why this was as funny as it was. You had to be there for that. This had been a day to remember, that's for sure.

*That's the Texas pronunciation of line. Gael is Canadian so it was quite funny hearing her speak in a fake Texas accent.

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