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Norwalk Senior Center Welcomes Hearing Loss Association of America

by Francis Carr Jr. for The Hour

September 12, 2015 - The Southwest Connecticut Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) has relocated to Norwalk and will hold its first meeting at Norwalk Senior Center on Oct. 13.

HLAA is a support group for the hard-of-hearing and their loved ones; the Southwest Connecticut Chapter has existed for 15 years and has been based variously in Westport, Wilton and, most recently, Bridgeport, said longtime member Jonathan Brown.

Members range from those suffering mild to profound hearing loss; the group provides emotional support for people struggling with hearing loss, as well as speakers who offer practical guidance in the sometimes-complex world of hearing loss solutions.

"A number of us in that organization are very indebted to it because of the valuable support advice we've been given," Brown told The Hour.

Brown joined the group 12 years ago after being diagnosed with hearing loss. He received valuable advice about hearing-aid technology, and was referred to Christopher Dann, a Norwalk hearing-aid specialist Brown said is "exceptionally brilliant."

Gary Slinsky, a 15-year member who has serious hearing loss and uses a cochlear implant to hear, shared a similar experience.

"I couldn't really hear, so I decided to join the group, because I felt out-of-place. I couldn't hear anybody," Slinsky told The Hour. For his first few HLAA meetings, Slinsky said, he sat shyly in the back of the room and didn't really talk to anybody until an instructor eventually asked him to move his seat toward the front so he could interact with the other group members.

"The group really helped me. I'm not shy anymore. That's the story," Slinsky said.

He was inspired to get his cochlear implant from a speaker at an HLAA meeting who demonstrated her implant and explained the procedure for getting one.

Slinsky said he thinks hearing people can benefit from the meetings as well, especially if they live with someone or have a loved one that is hearing-impaired.

"I took my (hearing) wife a few times, because I though she needed to understand people who can't hear," Slinsky said; she is now a member and participates in the meetings by helping to record the minutes. "I think it helps hearing people to understand what hard-of-hearing people are going through. ... When you don't have hearing loss, you just don't understand what the people are going through."

For the Norwalk Senior Center meeting on Oct. 13, the discussion topic will be technology that aids the hard-of-hearing through an induction loop -- devices that transmit sound from a specific source via electromagnetic waves to people in the immediate vicinity equipped with receivers. Gary Hare, owner of Hearing Loop Systems of Connecticut, will be the guest speaker.

More common in Europe and the Midwest than in New England, induction loops are "intended to eliminate the distance from the sound source to the receiver," Brown said. For example, "they've wired the Michigan State basketball court so a person can hear the announcer over the roar of the crowd."

When properly installed and calibrated, induction loops are clearer and more reliable than conventional radio-broadcast technology. "The electromagnetic wave sort of permeates the space that the audience is in," Brown said.

The Southwest Connecticut Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America will hold its next meeting on Oct. 13 from 1-3 p.m. at Norwalk Senior Center, 11 Allen Road.

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