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Sunday, July 6, 2014

HLAA Convention: Day Two

Photo from the HLAA Emerging Technology Symposium
This is what communication access looks like: There is a speaker at a microphone, in a looped room, with the spoken words projected on a large overhead screen in real-time, as well as an American Sign Language interpreter. Well done, HLAA!

Day two of the HLAA Convention featured a symposium on emerging technologies.  The first speaker, Bruce Borenstein,  represented a company called AfterShokz. This company sells headphones that use bone conduction. The way they work is their headphones fit around the back of your neck instead of over your head and the parts that usually sit in your ears rest instead on your cheekbones. Bruce, who is the President and CEO of the company, said these headphones were designed with runners in mind so they could keep their ears open to environmental noise (such as an approaching car).

During a question and answer session with the audience, I learned that these headphones are not intended for sensorineural hearing loss such as I have. But I was intrigued and thought I would like to try them out anyway. There was a long line forming of other people with the same idea so we were directed outside the auditorium. When it was my turn, I was amazed at what I heard through bone conduction. The music sounded so rich and full. I had not heard music sound like that before. You can learn more about the company and their products on their website at

The next company that presented was Etymotic Research, Inc. Mead Killon, founder, Chief Technology Officer, and President, and Gail Gudmundsen, Managing Director of Audiology demonstrated the next generation of Companion Mics® which allow four people at a time to be linked up as both listeners and speakers. This product is still in production and is not yet available for sale. I was interested in learning that the company has created a home hearing test with results that are comparable to the ones you get at the audiologist's office. You can learn more at their website

There was more to the symposium, but I had listened enough to have the wow factor. I left to explore the vendors' displays in the exhibit hall. I'll write more on that in another post.

Before coming to the convention, I had made plans to meet Dr. Dusty Jessen, workshop presenter and author of Frustrated by Hearing Loss: 5 Keys to Communication Success. I had purchased and read her book ahead of time and was interested in meeting her in person. We ended up having lunch together with her mom in the exhibit hall before her afternoon workshop. It was a pleasure meeting both of them. Dr. Jessen autographed my book and posed with me for a photo which her mom took of us. I will post a separate book review once I've finished this series on the HLAA convention. In the meantime, you can learn more by visiting her website at

Dr. Dusty Jessen and me with the book she wrote

After lunch I attended her workshop where I learned the following 5 facts:
  • 20% of Americans have hearing loss
  • 30% of Americans 65 and older have hearing loss
  • 50% of Americans 75 and older have hearing loss
  • Hearing loss is the 3rd most common health problem in America, following arthritis and heart disease
  • 100% of Americans are affected by hearing loss because it affects everyone around the people who have it.

Dr. Jessen said hearing aids are only one piece of the communication puzzle. She emphasized the importance of anticipation as the listener. She has seen her mom use this technique successfully. She also mentioned that you can get a car program for your hearing aids. This was news to me. I am going to ask my audiologist about that at my next visit as I often turn down the volume on my hearing aids to reduce unpleasant road noise.

After this, I returned to my hotel for a nap. I wanted to rest up because HLAA had an exciting outing planned for us that evening. At 5:30 p.m. we boarded buses and went to the historic Scholz Biergarten, a German barbecue place that offered Texas swing and line dancing.

I was amused by this sign at the entrance and couldn't resist snapping a photo of it. Perhaps HLAA should consider changing its name?

I had a wonderful time at the barbecue. My new friend Velda and I grabbed a seat at a picnic table in the outdoor patio area. Before long we were joined by other ladies and we soon had a successful group conversation going. I want to highlight this because it is not something I typically experience when I'm in a group situation. Each of us were careful to be sure everyone could hear and follow what we said. We took turns with only one of us speaking at a time. I enjoyed our conversation very much and will treasure the memory of these women and our socializing.

As much fun as I was having outside, the line dancing indoors was calling me. I had never line danced before but had always wanted to give it a try. I danced three songs with a song in between each to sit down and catch my breath. I had no idea line dancing was so strenuous. It was fun because most of us were terrible. When we changed directions, we often ran into each other. The instructor failed to show up, so one of the conference attendees stepped in to guide us. I didn't get her name, but you can see a little bit of her in the photo above. She is wearing a blue and white checkered shirt, cowboy hat, and boots. We would have been totally lost without her. She held her hand up high and used her fingers to count off the steps.

Here's a photo of the band that played for us. I bet they were pretty amused by our line dancing prowess. All in all, that night in Texas was a fun evening of food, friendship, music, and laughs. I am so glad I went.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would have tried the headphones if I was there. I would have enjoyed the day there. The headphones are something I would like to try and I hope to one day.