Wednesday, May 9, 2012
For 36,000 Chattanooga-area residents, answering the phone, watching a YouTube video or going to the movies with friends is a challenge.
That’s because all of these people have been diagnosed with some form of hearing loss, a medical condition that affects approximately 17 percent of the population nationwide.
“When hard-of-hearing people are watching TV, so many people think that they should just turn up the volume,” said Hearing Loss Association of America Chattanooga Chapter team leader Betty Proctor. “But it’s not the hearing, it’s the understanding that’s the problem. It’s plenty loud enough.”
According to Proctor, discerning the difference between similar letter combinations like “ch,” “sh” and “sc” is the biggest problem for people who are hard of hearing. This is why closed captioning is so important and the Chattanooga Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America has worked to provide more closed captioning opportunities for area residents over the last several years.
“One of the things we’re most proud of is opening the world of live theater to people with hearing loss through the $4,500 captioning board we purchased for the Chattanooga Theatre Center in 2009,” she said. “People love it and it has helped increase attendance at the theater center.”
Since the board’s installation, the second Thursday performance of every MainStage production is equipped with real-time closed captioning of the play.
In addition to closed captioning, the local organization has been serving the hearing loss community in other ways with the more than $75,000 it has raised through the annual Walk4Hearing event.
“Another thing we’ve done is established an emergency fund,” said Proctor. “When the tornadoes hit last year, we realized there are so many things not covered by insurance. We helped a man who lost his alarm clock and bed system in the March 2  tornadoes.”
Proctor said the emergency fund is nearly depleted after helping the man affected by the March 2 tornadoes and replacing hearing aids for another local resident whose home and hearing aids were destroyed in a fire.
With the upcoming Walk4Hearing fundraiser May 12, the Chattanooga Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America hopes to raise $30,000, which the chapter will then put back into the community. Proctor said the chapter will vote on exactly how the funds are spent, but she anticipates the group will continue the emergency fund. The chapter won an award in 2011 from the national organization for the best use of funds.