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Accessibility Advocacy Connections Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Sensory Loss

Meaningful Connections with People

Connections spread awareness. We touch each other’s lives, then go on to share what we’ve learned. The Hard of Hearing tribe is a giant web of people connected together. 

Chelle: There are so many great connections to make within the Hard of Hearing community. I’m so glad I had the urge to search out others like me, my tribe, because it gave me my place in life.  In the mid/late 90’s I found the SayWhatClub (SWC). I had an email full of people who got it and introduced me to accommodations, life skills and technology. I went on to meet them at Camp Colorado in 1998. About 30 of us met at Rocky Mountain National Park and hung out together for about 4 days. No one felt left out, we connected over hikes, campfires and tours. I’m still connected to several people from there.

Chelle (5th from the left): 1998 SayWhatClub gathering at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Hearing loss conventions are great for making connections. It’s all about the people for me, though I enjoy the workshops too. My first convention was the SWC con in Salt Lake in 2012. Their cons are small and intimate so I got to know just about everyone. I made several, lifelong, friends here. Then I went on to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) convention. They are bigger with more choices in workshops, I love their exhibit hall. I met several wonderful people there. We may not talk often but when we need something, we’re there for each other. Another great group of people, the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA). Karaoke with HoH/deaf friends will rock your world at ALDA cons. If I could, I’d attend all 3 every year. Guess what? They are all 3 coming up!

  • HLAA con June 23 – 25, 2022 in Tampa, FL
  • SWC con August 10 – 13, 2022 in Nashville, TN
  • ALDA con October 19 – 23, 2022 in San Diego, CA
Chelle (far right) and a few of her Utah people.

Supporting the hearing loss community in as many forms as possible is another passion. I’ve attended many other HLAA chapter meetings, not just my own in Salt Lake City. It’s wonderful that most are online these days so we can join from anywhere. I joined the Audible Talkers Toastmasters club out of Arizona, also online and accessible to those with hearing loss. I’ve been there for two years and it has proved to be a valuable experience. I met more super people here.

Challenge yourself to know others with hearing loss, be it a local support group, online meetings, workshops, classes… whatever! They are some of the best people you’ll meet and there’s nothing like finding your tribe.

2015 SayWhatClub Convention in San Antonio, Texas. L to R: Robyn Carter, Me, and Vicki Turner, of Turner Reporting & Captioning Services.

Robyn lives in New Zealand and visited me when I lived in Germany. Vicki, who provided open captions for a live theatre event at the con, had connected with Robyn while she was in New Zealand. Small world!

Michele: Choosing connection over isolation is the way to go!

My grandma, who was deaf and taught me how to finger spell.

Family: My first meaningful person-to-person connection linked to hearing loss was with my grandmother. She lost her hearing in much the same way I did, and from the same young age. She was a lipreader who taught me how to finger spell (the extent of sign language she knew) as a child. When all else failed I would write to her. I am lucky that even before my own hearing loss diagnosis (grade school), I had a positive example of someone very capable in life in spite of their hearing loss. Eighteen years was not nearly enough time with her, and I miss her every day.

2014 SayWhatClub (SWC) Convention in Madison, Wisconsin: Leslie Cotter (Left) is a fellow Minnesotan who I met in 2008 when I joined SWC. We were fellow volunteers and met for the first time in person in 2009 when she invited me down to the cities to meet Cathy Hilden who was in town.

Chelle Wyatt (Middle) rejoined SWC in 2009 and we became online friend and fellow volunteers. We didn’t meet in person until 2014. We’ve visit each other regularly over the years since.

Steve Nye (Right) joined SWC in 2013 and we met in person at 2014 convention and a few cons since.

Peers: When I began connecting with people in the Hard of Hearing community online—unfortunately, not until my 40s—I was amazed. Having a common focus shrank the world down to a small international group of people that I crossed paths with in many different places.

I met Julia Stepp in person for the first time at a Salt Lake City HLAA Chapter meeting where she provided CART. Julia has been the CART provider for several of our SayWhatClub Conventions and will be in Nashville this year!

That led to finding a peer support group (SayWhatClub-SWC was my first) where connections happen naturally. Many connections turn into lifelong friendships, and that is how I met Chelle. Information, experiences, and invitations shared by peers led to other connections. I met Julia while visiting Chelle, and I also connected with some other great Utah people. When their Division of Services of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DSDHH) opened up their online classes during the Covid lockdown, I made new connections during Speech Reading and Living with Hearing Loss classes.

Volunteering: After joining the SWC in 2008, I was asked to volunteer almost immediately. While writing for the newsletter and blog, and searching for content for the SWC public Facebook page, I connected with people and information that I probably would not have found otherwise.

Boise, Idaho: 2016 SayWhatClub Convention.
In 2018, Liza Sylvestre (second from the right), an artist with hearing loss, invited me and more than 50 others to take part in a Sensory Loss Symposium at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. I learn so much when I say “YES!” to participating and connecting. It was an amazing experience!

Also, researching to find solutions for newcomers on the SWC email lists led to some of my most meaningful connections, both brief and years-long. Volunteering resulted in helping myself even more than those I was trying to support. And, it kept me motivated to continue to learn and connect even when progressive hearing loss got me down.  

Movers and Shakers: There is so much creative energy in the Hard of Hearing community to connect with. I am continually initiating contact to find out more about artists, writers, advocates, communicators, service providers, and emerging technology developers who are doing great hearing loss-related work. Most of the responses I receive are from the actual creative person and it makes for some interesting email and messaging exchanges and even can lead to friendship.

Julia: “Hearing loss affects every family member, especially when it comes to communication. Communication is the key to staying connected. There are many tools that can help you stay connected. Most families don’t find these tools until the connection is a struggle and everyone is beyond frustrated. My hope is that this finds folks before the connection is damaged.”

Julia: Boy, meaningful connections. What would my life be without them? I would not have known how to navigate hearing loss myths with my own family. My family would not have the communication tools that they use every day. My kids would not have the understanding of different needs for those with hearing loss that they do. I would not be able to pass on to others the importance of family/friend support and that they too need to be in the know. 

I wouldn’t have met two thought provoking, self-advocating ladies to start a business with.

Don’t stop living your life. Learn about new tools. Make more friends and share advice. Hearing loss and Hard of Hearing needs are different for each individual. But shared experiences help us stay connected. Everyone needs a shoulder at times. Even those with years of hearing loss experience can learn new uses for that tool box just by being connected to others who have an experience to share. Get out. Share. Grow.

Join Hearing Loss LIVE! Tuesday, June 7th and let’s get connected with Talk About It Tuesday! An open discussion about hearing loss, online via Zoom with captions.

Watch our companion podcast here.

If you liked this post, try Finding Your Tribe because that’s where you find some of your most valuable connections. Connect better with your family, read Hearing Loss: Family and Communication.