As an audiologist, I recently experienced a humbling and very inspiring meeting with six successful cochlear implant recipients, some binaural, and 3 hearing aid users with severe hearing loss. At my first state HLAA board meeting I learned that I am the only normal hearing board member.
The Hearing Loss Association of America was originally founded as Self Help for Hard of Hearing People in 1979 by Rocky Stone, a consumer with profound hearing. In the 80s SHHH had about 1000 members nationally. By the mid-90s Stone and his group’s initiative had elevated national awareness of hearing with 12,000 members. In 2006 the name was changed to the present HLAA. I remember seeing Rocky at national ASHA conventions before he passed away in 2004. He dedicated decades of his life to help those who suffer from hearing loss.
Why was I humbled and inspired at the last board meeting. I was humbled by the sheer effort that these people have invested to overcome their hearing loss. I am inspired because they do more than just show up for board meetings. The board members are true working volunteers that advocate for and educate people with hearing loss in Florida. They have minimal financial support from the National HLAA so often they dig in to their own pockets to cover expenses.
More importantly this Florida group gets goals accomplished. HLAA has an initiative to loop America. If you look at the Florida map of www.loopfinder.com you will see a trend. There are about 4 key board members in Sarasota and Tampa areas. At his time that small geographic area has 102 looped venues as compared to 76 for the rest of the entire state. That number will increase very soon because Publix will be testing loops in in their west central Florida stores. Due to a concerted effort by HLAA the Villages and Ocala are quickly developing looped venues.
I recommend that all Florida Audiologists acknowledge HLAA and join their organization like I did. We need them.
Daniel Gardner is a 40 veteran of the hearing industry. He earned his graduate degree in audiology from the University of South Florida. Dan is CEO of Gardner Audiology in the Tampa Bay area. He can be reached at gardneraudiology.com