HLAA-WA E-News, August 9, 2022

Welcome to our e-news!

Washington State Hearing Loss News

Mosaic of black and white photos of people arranged in the shape of Washignton State.

Our New Website Is Live!

We’re excited to share with you our new, dynamic website designed to serve people with hearing loss across Washington State.

Our accessible, reader-friendly website is designed to help people at every step of their hearing loss journey. You’ll find info on all aspects of hearing loss, details on our programs, help for family and friends, financial resources, information on hearing loss technologies, and much more.  We’ll continue to add fresh content, and of course, our blog and e-news are updated regularly. 

You’re encouraged to explore the site and let us know what you think about our content. What other information would be helpful to you? What do you need in order to thrive with your hearing loss? You can email webmaster@hearingloss-wa.org with your suggestions. And please feel free to share the website with anyone who would benefit from our community.


Everyday Advocacy: The Button that Changed Someone’s Day

This month, we launch our blog series on everyday advocacy–the small, easy things you can do to help people with hearing loss and other disabilities–with this post from Cheri Perazzoli about her experience wearing a “Face Me” button on an airplane.


Hearing Tech Equipment and Help Are Available at WATAP

Try out hearing-assistive equipment and tech, get more information and guidance, and even learn about financial help, all at a terrific program at the University of Washington: WATAP. Read more in our Q&A this week.


Save the Date for Our Annual Family Picnic September 17, 2022

Mark your calendars for our HLAA-WA annual family picnic on September 17, 2022, at Lake Boren Park in Newcastle, Washington, not far from Bellevue. We’ll be at the picnic site on the lower level, close to the parking lot and restrooms. Everyone is welcome, including newcomers and friends and family. Stay tuned for more details.


Meet the New ODHH Director Earnest Covington III

In case you missed it in the last issue, we’re welcoming the new director of Washington State’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH). Watch this auto-captioned, ASL video and get to know him.


Color photo of a young woman with glasses and curly hair. She's making an ASL sign with her hands.

How Well Do States Provide Accessible COVID-19 Briefings?

The National Association of the Deaf ranked U.S. states on how well they provided ASL interpreting for COVID-19 information briefings. Washington State fared well.

At HLAA-WA, we ensured that Governor Inslee’s COVID-19 press conferences were live-captioned on TVW Washington.

We encourage you to thank Governor Inslee for his compassionate, forward-thinking actions to include people who are Deaf or who have a hearing loss. You can reach him here.


Next HOPE Meeting September 7, 2022

Is paying for ear molds normal? Do PocketTalkers work in crowds or in noisy spaces? We discussed these questions and several others in our last HOPE meeting.

Our virtual (online) HOPE meetings provide caring, encouraging support to people with hearing loss and their loved ones. We empower one another by sharing information, self-advocacy skills, technologies, and techniques.

You’re warmly invited to attend and find hope. HOPE meetings are always free, captioned, and open to everyone.

National Hearing Loss News

Hearing Loops Are on Google Maps

You may have heard that businesses on Google Maps now have a place to indicate whether they have a hearing loop. This is a huge boon for hearing accesibility. Read more from Steve Frazier via the Hearing Health Foundation.


Golden-hued photo of a woman with a pony tail standing next to a long winding road. Her hands are raised in joy and the sun is brightening her path.

One Woman’s Path from Sudden Hearing Loss to Acceptance

When she lost her hearing while giving birth, Edda Collins Coleman didn’t know what to do. Read how she found her way to acceptance of her sudden hearing loss in this Washington Post article.


Color photo from the side of a young girl. Hands are placing a cochlear implant by her ear.

Thinking About a Cochlear Implant? Here’s the Lowdown.

Wondering if a cochlear implant would help you, or would you like to know more about how they work? Hearing Tracker has an excellent article written by Dr. Chad Ruffin.

You can also ask Dr. Ruffin questions directly at his “Ask Me Anything” webinar on August 18, 2022, 4:30 – 5:30 Pacific.


Color photo of an older man with black glasses. Hands are placing a hearing aid in his ear.

You Have New Hearing Aids. Now What?

New hearing aids can take some getting used to. Pro tip: Try your new device in different environments and situations. In Washington State, you have 30 days from purchase to return your hearing aid, provided your hearing aids are in the original condition. Be sure to read the contract and negotiate any recission fees. Your hearing health care provider may give your additional time – be sure to ask.

The Cleveland Clinic offers more tips on adjusting volume, testing your aids in different situations, asking for help, and more.


Color photo of a white-haired woman with a small in-the-ear hearing aid.

