Our HLA South Coast Chapter History
Someone asked me recently; “How did Hearing Loss Association-South Coast Chapter come about?
Well, here’s a brief history from my point of view.
Many years ago my hearing aid dispenser Roger Simmons, went to an SHHH; Self Help for Hard of Hearing Convention, later to become HLAA; Hearing Loss Association of America, and was inspired by its’ founder Rocky Stone and started the first SHHH Irvine group which I was invited to attend. He personally understood the frustrations we hard of hearings folks live with, as he was also hard of hearing, a blessing for me, as he was intuitive about making adjustments to my hearing aids that were difficult for me to even express.
The first time I walked in to the SHHH Irvine group I found a room full of hard of hearing people like myself. I was amazed since prior to this I felt pretty isolated. I felt quite comfortable in this new environment, no apologizing for not hearing well when asking someone to repeat what they said. You knew that here everyone really understood since we all shared the frustrations and challenges in our everyday “real world” experiences. We were all there to support each other and Roger Simmons gave us information,and brought in presenters, and showed us items that might help us cope better. Connie, his wife and others brought in treats and drinks.
These meetings were also the first time I experienced using a room loop. Roger Simmons would bring it in and set up the room loop equipment and wires around the room. We all sat in a big circle and Roger or a presenter would talk into the microphone. Since we all had tele-coils in our hearing aids we were able to hear them talk right from our hearing aids. What an amazing experience, although I found that I sometimes had to move my chair to get a better reception or cock my head a bit but it was still good. But, then after the meeting was over the room loop equipment was packed up in a box and put away until the next month’s meeting, taking that hearing capability with it.
Meanwhile, there was another group starting in Anaheim, by an Audiologist, Kathy Coates. One of her clients; Pril Kirkeby, asked if they could have a support group for other hard of hearing people that were still working, like herself, and the Hearing Loss 9-5 group was started. Eventually the two groups merged into the SHHH; Self Help for Hard of Hearing People-Orange County Chapter. We also all worked together to put on the fabulous SHHH California State Conference in Anaheim.
Out of the SHHH Orange County Chapter, Pril Kirkeby went on to start an SHHH Chapter in Mission Viejo, and I attempted to restart the Irvine group, but time restraints forced me to temporarily stop meetings. Last year in 2009, Toni Barrient; (who was a past president of the Orange County Chapter and went on to work at our National office in Maryland), called me and wanted to meet and talk about the Irvine group. Interestingly, at this same exact time, Roger and Connie Simmons, who had moved to Colorado, said they were coming to So Cal and asked if I’d like to meet for coffee. Was the Universe was trying to tell me something? So, I had remembered going to a meeting years ago at a beautiful facility at the Irvine Ranch Water District’s building, I called them to see if they would let me hold the meetings there. They kindly agreed and the SHHH Irvine Chapter began again.
From my past experiences of; room loops, room speakers, infrared, and live captioning were all good. But I wanted to share the technology that to me offered the most hearing freedom, a wireless FM transmitter and receivers. Many people were already getting their receivers/amplifiers, so that made it easier. The big plus for them, was that they could also hear everyday, outside of our meeting room, which, incidentally can be used with a portable neck loop. Now,with our FM's we’re hearing in our meetings and also enjoying socials, fun tours, events and more.
A few years ago SHHH National changed their name to Hearing Loss Association of America. So instead of SHHH-Irvine Chapter, we are now the HLA-Irvine Chapter. Later, in 2010 our members expand our name to Hearing Loss Association -South Coast Chapter, a non profit 501 (c)(3) organization. We've moved to the beautiful Irvine Heritage Library's Community room. So, here we are today and our "hearing" life is better.