Calling on All HLAA Chapters: We Need Your Help
The HLAA Veterans Across America Virtual Chapter meets online monthly (via video conferencing software but you can still participate by phone if you don’t have a personal computer). The chapter’s mission is to provide education, be an advocate for veterans with hearing loss and other auditory issues, and to provide a support system to help with the transition to civilian life.
Our virtual chapter urges all HLAA Chapters to spread the word and to encourage any veteran who’s experienced hearing difficulties to contact their closest U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facility for a hearing evaluation and treatment.
We ask each HLAA Chapter to designate one member as a veteran representative. For additional information and resources, HLAA Chapters should contact Dr. Bruce Douglas, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bruce is the outreach chairman of the Veterans Across America Virtual Chapter.
Some Reasons for the Chapter’s Outreach Efforts
As some of our chapter members have experienced, not all VA hospitals and VA audiology departments are the same; some facilities are more accommodating to veterans than others. For example, the number of venues (such as churches, libraries, theatres and even taxi cabs) installing hearing loops is increasing all the time. But in order to take advantage of them, hearing aids must be equipped with telecoils, commonly referred to as a t-switch. At some VA facilities, to receive a telecoil all you have to do is ask for it. Unfortunately, in some others, you might have to fight for it; this might take the form of petitioning the facility’s Patient Advocate or, if necessary, seeking outside support from local, state or federal representatives.
Some veterans (including those who have experienced battlefield traumatic brain injuries) have difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise but their standard audiology exam might not indicate the need for hearing aids. But if those same vets were given a speech-in-noise audiology test (SIN Test) where the word recognition portion is conducted in the presence of background noise, the conclusion about the need for hearing aids could be quite different. The SIN Test results may provide clear indication that the Vet needs hearing aids that are equipped with directional microphones, stronger noise reduction programming, or extra signal processing to help manage the background noise. This is the kind of information and education the chapter can provide to veterans recently separated from active duty and transitioning to civilian life.
One Chapter Member’s Experiences Working with Veteran Organizations
Andy Matura, a member of the Veterans Across America Virtual Chapter and the Mid-Hudson Chapter, New York, shares his experiences in working with his local VA Hospital and DAV contacts:
I did some lobbying on my own to get the Castle Point (CP) VA Hospital to install a hearing loop in their Multi-Purpose Room (MPR). When word got out about it, the Audiology Dept. also installed one in their waiting room (for both the clerk’s window and the TV). CP is one of two hospitals in the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System (HVHCS); the other one is the Montrose VA Hospital. They also installed a hearing loop in the Montrose MPR. I did share this information with the Mid-Hudson HLAA Chapter members who were interested in knowing my approach, which was making my case directly in person to the HVHCS director.
As for getting the word out about the Veterans Across America Virtual Chapter, I initially spoke with the CP supervisory audiologist about posting a flyer in the audiology waiting room. She said I needed to first get permission from the CP Public Affairs Officer who said if it was a “flyer,” he’d need to get more permission from higher up, but if it was a “notification,” it wouldn’t have to go any further than him. So we called it a “notification” and I got it posted in the audiology waiting room and also on a CP bulletin board.
I also sent a copy of the flyer/notification to the NY State DAV to get the word out to all the DAV chapters in NY; my DAV Chapter 144 Commander also encouraged the State DAV to spread the word. As for DAV, Chapter 144 is located in the CP VA Hospital and we meet in the MPR. I do my best to educate the members about telecoils and assistive listening technology beyond hearing aids. One of our members recently requested telecoils in his new hearing aids. That request was denied, and I am assisting him in making his case (in writing) to the CP patient advocate, in a further attempt to get him his telecoils.
These are just some examples of how HLAA Chapter members can help support the mission of the Veterans Across America Virtual Chapter. If you wish to be a veteran representative for your chapter, please contact Dr. Bruce Douglas at email@example.com. Any HLAA and local chapter members who are veterans are encouraged to join the Veteran Across America Virtual Chapter. If you would like to join, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look for the Veterans Across America Virtual Chapter in the upcoming November/December 2019 issue of Hearing Life magazine!