Why Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Aren’t Here Yet

Over-the-counter hearing aids are coming. But when? What’s taking so long? Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Grassley have thoughts on that. Thank you to Carolyn Odio for this news tip!


Color photo of two women with glasses smiling. They are wearing hats and holding tshirts that say Walk For Hearing.

Join HLAA and HLAA-WA

Member benefits include product discounts, reduced convention registration fees, help with the latest hearing loss tech, and HLAA’s award-winning quarterly magazine, Hearing Life.  Your HLAA membership automatically includes HLAA-Washington. Dues start at $45 a year.

HLAA-WA does not endorse any technology, nor does exclusion suggest disapproval. We support the full spectrum of hearing technologies for everyone.


Hearing Technology Equipment and Help Available at WATAP

Washingtonians with hearing loss have a terrific way to try new hearing technologies to discover what works for them. The Washington Assistive Technology Act Program (WATAP) offers demonstrations, equipment loans, training, financial advice, and information about a wide spectrum of assistive technologies. Located at the University of Washington Center for Technology and Disability Studies, WATAP is supported by a grant from DSHS and other fundning sources.

We interviewed Alan Knue, WATAP Director, to get more information on how WATAP helps people with hearing loss.

Q: What equipment do you offer that’s most helpful for people with hearing loss?

A: Through WATAP’s Device Demonstration and Lending Library, we offer a selection of assistive technology that can help with those who have hearing loss or who are deaf. These devices can be experienced during a device demonstration with guidance from one of WATAP’s assistive technology specialists or can be borrowed for up to 3 weeks through our device lending program. Both of these programs allow individuals to try out a device to help them make an informed decision about what may or may not work prior to purchase. Examples of technologies in our inventory related to hearing assistance include personal assistive listening devices, such as the Pocket Talker; FM systems; amplification equipment, including amplified phones and personal TV amplification devices; dual communication aids; and visual and vibrating alerting and signaling devices.

Q: Can you tell us more about the financial help that you can offer folks who need hearing loss technology?

A: As mentioned above, our device demonstration and device lending programs are designed to assist in informed decision-making, enabling people to make confident choices about their assistive technology needs, ensuring a good match and reducing abandonment because a device was not a good match.

We also provide some alternative means to help individuals obtain AT through our device reuse partners and with help from our state financing programs.

One of our community device reuse providers, the Seattle Hearing, Speech, and Deaf Center (HSDC), offers a unique hearing aid reuse program. This program provides a set of refurbished hearing aids, which includes fitting, orientation, and follow-up, to low-income individuals. HSDC also offers assistive listening equipment for long-term loan. This program is especially designed to offer equipment for those who have changing hearing loss, allowing individuals to use the equipment for as long as is needed. The equipment is then returned to HSDC, sanitized, refurbished if needed, and then sent back out into the community to be used by another person.

Through a partnership with the Perkins School for the Blind, WATAP operates iCanConnect WA, Washington’s National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program. This program, funded by the Federal Communication Commission, provides telecommunications equipment and associated support and training to eligible low-income applicants who have significant combined vision and hearing loss. Examples of equipment provided include Windows or Mac desktops and laptops, screen magnification and screen reading software, cell phone and tablets, amplified phones, refreshable braille displays and notetakers, and audible, visual, vibrating signalers to alert user

Finally, we also partner with the Northwest Access Fund, who provides affordable financing for the purchase of AT devices and services. This program is available to qualified applicants who are residents of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, of all ages with disabilities of all types, including seniors with age-related functional limitations. Financing up to $25,000 with up to a 5-year term is available for assistive technology loans, with a loan interest rate of 5% APR. This program is of particular benefit to help individuals afford more costly assistive technology, such as hearing aids, especially when the devices are not paid for or covered by health insurance or other means.

Q: How can people get started with WATAP? What should be their first step?

A: The best way to connect with WATAP is to call us at 800-214-8731 or email us at watap@uw.edu. Both are monitored daily and this is the best way to have questions answered and to request an appointment for a demonstration. Our website (https://watap.org) has information about our services and specially this is the best place to browse our inventory and request devices through our device lending program (https://watap.org/loan).

All devices provided through our device lending program is shipped via UPS and we provide a return label so that the device can be easily returned back to us.

Q: Can you tell us an uplifting story about what it’s like to do the work that you all do? What do you love about it?

