Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
It may not make sense to use your feet in benefit of someone else’s ears, but in the case of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and its signature Walk4Hearing events, that’s exactly what thousands of people across the country have been doing since 1979.
Each year in the spring and fall, Walk4Hearing events “increase public awareness about hearing loss, help eradicate the stigma associated with it and raise funds for programs and services.”
Since the first walk in 2006, more than 100,000 walkers and 8,300 teams have shared their hearing journey through participation in this fundraising effort. Funds are divided between the national organization and chapters in local host cities.
A good cause: Scholarships and more
National programs help raise awareness about hearing health, advocate to support hearing-related policies, and support people on their hearing journey. Local programs and services funded by Walk4Hearing proceeds include college scholarships for students with hearing loss, hearing aids and devices for those who cannot afford them, installation of assistive technology in public places, and hosting hearing health seminars sponsored by HLAA chapters and other community groups.
This year walkers hope to raise $1.3 million with 20 walks beginning in May in cities stretching across the United States from New York to California.
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin – May 11
- Westchester/Rockland, New York – May 11
- Milford, Michigan – May 18
- Salt Lake City – May 18
- Long Beach, California – June 8
- Littleton, Colorado – June 9
- New Britain, Connecticut – June 9
- Nashville, Tennessee – June 15
- New York City, New York – September 22
- Chicago, Illinois – September 28
- Buffalo, New York – September 29
- San Diego, California – September 29
- Houston, Texas – October 5
- West Windsor, New Jersey – October 13
- Cary, North Carolina – October 13
- Washington, D.C. – October 19
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – October 20
- Brighton, Massachusetts — October 27
- Mesa, Arizona – November 2
- Louisville, Kentucky — November 2
2019 corporate sponsors:
- CapTel Captioned Telephones provide word-for-word captioning of telephone conversations.
- CaptionCall is a telephone for those with hearing loss which uses voice recognition to provide written captions of what callers say on a large, easy-to-read screen.
- Med-El, a hearing implant technology company, manufactures products including the Synchrony Cochlear Implant System and Vibrant Soundbridge, the first FDA-approved implantable middle-ear prosthesis.
- Advanced Bionics, founded in 1993, develops cochlear implant systems for individuals in more than 50 countries.
- Cochlear Americas manufactures implantable hearing systems for cochlear, bone conduction and acoustic implants for patients in more than 100 countries.
- Hearing Life is a large, privately owned hearing healthcare provider with offices throughout the United States.
- Hamilton CapTel is a leader in captioned phone technology and strives to make phone conversations simple and accessible for all people with hearing loss.
The HLAA had humble beginnings in the home of Howard E. “Rocky” Stone, who founded Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) in 1979. Stone developed bilateral hearing loss in World War II at the age of 19 as the result of a nearby explosion. He founded SHHH because there were no organizations which supported others like him. Until 1984, funding for the SHHH came from family and friends and an annual membership cost of $7. Local chapters began forming in 1980, and the first national convention was held in Chicago in 1984.
In 1988, SHHH helped draft wording for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was eventually signed into law in 1990. From 1995-2002, SHHH was involved with:
- advocacy for cell phone compatibility and newborn hearing screenings.
- collaborating with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and the US Department of Education on proposed rules for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- supporting the introduction of The Hearing Aid Tax Credit Bill.
- advocacy of Medicare and Medicaid coverage for cochlear implants.
During that time, the organization also solidified their mission “to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss by providing information, education, support and advocacy.” In 2006, the organization became HLAA and the Walk4Hearing fundraiser debuted. National headquarters are located in Bethesda, Maryland.
State organizations work on legislation, policies, programs and communication access issues specific to their state. Local chapters offer regularly-scheduled meetings and programs to provide emotional support, camaraderie and tips and techniques for living with hearing loss.
Spring and fall provide the perfect weather to participate in a Walk4Hearing fundraiser. Whether you choose to walk solo, make a day of it with a group of friends or team up with a group of co-workers who want to make a difference for people with hearing loss, the HLAA website makes it easy to register for a walk. If you’re not quite ready to join the Walk4Hearing but need to take your first step towards better hearing, make an appointment with any of our consumer-reviewed hearing healthcare providers today.