We missed the first Plenary Session-- something I would regret for the next several days whenever people mentioned "that deaf man who flew around the world." His fantastic story inspired everyone who heard it. But I overslept, then we ran into traffic, and by the time we got to the Wall Center we wanted-- no-- NEEDED-- coffee. After all the previous walking around the day before to find coffee shops, we discovered the hotel itself had a Starbucks right inside! AWESOME. This meant we could get our coffee fixes all day long without even leaving the hotel.
The first workshop I attended from 11-12:30 was Demystifying Hearing Assistive Technology given by Beth Wilson and Tina Thompson. Though this workshop was about making the most of the assistive technology available to you, the room wasn't looped. Those of us hoping to benefit from our telecoils couldn't. The Irony! I learned later that NONE of the workshops were looped, and I must admit I was shocked, since IFHOH was a world wide convention for hard-of-hearing and deaf people, most of whom wore hearing aids or CI's with telecoil capability. I'm accustomed to looped meeting rooms whenever HLAA, ALDA and the Say What Club have events for the hard-of-hearing/deaf. Evidently I wasn't the only one expecting looped rooms. At a later workshop it was pointed out that most all public buildings in Europe are looped for telecoil. The lack of FM loops was a HUGE oversight in my opinion.
And just an aside here--Though this was a major Sheraton hotel, we found out by the next morning Kate and Ann had a terribly hard time getting their captioned TV to work. A handyman was called up, and even HE failed. Un-frickin-believable!! A MAJOR Global convention for HH/deaf people was being held in this very hotel and their staff hadn't been briefed on how to work the captioning? Reminded me of that awful experience I had in Albuquerque, NM last year. They finally got it working next day after going thru several handymen. ARGGHH!
However, getting back to the workshop, these two speakers-- Beth Wilson and Tina Thompson-- gave an excellent presentation with fun visuals and humor. The information presented wasn't new to me, since I've been to many, many hearing loss conventions, workshops, and meetings for the HH/deaf over the years. The session would have been useful to those new to hearing loss. I came away with one great quote from Helen Keller. "When you lose your sight, you lose things; when you lose your hearing, you lose people." I would add to that-- When you lose your hearing you gain "things." I've got gadgets up the kazoo to help me hear, see and feel my world.
I was pleased to see two interpreters just ahead. One of them signed he was there for the woman next to me. I told him I was learning ASL. He smiled and split his attention between the two of us. I haven't used ASL since my last class over a month ago, and worried I had lost vocabulary. It was a good experience to be able to watch the interpreters and understand without having to read everything on CART. Unfortunately, I didn't see them again until the very last day. They had been hired specifically for that one woman, not the entire convention. This was another huge disappointment, however with up to five workshops at each session, and three sessions a day not including the morning plenary-- I realized that hiring interpreters for each workshop would have run up the tab up to five figures. Considering that most of us didn't sign fluently and that many of those who could sign didn't use ASL since they were from other countries, it made little sense to offer compulsory ASL interpreters for all workshops. Everyone was accommodated by CART. Everyone could read spoken English. English is the official language of IFHOH.
The second part of this session was Empowering Strategies given by Janice Aaron Moore. Like the first two, she was gifted in grabbing your attention, emphasizing self-disclosure as the first step toward empowering strategies with many colorful personal stories. Again, I think this would have been a great workshop for someone new to hearing loss. I'm long past hiding my inability to hear. Self-disclosure isn't a problem.
Next, we had a fabulous lunch. Being a vegetarian I wasn't sure what to expect, but as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to some Muslims from Kuwaitwho didn't eat pork . The menu for the day was some kind of salad with bacon bits. All the Kuwaitis ordered a 'vegetarian' option, so I did too-- and I'm glad I did. The salad was delicious.
After lunch, I went to one of the best workshops of the entire Congress, in my opinion, The Evolution of Hearing Aid Technology: New Developments given by Dave Gordy. It was here I learned about the Phonak Naidas and Oticon Epoq. OK-- I'll admit it right now. . . My hearing aids are almost nine years old. They're still working well, but obviously they don't have any of the stuff the new hearing aids have--auto telecoil detection and sensors that know when to zero in on high-pitched speech sounds, etc. I'm not really into automatic everything. Mine were state-of-the art when I bought them but they're SO OLD now.
Researchers are on the brink of solving many past problems associated with hearing aids-- namely how to deal with the common ski-slope. The Naidas take high-pitched sounds and somehow transfer them to a mid-range frequency. What it means for people with profound ski-slope hearing loss is they are able to hear birds and several consonants in the high-pitched frequencies again. I am trying not to get my hopes up too much, but I couldn't help wondering if I'd be able to hear the flutes in Bach's Brandenburg concertos again.
I've looked through the Phonak brochure and pretty much decided on a hot color next time-- something that will make a statement rather than the bland, icky medical-looking beige. I'm thinking transparent purple, but they also make a zebra striped aid that's tempting. Hard to decide. Another great, but probably insignificant feature to some of you is it's waterproof. Living in the Seattle area, I do appreciate that. The smartlink FM system with blue tooth capability is another fantastic feature. Finally, It's a power aid. I learned during the IFHOH I wouldn't benefit from the Epoq and other aids like that because my hearing loss is too great. Thin tubes and open ear molds are out.
Gordy said all the "newer" aids were being built without telecoil capability. The Europeans in the audience were upset by this bit of news since most of the public buildings are looped for telecoil. I double-checked with the vendors in the Phonak upstairs to be sure the Naidas had telecoil. Phonak has no plans to drop theirs. At a later workshop, telecoil capability came up again, and we were assured that Starkey will also continue to make aids with telecoil.
The final workshop of Day 2 was IFHOH Part One.