A: Recently, one of WATAP’s assistive technology specialists visited the Sno-Valley Senior Center in Carnation to give a presentation on assistive technology that may benefit individuals who have hearing and/ or vision loss. At the beginning of the presentation, some examples of assistive technology were available on a table for the attendees to see and have a demonstration of. One individual tried out a Pocket talker and fell in love with the device. She could not believe how much better she was hearing and how easy the device was to use. She ended up using the device during the presentation and was active in the discussions during and after the event. She said she was going to order the device as soon as she got home.

We love being able to open eyes by providing examples of assistive technology that are both representative and informative through our programs. We hope we will inspire individuals to explore and find solutions, as we know the difference assistive technology makes in the lives of the many individuals we serve. The impact is not only to the individuals themselves, but also to their immediate families, their circle of friends, and the community at large.

Everyday Hearing Loss Advocacy: A Button that Changed Someone’s Day

By Cheri Perazzoli

Color photo of a blonde woman in a suit walking down the aisle of an airplane.
Airplanes can be a challenging envrionment to hear, but we can help one another communicate better.

In the world of hearing loss advocacy, we encourage people to ask venues for hearing access, build relationships with their lawmakers, and support legislation that helps people with hearing loss. But there’s also another kind of advocacy that can really make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities: the kind of easy, everyday things that all of us can do. With this post, we start our series on everyday advocacy.

How A Button Changed Someone’s Whole Day

I recently boarded a plane with a button that said, “Face Me, I Have a Hearing Loss.” The flight attendant saw it and said, “Oh! That reminds me to put my hearing aid in.” She grabbed her hearing aid from her pocket and slipped her it over her ear.

Then, she shared some vulnerabilities with me, saying that she often struggled to understand passengers’ drink orders because people usually were looking down. I smiled and gave the flight attendant my “Face Me” button, and she pinned it on her uniform so passengers would know to speak up and look at her directly. In gratitude, she gave me a complimentary glass of wine, but my biggest reward was knowing that her day was about to go much better.

My simple act—wearing a button on my jacket—gave me confidence, helped the flight attendant perform her job more easily, and spread awareness about hearing loss among passengers on the plane and others throughout the airport.

Sometimes advocacy shouts from the rooftops, sometimes it whispers quietly, and sometimes it barely says anything at all—but it all comes together to help us build hearing-friendly neighborhoods for everyone.

What are some ways that you’ve practiced everyday advocacy for yourself or others? Share with us in the comments below.

Meet Earnest Covington III, New ODHH Director

Meet Earnest Covington III, New ODHH Director for Washington State

We’re pleased to say “howdy” to Earnest Covington III, new director at the Washington State Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Get to know this outstanding leader via his welcome video. Note that the video is auto-captioned and interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL), and a transcript is below.

Good afternoon Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind, Deaf Plus, and Latened Deafened Washingtonians.

I want to do the brief introduction myself.  I am Black, Deaf, and Male with navy blue jacket and blue tie with violet shirt.  My name is Earnest Covington III and I am honored to be appointed as Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Director (ODHH).  I was appointed on July 5th by Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA) Assistant Secretary Bea Rector.  I want to express my gratitude for the HLAA-Washington to be part of the ODHH Director interview panel. 

I would like to share with you about my brief biography.  American Sign Language is my primary language.  I have Deaf parents and I born and raised in Flint, Michigan.  I graduated at Michigan School for the Deaf (MSD) in Flint, MI.  I went Gallaudet University from 1997 to 2001 before I transferred to Michigan State University and graduated there with BA degree in History.  I obtained Master of Public Administration from University of Michigan and Post-Masters Graduate Certification from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. 

I would like to share with you about my work experience.  I worked for Michigan School for the Deaf for 17 years and I was included with various roles such as the teacher aide, coach, athletic director, disciplinarian, teacher, and other roles.  My last role was Director of MSD Staffing before I accepted the job in West Virginia as an Executive Director for West Virginia Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WVCDHH), and I worked there for 5 years.  I accepted the same role for Rhode Island Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (RICDHH) after I left WVCDHH and I was employed RICDHH from October 2019 to June 30th, 2022 before I got appointed as an ODHH Director on July 5th, 2022. 

My major goal as a ODHH Director is to adhere ALTSA’s mission statement is to transform lives by promoting choice, independence and safety through innovative services.  Also, we will follow ALTSA’s vision statement that would focus on Seniors and people with disabilities with good health, independence, dignity, and control over the decisions that affect their lives.  ODHH would share ALTSA’s values to focus on collaboration, respect, accountability, compassion, honesty and integrity, pursuit of excellence, open communication, diversity, and inclusion.

