Doctor holding hearing aid

“There are so many people here in the area that I know feel lost with not being able to hear, and I know how frustrating it was when it happened to me and I had to get the cochlear implant,”

The Hearing Loss Association of America’s West Valley chapter is a quality way for people throughout the area to gain skills and technology to deal with hearing loss.

Each month, the chapter hosts presentations and informational sessions from experts and business owners who work with those hard of hearing on a daily basis. They offer their services and tips on making life as somebody hard of hearing a just a little bit easier. Meetings take place the second Tuesday of each month from October 8 to May 12 at the First Presbyterian Church in Sun City.

Melanie O’Rourke lost her hearing due to meningitis living in Illinois. When she moved to Arizona years ago, she got involved with the local HLAA chapter, seeing its benefits, and eventually became president.

She said many people experiencing hearing loss — even those who want improved quality of life — do not know where to look to find help.

October’s presentation will be made by Jennifer Schuck, owner of Caption Pros, the company that provides CART — Communication Access Real Time Translation — which provides written projections in real time of the words spoken during a speech. Other past allocutions include talks from audiologists and developers of other auditory technology.

“There is so much tech in the world that is being developed right now to help people. We just want to share as much of it as possible to make people’s lives a little easier,” O’Rourke said.

Technology such as CART or an induction loop, which connects to each member’s hearing aid or other instrument to provide clear sound in meetings, makes the dates accessible for those with even the most difficult time understanding words.

Presentations are not the only way HLAA members can learn about dealing with hearing loss, either. Meetings also allow the members to exchange stories with other members of their own treatment and everyday methods.

“A lot of people, especially when they get older, just sort of become overwhelmed and want to stay home. This is a good way to get out so you can start to find solutions, and Melanie and the group do a great job of showing people they’re not alone,” said Fred Williams, a longtime chapter member from Goodyear. 

Hearing loss is not often an instantaneous ailment, though. Different levels of hearing loss affect people in a variety of ways, and the HLAA West Valley chapter has resources at every stop.

“It’s a gradual loss for a lot of people. So, I’ve seen a lot of people become regulars and then they get help at each stage along the way,” said Pat Williams, member and Fred’s wife.

Besides just meetings, O’Rourke takes time to meet with nearly every prospective member. These meetings serve not only to learn of a person’s situation and discuss their fit with the group, but also to pair them with audiologists and others who might be able to assist them outside of the events.

She said the group is always looking for new members, advertising with fliers at audiologist offices throughout the West Valley. But more importantly, she understands the main goal is to help people however possible with their ailments.

“There are so many people here in the area that I know feel lost with not being able to hear, and I know how frustrating it was when it happened to me and I had to get the cochlear implant,” O’Rourke said. “If we can give any sort of assistance, then why wouldn’t we?”

For more information, contact O’Rourke at melanie.orourke@gmail.com or 623-882-5554.

Hearing Loss Association of America West Valley

12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 8

First Presbyterian Church, 12225 N. 103rd Avenue, Sun City

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