According to HLAA’s basic hearing loss facts, hearing loss is the third most common physical condition in America. Heart disease affects 80 million people, arthritis 50 million people, and hearing loss comes in at 48 million and the hearing loss population. In last five years hearing loss statistics went from 7% of the people to 10%. Then it jumped to 17% and currently it’s at 20% and it continues to rise thanks to noise induced hearing loss such as record breaking noise levels at the Seahawks game in Seattle, teenagers blasting their music with earbuds and baby boomers.
We are not a minority. There’s 48 million of us with hearing loss. What would happen if we all stood up and said “No more. We want access. We are tired of being isolated and never minded. We are sick of feeling guilty for having a hearing loss we didn’t want in the first place. We deserve equal access.” That is equal access to attend plays, to understand push button lectures at museums, use the drive thru and understand announcements at airports.
Why are we so afraid to speak up and ask for what we need? We are 48 million people strong, not weak. Let’s get over being meek and not wanting to bother anyone. It’s time we stand up and ask for our rights. It won’t always be pleasant but it will be worth it in the end. Sure, accommodating us might cost a little money but that hasn’t stopped other groups from pursuing equal access. It’s time for us to change our country for the better.
I admit. I’ve been the meek and I haven’t always stood up for myself. I’ve done some advocating for hearing loss through this blog, the Walk4Hearing and our Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) chapter but it’s time to put myself out there a little more. I’m going to push my comfort zone…again. I joined forces a few weeks ago with other local advocates to Loop Utah. This will require me to go beyond my normal and ask for what I want and what I want is more looping in Salt Lake City.
Why looping? Because when it’s set up right I hear almost everything and with my hearing loss that’s amazing. I tried it for the first time in Rhode Island at the national HLAA convention in 2012. For the first time in years, I hardly needed CART (real time captioning) to hear the presentations and it blew my mind. One simple push of a button on my hearing aids and I had fantastic sound delivered to my hearing aid. No borrowing assistive listening devices (ALDs) and wondering if they were properly cleaned. No handing over my driver’s license as hostage and no waiting in lines to get it and then again to return it. Later that year Listen Tech looped our Walk4Hearing and again I received that crystal clear sound delivered right to my hearing aid via the t-coil. Last April Listen Tech invited us to their conference and even though I sat in the very back, I heard just about every word thanks to their loop set up. It continues to amaze me because I don’t hear that clear otherwise. It is my favorite way to hear.
I’m tired of saying I don’t want to go to the play because I’ll never understand it. It would be great to attend, sitting in a designated spot and hear it all through my hearing aids. I’m tired of hovering near busy attendants at the airport hoping they remember to tell me when it’s my turn to board the plane (half the time they forget). Sitting in a designated, looped spot to hear the announcements clearly would save me stress and let the attendants do their typical job. I want to push the buttons at Temple Square and hear what the voice says like everyone else. I want to attend workshops where I can understand what’s being said without the strain of lip reading and racing to piece together missing sounds and trying to keep up with speech.
Much of Europe is looped, why can’t America be looped? We are protected by the American Disability Act (ADA) but how often have we called upon that right? I don’t really like the word ‘disability’ either because I feel perfectly able to do many things, if given the right accommodations. I bet 99% of us feel that way but at the same time, we feel guilty and try not to make waves. I’m going to start standing up for myself more and if I stand up for myself, I stand up for others as well. I don’t want to be limited on my social events anymore.
We had our first Loop Utah meeting a few weeks ago creating a steering committee using Loop Wisconsin as a model. I want to help Salt Lake City get in the loop and I believe our group will get some looping done. I’ll be posting about this as we go along and I hope to inspire others to push their comfort zones as well. Think about this:
The Deaf have advocated for themselves. They are about 1% of the population or 2,128,000 people* and they have been successful getting their needs met.
People who use wheelchairs have successfully advocated for their needs. They are .6% or 1.7 million people.**
We are 48 million people. What can we do together?
*Number taken from this website: http://libguides.gallaudet.edu/content.php?pid=119476&sid=1029158
**Numbers taken from this website: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/statistics/mobility-stats.php