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On the Road with a HoH (and Her BFFs)
By Gael Hannan, Hearing Health Matters 4/9/2013

Best friends share things through the years – secrets, money, boyfriends, etc.  And if one of you has hearing loss,  you share that, too.  If your friend is truly your best friend, she will gladly embrace the communication challenges, the irritations, and the daily impact of your hearing loss.

I’m writing this from Florida, where I arrived yesterday after a three-day Girl’s Road Trip with my two long-time BFFs (best-friends-forever), Shona and Wendy.  ‘Women’s Road Trip’ might be a more accurate descriptor given that we are in our fifties, but on fun trips like these, we tend to chop off a couple of decades.  And this road trip, our first in a long time, had the added attraction of a few defining hard-of-hearing moments, one of which was an eye-opener for all of us – and I mean eye-opener!

My BFFs and I are simpatico in the areas of life we consider important – social and family values, politics, and senses of humor.  We also talk a lot.  Other people marvel at our ability to carry on a conversation that started when we were 17 and that will last until we collectively croak.  We do have our differences;  one is that I’m hard of hearing and they are not, although I like to think they have other issues.  My hearing loss has added a stop-and-start function to our dialogue, as comments must be constantly repeated, rephrased or deleted.

Why is it a joy for a HoH such as me to travel with her BFFs?   Because they love you, want to communicate with you, and, above all, they are well trained.

• BFFs are very patient about answering, over and over again, various versions of what did s/he say?  Sometimes it only takes a raised eyebrow and they know you haven’t got or heard what was said, especially comments made by other people.

• BFFs expect to repeat themselves regularly and they’re darned good at it.  Sometimes, they will say automatically say something twice – once in a normal voice and then again, much louder, to ward off the inevitable pardon?

• They are also skilled at ignoring you as you clamor for repetition. Some hard of hearing people have the unfortunate habit of asking for repetition of the dinner specials, before the server has finished saying them once.  My BFFs are well-practiced in ignoring my raised eyebrows, arm-patting, and my what-what-what’s until they have something substantial to repeat.

• Because you know them so well, after a lifetime of yakking, you can read BFF lips from almost any angle.  This helps you to speechread from any seat in the car.  Sometimes, all you need is to see a corner of a lip as your BFF talks out the window at some amazing sight.  Now, this doesn’t mean the person with hearing loss should give up lobbying for her favorite speechreading perch, which is always the front passenger seat.  However, one does have to be fair and open to rotating seat assignments.

On this trip, my friend’s Land Rover had such excellent acoustics (why this is better than in my own vehicle is beyond me), that their voices were sometimes a bit too loud, most likely because they were ‘speaking up’ for my benefit.  I still needed to speechread, however, as we played the Alphabet Game while driving through Georgia.  This is the game where you pick a subject and then go through the alphabet.  My suggestion of ‘brands of hearing aids’ was rejected in favour of ‘bird names’.    I never seemed to be looking at the correct BFF when they said their words, so everything had to be repeated twice.  Then there was the age-related problem of not remembering whose turn it was and we never did come up with a bird name starting with ‘x’.  When I wasn’t driving, playing on my iPad was a welcome break from the neck-stretching game of Speechreading In The Car.

Our planned cultural-historical stop was Gettysburg, where we saw a film on the battle before heading out to the battlefield itself.  Going into the movie, the staff person asked me if I had a telecoil.  I almost fainted; I hate to say it, but this question is not commonly asked in Canadian museums.  The neckloop receiver worked well, but I had  my usual neck-swiveling struggle to find that sweet spot for the best sound.  Outside, we were greeted by a charming volunteer-guide and thank heavens for my BFFs, who had to translate every word uttered by the guide, who was a living replica of an 1863 gentleman, complete with upper lip-obliterating mustache.

On our final night on the road, we were given a hearing-accessible room.   I hadn’t asked for one, so I must have said pardon a few times while making the phone reservation.  (And you might wonder just why the HoH was making the phone call with two hearing people on the team.)   In our hotel room, I showed off the assistive technology to Shona and Wendy; pressing the the doorbell outside the room set off a flashing strobe light inside.  However, it also set off a continuous, ear-shattering shriek that sent my both my friends and my hearing aids into spasms.  We turned it off and had a glass of wine to calm our nerves.

At 3 am, the same doorbell alarm went off, shooting two of us out of our beds in terror (nothing wakes Shona).  We couldn’t turn it off, and the sleepy front desk staffperson on the phone said, oh it was probably some teenagers roaming the halls – just reach up and push the off button.  There was no such button, so we had to wait almost five long minutes before it stopped.  Checking out the next morning, I went into advocate mode to discuss how the hotel could better handle the situation in the future, including written instructions for room occupants.

