I’m hungover. And not from wine – although I did have a glass or two – but from a fabulous overload of people and information. Several days of chat, discussion and discoveries about my hearing loss issues have left my tired but content.
It’s the best hangover I’ve ever had.
The 35th conference of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) just wrapped up in my town of Sidney, British Columbia. Almost 200 people, the majority of them with hearing loss, came from across Canada, leaving behind bad weather, like snow in Newfoundland & Labrador, rain in Toronto and high winds in Edmonton. Luckily, Vancouver Island which is often misty and drizzly, had burst into a week of bright warmth, making the outdoor café and boardwalk views of the ocean, mountains, and the occasional whale even more spectacular.
Inside the conference venue, the world of hearing loss was in full swing. Hard of hearing people were mingling and learning how to live better with their hearing challenges – their deafness, their tinnitus, their technology. We used everything that was available to us – hearing aids, cochlear implants, telecoils and loops, Bluetooth, real time captioning, and the non-technical device of speechreading.
We talked – and boy, can we talk when we can hear well! We listened to experts. Dr. Marshall Chasin spoke about the tricky relationship between hearing loss and music, and Dr. Douglas Beck enthralled an audience desperately seeking help for their tinnitus. Other presentations covered advocacy, working with your hearing care professional, and the fire alarm technology that we need to keep us safe. (If there’s an alarm, I’ll sleep through it. But if there’s light attached to that alarm, I’m up and running at the first siren call!) Every presentation room was looped – including the theatre where I gave a performance of I’m Hearing as Hard as I Can to end the conference. At least one woman was overwhelmed at the joy of hearing music clearly for the first time in a long time, thanks to the telecoils that brought the piano directly into her hearing aids.
But the best stuff, the most inspiring moments, come from conversations with other people who have the same issues as you. Just by talking with someone else who doesn’t hear well, there’s a back and forth sharing that lets each person walk away with these gifts:
- Better understanding of their personal hearing loss
- What questions they should be asking – and the knowledge that not only is it OK to ask, but crucial.
- Higher expectations of their hearing care professional
- Communication tactics they may have never considered, such as turning someone around for better light on their face
- How to express, tactfully and more confidently, to family back home that their emotions around hearing loss are real and valid
- The knowledge that other people care and/or really understand their issues
These are the benefits of connecting with other people who have hearing loss. And the best way to meet them is at conferences put on by consumer organizations such as CHHA, the Hearing Loss Association of America, and many similar organizations in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, and Australasia. One day events put on by hearing aid retailers are becoming more frequent, which offer information from the many hearing aid manufacturers, food and free stuff. But along with the free lunch, these events should also include talks by hearing professionals, and the opportunity to mingle and chat with the most important people there – the ones with hearing loss.
About that hangover. It’s almost gone now and I’m resting up for the next big one next month – the HLAA convention in Salt Lake City. Join me!