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Community Spotlight: Hearing Loss Association of America - Twin Cities Chapter

Interview with Christine Morgan, current president of HLAA-TC Chapter

8/10/2020 3:07:28 PM

Collage with three images: The left image features a room full of HLAA members seated and watching the presentation in front of them. The top right image is HLAA's logo. The bottom right image shows Christine speaking stage, using a microphone and a light illuminating her face.

Christine Morgan, HLAA-TC Chapter President was interviewed by Kaitlyn Mielke online.  Christine is also the Metro Advisory Council Representative serving on MNCDHH's board. 

Tell me more about the HLAA-TC Chapter. The history, the mission, the goals?

Christine: The Hearing Loss Association of American has been providing information, education, support, and advocacy since 1979. The previous name was Self Help for Hard of Hearing (SHHH) people, was changed to HLAA in 2007. Our Twin Cities Chapter started in 1989. 

What resources and/or activities does the Twin Cities chapter provide for its members?  

Christine: (Prior to the Pandemic) We have monthly meetings from September through May on the 3rd Saturday of the month. The second half of the meeting provides updates to the members and guests on legislative issues, technology updates, and open forums in which to share stories and experiences. The meeting starts with an expert/professional speaker covering a variety of issues related to hearing loss. Some have been physicians, audiologists, therapists, hearing support dogs, technology companies, etc. We have also brought in life-support trainers to teach CPR/AED. Our December meetings include potlucks and a white elephant gift exchange. Our May meeting always includes a potluck and sometimes a bingo game or silent auction. Most years we also have a Live Well with Hearing Loss Conference to bring together vendors and organizations related to hearing loss, where we invite our members and the general public to attend at no cost. At these conferences, we also provide professional speakers on several hearing loss issues.

We do have a Membership Committee, a Legislative Committee, and a Welcoming-type Committee. Importantly, we do offer a Mentor Program. Another Board member and I deal with people who are either new to hearing loss or struggling with hearing loss in any way. We either help and support them or we refer them out (as appropriate). 

What information and content is covered during the HLAA-TC meetings? Does one have to be a member to attend a meeting?  

Christine: One does not have to be a member to attend a meeting. Many people with an interest in hearing loss come (alone or with a friend or family members) to learn more about living well with hearing loss. Some come a few times because they are interested in the speaker at that particular meeting. They come for education, support, gathering with others who have the same problem (hearing loss), sharing ideas for improving their lives as they struggle with hearing loss, and for many different reasons. Our meeting area is looped and we have a live captioner during meetings. 

Please share about previous guest speakers who come to share with HLAA-TC members. What topics do they cover, and what are hot topics that might be covered in the future?

Christine: Some of the topics we have covered: tinnitus, aural rehabilitations, hearing loss dogs, cochlear implant company panels, clear speech, fire safety with hearing loss, technology updates, legislative updates, Meniere's disease, research updates on hearing loss, research on the efforts expended trying to hear, untreated hearing loss, hyperacusis, communication challenges and solutions, looping, ADA, - just to name a few. Right now a hot topic is Virtual Medical Visits and the challenges of hearing loss during masking and social distancing.

How have HLAA-TC's activities changed on account of the COVID-19 outbreak? How are members staying connected?

Christine: The Board is busy working on what future meetings will look like. How do we keep social distancing when distance and/or masks severely decrease our ability to understand speech. We've cancelled our meetings since March. We are seriously looking at our current space in the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute to determine how and/if we can continue our meetings at the location. We are also trying to determine if we can hold our conference in October at the local hotel we contracted with. We normally only put out our newsletters from September through June. This year, we are skipping the June newsletter in favor of a July issue in order to reach our audience throughout the summer. We've encouraged our members to write to us and share their stories.

What's in the plan for the future? What would you like to see happen with HLAA-TC?

Christine: The immediate plan is to determine how we can meet the needs of our membership, while keeping them safe. Our goal is to provide the support, information, education, and advocacy for those with hearing loss. We would like to get the word out to the 20% of the population (and their communication partners) that they are not alone. We can help, either directly or by referring them to a person or organization, when appropriate. We would like to reach those who do not live in the metro.

How can prospective individuals join HLAA-TC and/or sign up for the newsletter to stay informed? Who can join?  

Christine: Prospective members can either contact or to get on the newsletter list. Anyone interested can join by contacting the same email addresses. They can also contact any of the officers on our website. We'd love to hear from them.

Anything more you would like to share with the community?

Christine: We are a volunteer, self-help organization (currently the only Chapter in Minnesota) devoted to helping those with hearing loss who communicate verbally. We just changed our post office box (our old one was damaged in the riots) to P. O. Box 26021, Minneapolis, MN 55426.

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