*This story first appeared in The Budget’s May 9, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
If you are one of the estimated 48 million Americans living with significant hearing loss, or if you are the caregiver or loved one of a person living with hearing loss, the Hearing Loss Association of America wants to help.
“You don’t have to face your hearing loss alone,” said Deborah Schaaf, Ohio coordinator for HLAA. “We’re here, we’re open, and we want to help.”
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is the nation’s leading organization representing individuals with hearing loss whose mission is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss through education, support and advocacy.
The organization currently has a local chapter representing the Orrville-Wooster area that meets monthly with the goal of providing assistance and resources and helping area individuals and their families adjust to living with hearing loss.
“We’re here to give them support and resources and help them find ways to get better hearing aids, cochlear implants,” Schaaf explained.
HLAA also works to eradicate the stigma associated with hearing loss and raise public awareness about the need for prevention, treatment, and regular hearing screenings.
Schaaf noted that hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition in older adults, af- fecting approximately one in every three individuals in the U.S. ages 65 and over, but, because of the stigma, some may be reluctant to admit that they are having difficulty hearing.
Instead, Schaaf said, they may bluff about being able to hear well or avoid taking part in activities they once enjoyed. “A lot of people are avoiding doing things because they can’t hear anymore, or they quit wearing their hearing aid, or they just don’t get enough support from
family,” she said. “It’s kind of sad.” Others may be reluctant to reveal their hearing loss because they are afraid it will jeopardize their job. “They don’t want to lose their job, so they try to hide it, or they try to pretend they’re hearing,” Schaaf explained.
HLAA estimates that approximately 80 percent of individuals with hearing loss who could benefit from a hearing aid do not wear one. On average, hearing aid users wait between 7 and 10 years after their initial diagnosis to be fitted with hearing aids.
Schaaf invites anyone who may be experiencing these challenges to attend one of the group’s monthly meetings to find support, meet with others with hearing loss, discover, and learn how to overcome the many challenges that individuals affected by hearing loss face every day. “I try to tell people that we’re here. We’re open. The doors are always open, and we want to help them out,” she said.
Meetings are open to individuals of all ages who are affected by hearing loss as well their caretakers or loved ones and professionals who would like to learn more about hearing loss.
During meetings, participants are invited to share their stories if they would like, and information is shared to help those in the group connect with additional resources and support.
Schaaf noted that the group’s meetings also typically feature a guest speaker who gives a presentation using a captioning device that captures and transcribes their words and projects them onto a large screen. “You can see every word that the person is talking about,” she said.
Meetings are held on the second Saturday of each month except for July and September and rotate between two different locations – the Orrville Public Library and West View Healthy Living in Wooster.
Upcoming meetings include:
- Saturday, June 9, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Orrville Public Library, 230 N. Main St. in Orrville
- Saturday, August 11, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at West View Healthy Living, 1715 Mechanicsburg Rd., Wooster
- Saturday, October 13, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at West View Healthy Living
- Saturday, November 10, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at West View Healthy Living
- Saturday, December 8, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. at West View Healthy Living
In order to make the meeting schedule a bit less confusing, Schaaf noted that the group is planning to make their permanent home at West View Healthy Living beginning next summer. “They’re adding on a new building starting in July,” she said. “That’ll be our home base next year.”
To learn more about HLAA, visit www.hearingloss.org. To learn more about the Orrville-Wooster Chapter, contact State Coordinator Deborah Schaaf at 330-465-1963 or deb- firstname.lastname@example.org