Member Spotlights feature interviews with fellow Connect members. Learn more about members you’ve connected with and some you haven’t met yet. Nominate a member you think should share the spotlight.
TERESA: What brought you to Mayo Clinic Connect? What motivates you to take part in
@julieo4: I came to Mayo Clinic Connect after the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) notified its membership that HLAA had collaborated with Mayo Clinic and the IDA Institute to create an online support group for people with hearing loss.
I have been active in HLAA since 1983, and was elected to the organization’s first elected board of trustees in 1984. I served for 14 years; which included 2 terms as president. I’ve remained actively involved in the organization at the national, state and local levels for over 37 years. I felt that my experience and knowledge could be helpful for people in Mayo Clinic Connect’s hearing loss support group.
My involvement in HLAA, which was SHHH when I discovered it (Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc.), gave me back my life. I learned I wasn’t alone with my hearing loss. Until I discovered this organization and became involved, I thought I was the only person under age 65 who was living with progressive adult onset hearing loss. I was diagnosed with progressive bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at age 21. I was told then that there would never be a cure or treatment in my lifetime that would change the outcome of my becoming deaf in my 40s. I was told to learn to live with it. I learned about SHHH/HLAA when I was 40. I had retired from a teaching job I loved, and was resigned to becoming a recluse. I do wonder how I found the courage to become involved in SHHH because it meant exposing my hearing loss publicly. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me purpose. My motivation to become involved in Connect relates to my understanding of the value and importance of peer support.
My involvement in SHHH/HLAA also gave me the opportunity to witness progress in the fields of hearing technology and medicine. I learned to embrace technology that goes beyond hearing aids. I learned how to advocate for myself. I watched the development of cochlear implants and saw analog hearing instruments become digital devices with many enhancements. Today I use both a hearing instrument and a cochlear implant. They work remarkably well together. Had I not watched other people go the cochlear implant route, I doubt I would have done so. Yet, it was the best decision I could have made to help myself hear. My audiology test results show that I went from 30% understanding with only hearing instruments to 95% understanding when using both technologies together in a quiet setting. Noisy settings can be remedied with technology.
TERESA: What motivates you to take part in the community?
@julieo4: I’m comfortable sharing my experiences on Connect, because I know they may be helpful to others. I hope to encourage people. My involvement in HLAA gave me the courage and confidence to complete a master’s degree in my early 50s. I learned ‘I could’ rather than being stuck in an ‘I can’t mode’ for the rest
of my life. I want to point out that other people with hearing loss were my motivators. The hearing healthcare professionals, while being kind, empathetic, and professional, put no value on peer support. Nor did they share information about hearing assistive technology beyond basic hearing aids.
TERESA: What groups do you participate in?
@julieo4: I have chosen to participate in the Hearing Loss group on Connect. I observe the Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) group. I think it’s important that people who come to Connect understand that peer support is different from medical advice. While we can share what has worked for us, we should refrain from trying to give medical advice.
TERESA: Tell us about a meaningful moment on Connect.
@julieo4: Several moments on Connect have been meaningful to me. There are many myths about hearing loss and a lot of misinformation. Many hard of hearing people have been told by people they trust that nothing can be done to help them. There is confusion about the difference between being hard of hearing (partially deaf) and being culturally Deaf. I enjoy helping dispel those myths and confusions when I can.
TERESA: What surprised you the most about Connect?
@julieo4: Mayo Clinic Connect is about peer support. I really have no surprises about it. I know what peer support can do for someone who is confused or misinformed about a health issue or disability. It’s pretty much what I expected it to be: supportive and informative.
TERESA: What energizes you, or how do you find balance in your life?
@julieo4: I’m energized by many things, including my daughter and my grandchildren, who are all of college age as I write this. I enjoy writing, reading, traveling and socializing. I play bridge. I’ve always been athletic and have enjoyed many years of golf, tennis, fishing, etc. I knit and sew and enjoy a variety of crafts when I have time. My two granddaughters are thespians and singers. I LOVE watching them perform.
Generally, I like people. Hearing loss makes socializing in some settings difficult. However, I have embraced the use of assistive technology for communication access, and work very hard to remain social. I am also energized by educating and advocating for people with hearing loss. I have been doing presentations and in service training on hearing loss for groups who want and need more information for years.
TERESA: Tell us about your favorite pastime or activity.
@julieo4: I guess at this age; I just had my 78th birthday, my favorite times are those when I can enjoy family. Right now with COVID-19, things are different. Learning how to use video conferencing has been enlightening. Once upon a time we dreamed about speech to text technology. Now it’s here! I look forward to the time when my husband and I can do more with friends and family. My favorite quiet pastime is writing. I’ve not published a book yet, but I will. I hope. I publish newsletters for HLAA Wisconsin and also for HLAA Fox Valley Chapter.
TERESA: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
@julieo4: I appreciate people who accept the reality that I sometimes need hearing help in noisy social settings. I enjoy times when I can be one on one with a friend over lunch.
TERESA: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see cast as
@julieo4: If a movie was made of my life I would like my granddaughter, Colleen, who has a BA
degree in theater performance to be cast as me. ☺
TERESA: What do you love about where you live or vacation?
@julieo4: I love Wisconsin where I reside. I love Minnesota, where I spend my summers. I love the Alabama Coast where we spend a couple months each winter. I love the United States of America.
TERESA: Puppies or kittens?
@julieo4: I’m very partial to golden retrievers although we do not presently own a dog. We enjoy our kids' dogs instead.