American Girl® doll and HLAA partner for the debut of American Girl’s 2020 Doll of the Year, Joss Kendrick, who wears a hearing aid. Read more.

Executive Director Barbara Kelley is appointed to the Advisory Board of the Ida Institute. Also appointed chair to the Friends of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus.

HLAA is part of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation Accessibility Leaders at CES 2020. The CTA Foundation brings leaders from the disability community to CES to build relationships and highlight opportunities for technology to enhance the lives of people of all ages and abilities. HLAA represented the hearing access leaders.

HLAA enters year one of its five-year project with Gallaudet University’s Deaf/Hard of Hearing Technology Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center who received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 44.6 million grant is to improve technology accessibility and usability for people who are deaf and hard or hard of hearing. The HLAA/Gallaudet portion of the grant is for a project to establish a consumer-industry alliance to make technology products accessible and usable from the ground up.

In March, the United States was affected by the global pandemic, COVID-19. Many residents were ordered to stay at home and businesses were forced to telecommute to help stop the spread of the serious virus.  This caused HLAA to hold events online. HLAA also increased its virtual meetings and webinars to keep the community connected. HLAA Chapters stopped holding in-person meetings and many held virtual meetings.

The HLAA Walk4Hearing celebrates its 15th year and takes place in 20 cities with a call to action to get your hearing screened. However, the spring Walk4Hearing celebrations all were held virtually. As usual, the team building and fundraising happened online, but Walk day celebrations that usually take place in parks or scenic areas in cities across the country were held online with walkers, sponsors and featured guests sharing a fun 45 minutes. Participants interacted in a virtual setting.

The HLAA2020 Convention to be held in New Orleans, June 18-20, was cancelled due to restrictions of large gatherings. with workshops, exhibit hall and trade show and other events. Instead, on June 18 and 19, “Experience HLAA” was held online with some of the convention highlights — the Research Symposium on The Latest in Tinnitus Research, a few workshops, guest speakers, and a tech expo. The event is open free to all and is captioned.

In response to COVID-19, HLAA created resources for people with hearing loss during the pandemic. These include guides for medical facilities, telework, telehealth, and more. A major issue for people with hearing loss is wearing face masks which cuts off communication and prohibits lipreading. 

The HLAA Board of Directors adopts a position paper on free access to automatic captioning during the pandemic on virtual platforms. Read the position paper.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 30 years ago on July 26, 2020. HLAA and its members remember the passage of this landmark civil rights law that ensured equal access in public places for people with hearing loss and other diabilities. 

Medicare expansion to cover hearing aids and services passes the U.S. House of Representatives in H.R.3, persciption drug bill. HLAA supports the expansion. The bill will need to be re-introduced in the new Congress and if passes, then pass in the Senate. 

HLAA is on the steering and website development for the new Cochlear Implant International Community of Action (CIICA), a global effort to raise awareness and advoacy for cochlear implants.

During this unprecedented year with the global pandemic, HLAA hits its stride with its digital offerings holding a record number of webinars, virtual meetings and creating resources for people with hearing loss during COVID. The community said they needed HLAA during this year more than ever. HLAA Chapters quickly picked up the pace holding virtual meetings to keep the HLAA mission alive in communities across the country. HLAA holds its first-ever webiner in Spanish titled ¿Está perdiendo la audición? Como detectar una pérdida auditiva y que hacer al respect (Are you losing your hearing? How to detect a hearing loss and what to do about it.) Face masks became an important issue as it created another barrier to communication, muffling sound and blocking lipreading ability. In a fall fundraising challenge, HLAA raised more than $800,000 from largely individual donors to help sustain, evolve and grow HLAA.