Contributed by Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA, and Mandy Mroz, AuD, President, Healthy Hearing
Recently, Healthy Hearing’s digital director and I traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend our first ever convention of the Hearing Loss Associates of America (HLAA). HLAA was founded in 1979 and has an important mission: to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss by providing information, education, support and advocacy.
HLAA is the largest organization representing consumers with hearing loss, and Mandy and I hoped by attending the show, we would learn what is important to people with hearing loss, what topics are of interest to them and also see the advocacy work of the organization in action. We were honored to be among the more than 950 attendees from all over the country at this amazing event!
HLAA 2018 convention
The convention was June 20-24, 2018, and Mandy and I attended Friday’s events which began with a symposium about the most common challenge experienced by people with hearing loss: hearing in noise. Key researchers from around the country presented findings they hope will advance the technology available to people with hearing loss. There was talk of hearing technology that could one day distinguish between speech you don’t want to hear and speech you do want to hear. Another study examined the very complex “hearing” of insects that use sound to locate a suitable mate. It is the researchers’ hope that their discoveries from nature could be used to help humans.
The afternoon offered dozens of workshops and lectures all intended to help people with hearing loss find practical solutions to personal advocacy and navigating the hearing world more effectively. For example, I attended an informative session that discussed the rights of people with hearing loss when it comes to healthcare. Did you know hospitals are required to provide a sign language interpreter at no cost to patients with hearing loss to help them understand their physician’s instructions?
Mandy and I were impressed by the level of technology and accommodations intended to help attendees feel included and able to communicate easily with presenters and peers. Meeting rooms were all looped to stream sound directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants. Real time captioning and sign language interpreters provided the messages visually.
In the exhibit hall, dozens of company representatives were on hand to showcase their latest products all aimed at helping those with hearing loss enjoy life with greater ease and sense of wellness. There were several products to make watching TV more enjoyable for everyone in the room, smartphone apps for captioning Broadway performances in real time and representatives from hearing aid and cochlear implant manufacturers.
It was a perfect sunny day in downtown Minneapolis, and we ended our day at the show by participating with hundreds of attendees in the HLAA Walk4Hearing. This annual event takes place in dozens of cities around the country to raise money for hearing loss advocacy. The night was capped off with an exclusive performance by singer and songwriter Mandy Harvey.
Advocacy and connection
Nancy Macklin, Director of External Affairs for HLAA, informed us that the organization is creating a special virtual support group for veterans. Hearing loss is a common affliction of combat soldiers, and this year’s HLAA convention was host to many veterans – aged 39-93 – who met together to share stories and resources and discuss how they can affect change within the Veteran’s Administration. HLAA offers a complimentary membership and convention registration for veterans, and the organization is committed to supporting and bringing them together.
Mandy and I saw firsthand the power of human connection at the HLAA convention for people with hearing loss – hundreds of people sharing a common challenge, opportunities, humor and camaraderie. If you or someone you love has hearing loss and you are seeking connection with others who can help, you’ll feel right at home with HLAA. Start making plans now to attend the 2019 convention being planned in Rochester, New York! Visit HLAA’s website periodically for updates on registration, lodging and activities to make the most of your trip.
In the meantime, get professional help for your hearing loss if you haven’t already. Our directory of hearing clinics comes complete with consumer reviews so you can find a location that suits you and is close to home.