SOUND OFF with…
Grace Waegell Tiessen
Editor of HLA-CA’s state newsletter, The Hearing Loss Californian, art lover, and Occupier and Looper of Pasadena.
1. What was the moment when you realized that you had a hearing loss? What did you do about it?
I have been hard of hearing all my life, beginning with a mild loss and now wearing 2 cochlear implants. Nobody ever told me that I had a hearing loss.
Hearing loss was just not an issue until about 1965 when I was 36 years old. Before that time, hearing aids were large boxes. Small wearable hearing aids did not begin to be made until the 60s. In 1965 I began to be aware of my hearing loss–that I couldn’t easily understand my three children. After belonging to an HMO for 10 years, I asked for an audiogram and began wearing hearing aids. Why didn’t this HMO test my hearing when I joined?
I never met another hard of hearing person until I found SHHH (now HLAA) in 1984 when I was 65 years old. One of the first hard of hearing people I met was Nanci Linke-Ellis.
2. How has your hearing loss affected your life?
Before finding HLAA in 1984, I had become very isolated, depressed and alone. I am often left out of things and passed over because I cannot communicate as quickly as other people. I feel so close to the hearing community, yet separated by a great chasm. I often laugh at a joke only because everyone else is, but not knowing what was funny and crying inside because I feel left out. Now, my hearing loss has given me a wonderful and interesting life with more friends than I could imagine. I will be forever grateful. During the recent windstorm a huge branch broke off a tree and dropped on the porch right outside my bedroom. Didn’t bother me at all. Didn’t hear a thing.
3. What current issue related to hearing loss would you like to see addressed more? Why?
Hearing loss is a leading public health issue. The medical profession should routinely test everyone’s hearing, just like blood pressure and cholesterol, and suggest that they get hearing aids, if necessary. We have an invisible disability, but it is invisible to our doctors also. Hard of hearing people are stressed, isolated, depressed, and alone. Audiologists must tell their clients about HLAA and the local chapters, where they can get support, information, and find a whole new group of friends.
4. What would you like to tell the younger generation?
Get involved with HLAA. Embrace and accept your hearing loss. You cannot participate in life to its fullest without coming out of the “hearing loss” closet. If you deny your disability, you deny yourself accommodations.
5. What technologies are the most useful to you? How?
It would be Heaven to have everything captioned.
I can hear almost normally without lipreading with a good loop system. I have a goal to loop Pasadena.
A good website is important to know what is going on. We are fortunate to have Rhianon Gutierrez, a young person who knows all about social media doing our California website.
I’m technologically challenged. I need a tech support person to tell me what assistive listening devices would be helpful to me and how to use my CI remote.
6. I am a member of HLAA because…
Finding SHHH in 1984 was the beginning of a whole new life for me. HLAA gave me friends, causes to advocate for, information, technological support, and a hard of hearing family. I am grateful.