Hearing Loss LIVE! is what happens when a few friends, Chelle Wyatt, Julia Stepp, and Michele Linder, connect over hearing loss and decide to start a business together.
Chelle and Michele both have experienced progressive hearing loss from a young age. Having struggled at various times in their lives to adjust to new levels of hearing, they want to offer others the help and services they had a hard time finding themselves.
Julia is hearing, but has family members with hearing loss. As a CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) provider for over twenty years, Julia has witnessed her clients’ various comfort levels and constant need to self-advocate. She’s learned a lot about hearing loss that has helped her grow in both her professional and personal life.
All three founders share a passion for paying forward the knowledge they’ve gained from their unique experiences, and from each other.
Our first goal is to let you get to know us through blog articles, podcasts and social media. As we grow, gather feedback, define needs, and gain experience, we plan to offer classes, workshops, mentoring, and hands-on problem solving to individuals with hearing loss and their hearing family members, groups, service providers, and audiology clients.
It is exciting to think of what can happen if millions of newly confident, empowered and knowledgeable Hard of Hearing (HoH) people coalesce into a movement to educate the world about OUR needs!
It really is amazing the paths our lives take and the connections we make. Looking at the timeline below, you can see how Chelle, Julia, and Michele’s lives intersected. It shows how their friendships and collaborations developed over the years. In the fall of 2020, they got serious and began developing a plan for how Hearing Loss LIVE! with a desire to change the status quo of services and support for the Hard of Hearing.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“Working with others who have hearing loss gave my own hearing loss a purpose.”
CHELLE: You don’t know what you don’t know…and I didn’t know much about my hearing loss for many years. For seventeen years I was given hearing aids and sent on my way. I maintained well enough with just hearing aids but how I wish someone had offered me life strategies for hearing loss as this would have helped the younger me so much!
Big drops in hearing change our lives.
In 2007 I had another big drop in hearing and in 2008 I moved from Arizona to Utah. I had no idea how much support I had from family, friends and coworkers until I moved. It hit me hard in Salt Lake City as I tried to build a work life and failed.
This forced me to reach out to hearing loss support groups early on in 2009. First I found the local group Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Salt Lake City chapter. A few months later, I reached out again to the SayWhatClub (SWC) who operates online giving me daily access to support and this is how I met Michele.
The state of Utah has a unique Hard of Hearing program under the Division of Services of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DSDHH) offering free classes. They taught me I indeed use lipreading, communication is a two-way street, and how to advocate for myself. Here I experienced CART (live captioning) for the first time which gave me full participation! Julia provided the CART at these meetings, this is how I met her.
Hearing Loss Acceptance
This is when I started to grow and accept my hearing loss, it led me down a new path I never dreamed of, a better one. I learned some of the best people in the world have hearing loss. When I began working at DSDHH in 2013, I was helping others with hearing loss. This gave my own hearing loss purpose.
In my experience, the Hard of Hearing are often misrepresented, misunderstood and underserved. With Hearing Loss LIVE! I want to start with the people, giving us a better voice. I want to empower others with hearing loss so that they will be more confident in life. My vision is to have our communications needs better understood and better met in public. The best thing in the world for me is seeing the people I help go on to help others. Love that ripple effect! Together we get things done.
“I became a CART provider because helping others is what I have always been about.”
JULIA: For the past twenty years plus, I’ve been a CART provider, (Communication Access Real-time Translation). That’s a fancy acronym for live captioning for all different types of events; business meetings, college classes, conferences and more. I am lucky enough to work in the state of Utah where they have unique services sponsored by the Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, including a Community Center, fondly called the Sanderson Center.
Why did I became a CART provider? Because helping others is what I have always been about. Also, the perk of attending college classes and self-help seminars while being paid with no test to take…who could resist? What I didn’t realize, with my silent partnership, is what the hearing loss world would teach me and my family.
Meeting Chelle & Michele
I met Chelle Wyatt at a Hearing Loss Association, Salt Lake Chapter meeting in early 2009. She was new from Arizona and the chapter was excited to soak up all she had to offer. She introduced me, and others, to the SayWhatClub the first time when they were taking bids from CART providers for their conference in Salt Lake City. Later, she encouraged me to bid again for a conference in Sacramento. Through Chelle, I met Michele when Chelle brought her to Salt Lake to talk about Travel and Hearing Loss with our local HLAA Salt Lake Chapter. Over the years, I got to know Chelle quite well and recently we found working together was a good fit. Michele always amazed me with her talent and what she can teach others about self reliance and advocacy.
In 2020 I joined Chelle’s Hard Hearing Assistant team. Instead of sitting silently, I was able to teach and brainstorm with clients to succeed with hearing loss changes.
How can we better share the knowledge?
There is a world of knowledge for folks with hearing loss and their hearing friends, family and coworkers. But there isn’t always a clear way to obtain that knowledge. The first company start up meeting I attended, after listening to Chelle and Michele’s vision, I wanted in. This is what we need to help ourselves openly and without boundaries or restrictions. We have the knowledge and years of experience. And the resilience to explore the unknown.
“The positive side of hearing loss is the people you meet along the way who become lifelong friends…”
MICHELE: Starting a business to help empower people with hearing loss has been rattling around in my head for quite some time.
As a longtime volunteer for the SayWhatClub and consumer captioning advocate, I’ve seen how things change and also stay the same. There remains a huge gap between what you learn from your audiologist and the practical knowledge you need to live fully with hearing loss. I continue to meet people who are Hard of Hearing who have the same lack of awareness, misconceptions, and challenges that I had all those years ago.
I began losing my hearing in early childhood. Being left to figure it out on my own was a challenge, but also an exercise in how amazing the brain is at figuring out how to compensate for a damaged auditory nerve. I became hardwired to lipread long before being diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss in grade school, and I gained many other skills and strengths in the years of progressive loss that followed.
Advocacy is the key.
The flip side was missing out on having an advocate, mentor, or positive example to learn from. There was so much I didn’t know, and wouldn’t learn, until I reached my 40s—the age when I decided that if no one else was teaching me how to communicate and thrive in a world that wasn’t designed for me, I was going to have to do it myself.
The last twenty years have been a true training ground. Two decades of experimentation to actively figure out those difficult situations that left me depleted, embarrassed, and feeling less than whole. I am happy to say I am a very different person today—more self-assured and direct, a better self-advocate, and more confident for having mastered some of what seemed so insurmountable for most of my life. Why not help others figure out how to do the same for themselves?
The positive side of hearing loss is the people you meet along the way who become lifelong friends, and the pandemic has made the bonds that Chelle, Julia, and I share even stronger. I am excited that the three of us are combining on such a worthwhile venture.
Our long term goals:
When you distill it all down, think of Hearing Loss LIVE! as lifestyle coaching for the HoH; in group settings wherever there is a need to educate about hearing loss.
- We want to help people find ways to take control of their lives instead of reacting to what they didn’t hear.
- We want to share how we gained new confidence and increased our knowledge and awareness of communication tools, accommodations, services, and technology.
- We want to provide ways for service agencies/providers and audiologists to connect their clients and patients to the information they will need to live life in the way they want.
- Most important, we want to help the Hard of Hearing learn how to embrace their hearing loss to live fully in a new reality they didn’t choose.