Hearing Loss and Education: An Interview with Latisha Porter-Vaughn

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 08:36:10 EST

During his internship with EarQ and HearStrong, Champion Jake deHahn, had the pleasure of interviewing another Champion, Latisha Porter-Vaughn on education and hearing loss.

She's active in her local community, and always advocates for those with hearing loss. She was raised by her grandmother and father, who both had hearing loss.

Latisha was never formally diagnosed with hearing loss until the age of 19, then she got fitted for hearing aids. Since that time, Latisha has embodied HearStrong values. She advocates for herself, is involved in her hearing loss community (both locally and online), and most of all, she educates others about hearing loss. Here’s what she has to say.

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Jake: Currently you hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business, a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, and are in the process of getting a PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership. That’s a lot! Can you tell me about what you did or do to educate others about your hearing loss in your years of college education?

Latisha: It is a lot! But you know, I love learning!

Latisha with medal

In my Bachelor’s program, CART1 was not available at the time. Instead I had a note taker in my classes, but notes don’t always have all the information. Due to my openness about my hearing loss and challenges, my friends heard my story, saw my struggles, and some agreed to take classes with me to take notes [for me].

I dropped out of college for about eight years because after a while, getting someone to take notes was a challenge. My passion for learning never went away, so after my son was born, I decided technology had advanced enough to let me finish my Bachelor’s in business administration. When I found out about CART services, I was motivated to go back to school because of the new accommodations offered to me. I used a CART reporter for every class!

Jake: I also use a CART reporter for my lecture hall classes, and I agree — the service is really incredible and helpful! Can you share some things you do or have done to educate others about hearing loss?

Latisha: I am very open about my hearing loss, which allows me to educate others easily. I always share my challenges with other people because some people don’t know I have a hearing loss. I always tell people, “I can’t hear” or, “Can you please repeat that?” when I miss something so I can get the help I need.

In 2015, I started a HLAA Chapter in New Jersey. It’s the biggest platform that I use to educate others. We have support meetings twice a month to share stories and learn new things about hearing loss. It also lets us help others with hearing loss that need help and to educate.

Jake: Do you have any stories to share from your HLAA Chapter meeting?

Latisha: We have guests at meetings who share their stories and discuss. An audiologist who has hearing loss came and spoke to us about 5 months ago. Her grandmother and younger brother both have hearing loss, and she said that her grandmother motivated her to pursue audiology so she could help others! Her brother had a hard time being open about his hearing loss, but she is the opposite. Her daughter has a hearing loss too and wears a cochlear implant. She told us all about her daughter being an advocate and her personal stories were all about, “You can do anything!”

Jake: Do you have anything else to share about HLAA?

Latisha: Oh! With HLAA, we have an annual big event — the Walk for Hearing — in New Jersey. This year we’re having a masquerade ball fundraiser at the Galloping Inn to raise money for the W4H. It’s in October. We have giveaways, speakers, and a lot of fun! We also have smaller fundraisers to raise awareness like picnics, teen fundraisers, pancake breakfasts, and more.

We also try to educate teens. Having a wide age range when educating others is very important. Teenagers have a hard time accepting their hearing loss, so we try to help them and bring them together. I am lucky to be a part of a team that recruits and selects high school seniors with hearing loss for a scholarship. All the candidates are simply amazing and are filled with greatness.

Jake: I was wondering, do you have any tips for those with hearing loss?

Latisha: As a matter of fact, I have a few!

  1. Be open about your hearing loss. Speak up about what you need.
  2. Keep your head up. There are a lot of challenges that come with hearing loss, but if you work hard, keep going forward, and persevere, you will succeed! There is nothing wrong with you — you just have a hearing loss!
  3. Use your hearing loss as an opportunity. Look on the positive side!
  4. Stay active. I have HLAA and my communities, and they help me stay and be involved.
  5. Have a support system. Help your friends and family understand your hearing loss and how they can help you. My family and friends are very supportive and I love them so much!
  6. Accept your hearing loss. Wear your amplification that you have and know that your hearing loss does not define you.

Jake: The last tip you had — accepting your hearing loss — can you elaborate on that more? Some people struggle with accepting their hearing loss and therefore struggle with their hearing loss in general.

Latisha: Yes, it is very hard to accept for so many. I know I’ve faced a lot of hard challenges with my hearing loss, but I don’t let my hearing loss stop me from being successful at conquering my challenges! I also am a very motivated person, and I think that’s why I accept my hearing loss so much. The key to accepting your hearing loss is knowing that it does not define who you are!

Jake: I agree! Hearing loss doesn’t define you or me at all—and other people with hearing loss should know that! For me, I tell people that being deaf is a part of my identity, which I’m proud of.

Latisha: Yes! It doesn’t define us, but is a big part of our identity!

Jake: Exactly! So, we’ve talked about things you’ve done in the past and what you’re doing now, but do you have any goals for the future? They can be small—or really big!

Latisha HearStrong ceremony

Latisha: I do have a pretty big goal that I’ve always wanted to do. When I finish school, I’d love to develop a platform. Do you know the show, Mad Money?2

Jake: I’ve heard of it, and watched a few episodes.

Latisha: Well, my idea is like Mad Money, but for disabilities! It’d be a show where different disability organizations would be talked about and featured, so people can learn more about them. It also would help people with hearing loss see that (untreated) hearing loss can be a problem, and that they should get tested and that there’s nothing wrong with them!

Media today doesn’t cover hearing loss. Yes there are educational networks like PBS, but big networks should address it too. Hearing loss isn’t talked about enough in America. In London, they have so much information about hearing loss for people. They do so much research there and help people with hearing loss. America needs to be better. So this platform would bring inclusivity and show people with hearing loss what they can have to succeed.

Jake: That’s a really big goal and a great idea to pursue! I love it. On a smaller scale, though, can you provide some insight for what Champions can do to educate others? You are a great role model for educating others and representing HearStrong.

Latisha: Thank you! I love sharing about HearStrong and other Champions should too. I have overcome my hearing loss, and I love sharing that an organization recognizes my accomplishments! Champions should talk about HearStrong all the time. Embrace the award!

Jake: Brag about it even?

Latisha: Yes! It’s a huge compliment. It motivates me, and it should motivate other Champions. Go out there and be active! Talk about your hearing loss more. