SayWhatClub

5 Points of Volunteering

By Chelle Wyatt

Finding your people.

Hearing loss can be lonely. The world feels against you, sometimes your family too. It’s a deep, dark pit of quiet (and tinnitus). If you’re lucky, you wander across a support group like the SayWhatClub and start to feel a little less like a freak.  You begin feeling at home with a bunch of new friends, making meaningful connections.  

After another big hearing drop in 2009, I re-joined the SayWhatClub. Six months after being on the list, someone asked me to volunteer. I hadn’t thought about it, but why not? It wasn’t like I had anything else going on. I had just quit doing hair after 20 something years because I was deaf in noise. My self-confidence was at an all time low. I was cleaning a few houses (not much hearing involved with cleaning), and I had nowhere else to go so yes, why not give of my time.

Point 1: Volunteering opens up other worlds, the 2nd phase of leaving isolation behind.

I became a list representative for a SWC email list. I was introduced to another part of the organization, meeting more who were hard of hearing and gaining new friends. Friends were important because I’d already lost a few because of my hearing loss (I couldn’t “chat” endlessly on the phone anymore). I appreciated my fellow volunteers just as much as I did the others on my email list and over time, one of those volunteers became a very good, dear friend. SWC became my safe place for communication, it’s a written world with no hearing involved.

Point 2: It kept me busy and stopped my negative thinking cycle.    

Being a list rep gave me back some of the responsibility I had been missing. I popped into email often to make sure the list was moving along smoothly. I welcomed new people to the list, trying to make sure their questions were answered hoping to pass on the same sense of home I felt. Occasionally I helped settle differences of opinion, in the spirit of teamwork. It kept me busy and kept my mind off my own troubles.

When the SayWhatClub held a convention in town, I volunteered for that too. I enjoyed being a part of building the con and putting faces to names, gathering more friends in the hearing loss world.

Point 3: Volunteering for SWC gave my own hearing loss a sense of purpose.

Over time, my hearing loss became less of a burden and started to feel like experience to share; on the email list, in the List Rep committee, conventions and writing on the SWC blog. I became a professional full time volunteer, I joked, as I became the List Rep chair. I was reaching out more into the hearing loss world for convention purposes, meeting more people. My self-confidence built back up. I was far from isolated and my hearing loss was asset in this world.

Point 4: Learn new skills while volunteering.

While stepping into my roles, other volunteers with experience supported me along the way. I wasn’t sure about being List Rep chair but the former chair was on hand to answer questions and offer advice when needed. The same with the convention committee, I knew nothing coming in but had the will to learn. I learned to reach out further into the hearing loss world, looking for guest speakers and sponsors. It was all valuable experience and I learned to be a leader again.

Point 5:  It looks good on the resume.

A local part-time job opened at the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center as a Hard of Hearing Assistant. The job required teaching classes and giving presentations on hearing loss. I almost didn’t apply for a few reasons. I thrived in the online world. Also, I was still trying to find my way back into doing hair, clinging to my old life, should I give up on that? What the heck I decided, maybe I could do both hair and hearing loss part time so I applied.

 

Which required writing a resume, the first in a long, long time. Adding information to the resume made me realize I had more experience than I thought, thanks to SWC. I learned I could organize events. During the two years I was off from doing hair, I built new skills and worked well with others. Because  I hadn’t been idle, I got the job. I worked part time for 5 years, and in January 2018, it became a full time position.

The hearing loss world gave me a place to belong.
I found my tribe, across the United States and right here in Utah. I never would have pictured myself ‘here’ nine years ago when I was struggling after another big drop in hearing.   And ‘here I am in a whole new life!   I have let go of doing hair almost entirely. Now I embrace the hearing loss community. This is where I belong, and SWC helped me get there.

I encourage others to volunteer, especially if you’re in that pit of isolation. The 

SayWhatClub emphasizes the benefits of volunteering in its Mission Statement. We understand that helping others reduces feelings of isolation, frustration and despair, while enhancing feelings of self-concept and optimism. Open yourself up, and see where it leads. Other SWC volunteers will support you in learning new skills.  What do you want to learn? Where might you go? The

re’s lots of opportunity in SWC.  

Some areas SWC needs volunteer help

  • The SWC website committee needs people to keep the webpage current by checking links and editing pages.
  • Help the Hospitality Committee welcome new people into SWC who inquire on the website.
  • The List Representative Committee could use help on the Facebook groups, and if you’re on an email list already, inquire if they might need help.  Two of the lists are looking for new List Representatives.
  • The Social Media Committee is looking for people to help with the main SWC Facebook page, making memes for SWC, writing on the blog, and would love to have someone make our Twitter account active again.

Remember no experience required, just a willingness to learn.

 

The Perseverance of Sound: Part III

SayWhatClub (SWC) is pleased to welcome guest writer, deaf guitarist and drummer, Justin Krampert. In this final installment, Justin continues his story of hearing loss, how it has affected his music, and what it has taught—and continues to teach—him.  Part II of this series appeared on March 6, 2017.  

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By Justin Krampert

Perseverance, part iii (see parts I and II)

On my musical-and-hearing loss journey, though, I continued to keep it a secret.  The more I played guitar, I found my musical ear developing too.  I started figuring out the pitches of appliances and other noises (that I could hear, anyway!), which amused my friends to no end.  I wondered if trying to hone my ears to listen for pitches possibly improved my hearing, but I doubt it.  Music dork that I am, however, I went so far as to figure out the approximate pitches of my tinnitus at the time…high C and G, and C# and G#, haha! 

A new guitar

I started listening to bands that used 7-string guitars, which sounded lower and heavier.  Thus easier for me to hear with my severe high-frequency hearing loss.  John Petrucci from Dream Theater (the ‘Awake’ album) and Steve Vai, were two of my favorite guitarists that set the bar insanely high for me.  They were true virtuosos in every sense, and their musicianship inspired and intimidated me endlessly.  I saved up for my first 7-string guitar.  “Sable,” as I would name her, took me a week or so to acclimate myself around the extra string, and became my main workhorse guitar for the next 12 years (and she’s still here!). 

“You seem to have a good ear. You know when things sound in tune . . .”

During one of my last semesters at MSU, I took a Beginning Jazz Improvisation class. I was the only guitarist there, and my 7-string caught the attention of the professor!  He was kind enough to allow me to stay in the class despite not being a fully matriculated music major, and told me, “As long as you can keep up, you’re good.”  I made sure that I did, and received what I consider to be an extremely high compliment from a man who was a MONSTER player on trumpet AND piano.  After our individual playing finals, he told me, “You seem to have a good ear, you know when things sound in tune, and you don’t play a lot of notes just for the sake of adding them, you pause and listen, which is so important.”  I was humbled to say the least.  I suppose having a hearing loss DOES make one pause and, “listen!”

New School

As I traveled to upstate New York for my second Bachelor’s degree (in Music Therapy), I wondered how I would adjust to the new campus.  I was concerned about new people, whether I could hide my hearing loss again.  What the next couple years would be like?  My time in New Paltz was only a couple years, but it was jam-packed (pun intended). While I did feel extremely out-of-place there, I made a small, close-knit circle of friends.  One of my new friends even wore big ITC hearing aids!  He was the only friend I confided in about my hearing loss, and he even let me try on his hearing aids…for the first time, I heard in a balanced, loud way, and inside, I really liked it! 

Each semester there, I performed in a small Jazz Guitar Ensemble, and we’d rehearse in a small basement room; close enough that I could hear just fine, especially since we were all there playing through a PA system and had a drummer, bassist, and pianist!  Surprisingly, in an ear-training class, my professor asked me if I had Perfect Pitch!  I laughed, thinking that Perfect Pitch was for people like Mozart and those famous guys!  But, she had me go to the Music Dept. Head, who also tested me, and she said I did, too.  It was pretty trippy, having a hearing loss, yet being able to find pitches!  The next few years saw me completing my music therapy internship, and then privately teaching guitar and doing music therapy work with kids who have ASD’s (Autism Spectrum Disorders).  However, something was different…

Another Drop in hearing

When I was around 28, I started noticing my hearing seriously dropping again.  I decided to take the plunge and go find a new audiologist, and do things on my terms.  My girlfriend took me to my hearing tests and I learned that my hearing had dropped to a Mild – Profound ski-slope loss. She was there with me when the audi fitted me with my first pair of BTE’s.  Having, “new ears” in over a decade was disorienting, to say the least!  I was devastated that I couldn’t even recognize Led Zeppelin on the radio!  I tried to be gung-ho and wear them out to lunch.  Big mistake!  It was so loud that I got nauseous and had to take them out. 

Hearing Aids

I slowly readjusted to them after all the years of going without.  My hearing kept dropping over the next few years, and I went through progressively stronger BTEs, as well as changed audiologists a couple more times.  I tried my second pair of BTEs with DAI boots and listening to my little ipod that way.  It was…interesting.  The harder music that I loved to listen to without my hearing aids, dishearteningly sounded somewhat like white noise through my hearing aids, so I’d usually end up just using my earbuds with the volume up louder.  My guitar sounded duller and quieter, and I also realized that I had lost a bunch of pitches on the upper register of the piano.  So it was an adjustment period for sure.

Hearing deterioration

Over the last few years, my hearing has kept slowly deteriorating and with it.  This has affected my self-confidence in music performance and overall communication with others.  I have become much more reserved and shy.  Since leaving university, I haven’t played a gig, instead becoming a “bedroom shredder.”  As of this writing, I am 36, and I have a hearing loss that starts at 70-80-ish dB, to 110-115 (severe – profound), sans hearing aids.  I went through 3 pairs of Starkey BTEs, eventually enjoying my Phonak Naida Q70UP BTE’s, along with a Roger FM Pen…devices that assist me greatly in hearing my professors in class.  Though even with these battery-powered helpers, I still encounter struggles.  By each day’s end, I am usually wiped from concentrating with my limited sight and hearing. 

Deaf musician Justin playing his guitar with a parrot on his chest

“For now I will continue enjoying what musiv-making I can, and I will always empathically FEEL music quite deeply.”

My music has been affected and I do feel anxious about my future as a Music Therapist.  I don’t know what I will do if I can no longer play and effectively work with clients.  That will be a road to travel if and when it appears.  For now, I will continue enjoying what music-making I can, and I will always empathically feel music quite deeply.  It will always be cathartic, intellectually stimulating, inspiring, and as healing as possible.  I encourage everyone to enjoy, and for those of us who have or do still play an instrument or few, keep making music whenever possible.  Yes, it very well may sound weird and perhaps you may even feel lost and/or discouraged.  I have to remember these words, too, when I feel down about my hearing.  I will pick up my guitars and hand-drums, or compose electronic music, and feel better, and in doing so, I realize and appreciate the perseverance of sound.

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Working With Hearing Loss

When I was 13 years old, someone taught me how to french braid hair and that pretty much sealed my fate. I practiced and practiced until I got good enough to braid several girls hair during school breaks. I loved playing with hair and knew I wanted to go to beauty school right after high school.  Working with hearing loss wasn’t something I ever imagined.

For 26 years now I’ve been doing hair. In my career, I watched a few hairdressers who continued to work up into their 80’s and I figured I’d be one of those too. I’d come in a few days a week for those dedicated clients and for the socialization. I didn’t think of retirement. I wanted the smell of perms, the sound of hair dryers and all that chatter that went with it.

For 23 of those years, I’ve been wearing aids. My hearing loss is progressive and it started to get in the way at work about eight years ago. At first, I couldn’t understand people on the phone occasionally then it went to not understanding them half of the time. The clients in my chair repeated often and they were patient because I told them I didn’t hear well. Then I couldn’t hear people with my blow dryer on and it eventually got hard to hear people when another hairdresser or two (or three) had their blow dryer on.  Working with hearing loss became challenging over time.