I want to share some fun facts about myself.  I am an avid swimmer and enjoying sightseeing at the museums and downtowns in Washington!   I am starting to pick up golfing as new hobby.  Also, I used to play college football at Gallaudet and University, and I was a first Black lifeguard ever there too. 

Thank you for reading the blog and watching the vlog.  I am looking forward to connecting with all of you and it is important for myself to be represented all of you to focus on improve the better services for all of you.  Feel free to contact me if you want to meet me and my door will be always open for all of you! 

Thank you,
Earnest Covington III, MPA
DSHS/ALTSA/ODHH
Director

Looking Back at 32 Years of the ADA

By Cheri Perazzoli

At the Bellevue Arts Fair in 2012, Cheri Perazzoli and her daughters introduce loops to many folks for the first time.

The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) law was passed 32 years ago this week with the goal of removing barriers to the physical environment ending the ableism and stigmas that block people with disabilities from participating equally.  Back then, I wondered how the ADA might help bring about hearing-friendly communities and change the lives of millions of people with hearing loss. Today, I’m looking back at our long and winding advocacy journey.

Over a decade ago, I glimpsed what a hearing-friendly could be when I discovered the joy of hearing loops while on vacation in Ireland. I found hearing loops everywhere in the UK: train stations, railcars, tour buses, museums, theaters, ticket windows, and retail counters. Signs were posted so people knew to use the loop, and we were even shown how to use the loop. My communication barriers had been eliminated! I found myself in a place that acknowledged my hearing disability and created a culture where I could participate. Empowered by my newfound independence, I felt the shame and stigma fading away. I envisioned all kinds of opportunities if we had hearing-friendly communities here in the US. If the UK could do it, surely we could do the same here.

With that dream in my heart, I founded Let’s Loop Seattle in 2012. I drew inspiration from national Get in the Hearing Loop efforts such as Dr. David Myers’s Loop America, and from the advocacy work of other local HLAA chapters who’d come before us: Anacortes, Whatcom County, Bellevue, Snohomish, Spokane, Grays Harbor, and many more.

Color photo of pepole talking at a booth at an outdoor fair. The blue booth sign reads, in white writing, Share the Sound, Let's Loop Seattle, with a line drawing of the Seattle skyline.
Maggie Howell talks to visitors to the Let’s Loop Seattle booth at the Bellevue Arts Fair in 2012.

This week back in 2012, Let’s Loop Seattle had a booth at the Bellevue Arts Fair.  One of our earliest victories was at the Bellevue Arts Museum: Loops went in at the BAM counter, auditorium, and at some exhibits.  As Let’s Loop Seattle and HLAA’s Get in the Hearing Loop movement grew, I learned how to ask for hearing accommodations in many different ways, and ask I did. I went from being that friend who didn’t hear well to being an outspoken advocate for people with hearing loss.

The ADA gave us the muscle to open doors to access, but it’s our friends and allies who have made the difference between success and failure. The strength and influence of HLAA-WA and our local hearing loss heroes became apparent as looped venues sprang up in chapter communities. National legacy hearing loss advocates like Patricia Kricos, Brenda Battat, Stephen O. Frazier, Juliette Sterkens, and here in Washington State, Jerry and Joanna Olmstead, Karen Utter, Bruce Rafford, Diana Thompson, Wes Brosman, and others laid the groundwork for accessibility. Let’s Loop Seattle built upon the foundations these advocates gave to their communities.

A man in a brown shirt in glasses is handing something across a counter to another man. On the counter is the universal blue ear sign that indicates a hearing loop is available.
The counter loop at the Bellevue Arts Museum in 2013.

Today, the assistive listening technology industry has grown up along with the ADA. The early assistive listening systems were designed more to meet compliance than to really help people hear. In contrast, hearing loops are the real deal: they’re universal, non-proprietary, hearing-aid-compatible, easy to use, and so well-loved that they’re found everywhere around the world.

Gone are the days when I’d sprint through Dallas-Fort Worth airport after missing an important PA announcement. Today, some airports have hearing loops, others have visual paging systems or visual messaging, and you can use a smartphone app to receive notices of gate changes. These notification systems are helpful, but loops are still needed everywhere that essential information is communicated when we travel: ticket purchasing, rebooking, tracking lost luggage, and renting cars.

What if the next 32 years could bring an even bigger shift in our thinking and a deeper commitment to the ADA’s promise? Imagine if we could live in a community designed for engagement and accessibility, where all people can gather comfortably and be welcomed into the conversation. Communities are stronger when everyone is included.

What’s one thing you can do today to make your community hearing-friendly?