Minor irritations aside, it was a great Girl’s Road Trip – and it’s even better being here with my BFFs enjoying the sounds of seagulls and waves, as we walk the wide sandy beach.

Distributed 2013 by Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030;; 703-352-9055 V, 703-352-9056 TTY, 703-352-9058 Fax. Items in this newsletter are provided for information purposes only; NVRC does not endorse products or services. This news service is free of charge, but donations are greatly appreciated.

By Cheryl Heppner, 6/16/11

What a fabulous first day at “A Capitol Celebration,” Hearing Loss Association of America’s annual convention at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City!  It was a gray morning with ever-increasing drizzle when I ventured out with Galaxy for our early morning exercise, but we found a wonderful spot for Frisbee chasing with tree canopies for protection.  From there we raced over to the Starbucks adjacent to the convention hotel to grab a couple things for my breakfast as well as Galaxy’s conference banana.  Watching the faces of people as they walked briskly toward me on the sidewalk, intent on getting to work, I saw many of them smile at the sight of my goofy dog trotting proudly with her banana. It filled me with good cheer. 

Things kicked off in the exhibit hall with  grand opening from noon to 1:30 pm. There were some clever food choices for those attending, but I was already full.  Somehow four of us from NVRC – Bonnie, Marla, Kalen and me – bumped into each other on the second floor near the Hyatt’s Cinnabar café, though not all at the same time.  Kalen and I ended up eating lunch at Cinnabar, and I got my first big surprise of the conference when our orders arrived.  We both ordered what we thought were appetizer-sized portions, but they were served on plates more the size of serving platters.  My green salad was enough for two meals.

I’m busting my buttons a bit because two of the HLAA staff took me aside today to thank me for the hotel staff training that Bonnie and Marla did earlier this week to help prepare two hotels for the big crowd of people who can’t always hear door knocks, might confuse “pay” with “may”, and maybe have hearing aids that squeal now and again.  They said that Bonnie and Marla’s training was fabulous.  But I knew that.  They are always fabulous unless they are awesome or terrific. I love my job.

Speaking of staff, the HLAA staff and volunteers are doing an amazing job themselves.  My check-in yesterday was a total delight.  Everyone was helpful, pleasant, and organized. 

This must be one of the largest conventions because I can’t remember when I’ve had so many hugs in a day, waved to so many people passing by that I’ve met at previous conventions, and met so many new people. I was thrilled to run into Carole Purdum and her husband last night.  Carole and I were seatmates at last year’s Opening Session in Milwaukee and I had such fun getting to know her.  It’s nice to see many other couples here as well such as  John Waldo and his wife, Wayne Roorda and his wife, former area residents Gerry and Sheila Adams.

I spotted a group of staff from the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at lunch today, how nice this is an in-state conference that they could carpool and afford to attend.  And was happy to see the seemingly indestructible Arva Priola in great health after recent surgery.

But I ramble.  I’m writing too late in the day with a head too full of useful information and a steno pad full of notes from presentations and exhibits to be organized.  They’ll be coming!  I’ve got to take Galaxy for her final walk of the night and then get ready to hit the sack. Tomorrow the note taking starts at 9 am with the Research Symposium, which will probably come to you in at least three separate chunks because it’s three hours long.  Marla, Bonnie and I are taking turns with the three segments.



Cheryl Heppner, Marla Dougherty, Kalen Beck

Are you a Member of NVRC?

Join us for a FREE Members Only Breakfast provided especially in honor of YOU!

This is our way of saying "Thank You!" for all you do to support NVRC.  The Members Only Breakfast is held from 9-10 am on the morning of Celebrate Communication.  Here is your chance to mingle with (current and former) members of the Board of Directors, meet old friends and make new ones while enjoying a hot cup of coffee and some fresh morning treats from Panera Bread.

  • Time: 9 am - 10 am
  • Day: Morning of Celebrate Communication
    Saturday, May 12, 2012
  • Where: 3rd Floor, Center for the Arts Building
    (take the elevator located at the far end of the lobby across from the entrance)

All members of NVRC who are current with a paid membership as of May 9th are eligible to participate.

Membership status will be checked at the door on May 12th.

Sponsored By:
Our thanks to Panera Catering for providing a delicious array of bagels, breakfast sweets and coffee for this special event for the 5th consecutive year.

Hosted By:
This event is hosted each year by the Ambassadors Club.  The Ambassadors Club is made up of former Board Members who served on the NVRC Board of Directors thoughout the years.

Join NVRC or Renew your membership today!