My hearing loss progressed so much that when I moved to Salt Lake and tried to start again (I didn’t realize how trained me and my old clients were), I had a helluva time. This is when I found out noise renders me deaf. I went to work in a big, beautiful salon which was an acoustic nightmare. Seven hairdressers with at least seven clients made for a lot of noise which bounced around wrecking what little hearing I had left. I could not hear if more than three of us were working at a time. I became a deaf, mute, boring hairdresser which was not good for building a clientele in a new city. Daily frustration and anxiety plagued me so I quit. I couldn’t do it that way anymore.

I found a job working in an assisted living salon. Only two of us worked at a time but hair dryers and blow dryers could overwhelm my hearing. However! These were older people who for the most part either experienced hearing loss themselves or understood it because their significant other had it. I worked there for over a year and truly enjoyed the people I worked on. Too bad the boss continually shorted my checks and started erasing tips. I quit and tried looking for another assisted living salon to work in and found nothing open. It seemed once hairdressers found that little niche, they dig in and stay, except for the lady I worked for. She didn’t keep anyone long. Discouraged, I gave up doing hair for a few years.

Last summer I moved to a small town and found a one person salon. Maybe I could do hair again? I could control the noise, the radio volume and only one blow dryer would be on at a time, mine so I started to work again. The acoustics weren’t the best but overall, I heard better than normal in salons. Unfortunately, the town was too small and I couldn’t make my way. Options opened up again in Salt Lake City for other areas in my life but what about work? Small salons seem to be nonexistent in big cities. I’ve seen ads for studio salons (one person) for rent but there’s no way I could afford that without a clientele. What to do?

Scenes from working in Salt Lake a few years before flashed through my mind. The foremost scene was that awful experience in that big, beautiful salon. No way did I want to go through anything like that again. Then I thought about my time in the assisted living salon and how much I enjoyed working with the people there. Thoughts upon thoughts tumbled around in my mind. The what if’s started…

If I was totally honest with myself, I mostly worked with retirees and snowbirds since I’ve been doing hair. I get along with them best and they seem to like me. I know I’m supposed like working with all ages but kids are too hard to hear and young adults want wild colors I’m not wild about. What if I recognized that older people are my niche, my preference? To me, they are much more interesting people to talk with. How can I make this work with me?

Thinking…thinking, the wheels turning. What if I became a mobile hairdresser? I’ve done it for friends and family in the past so why not make it a business? It wouldn’t take much to start because I already have most of the equipment.

What if I catered to those in hospice care and the home bound? Maybe I could give them a little happiness and make enough to live on. I bet they would teach me a lot too. If I could make this work, it would be ideal for my hearing loss also because it’s a one on one situation and I get by lots better that way. Maybe this could work for everyone???

So the puzzle pieces started coming together. Within a week of moving back to Salt Lake, I checked with my the licensing department who told me to go to the city health department who told me to go to the county health department. There were a few hoops to jump through but I got it all done. I’m now waiting for my business license to come to begin.

Will I be able to make a living at it? I sure hope so. It feels right and for the first time I’m not stressing out about it at all. I feel sort of adventurous. I’m not looking to make a killing, I’m looking for a way to do what I love until I’m 80, like I originally planned in spite of my hearing issues.

Working with hearing loss can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. Not to say there isn’t a crushing blow now and then but who doesn’t have their challenges and setbacks in life? Afterward, healing time is allowed and I’ll admit, it took me over two years to want to do hair again after all the problems I had with my hearing and a shortchanging boss.

After that, I had to rebuild my self respect and I needed the distance/time to look back over it objectively to see how I could do things different in the future. Thanks to my family motto “It’s not a mistake, it’s a learning experience,” I keep learning and moving on. Thinking outside the box seems to help too.

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!”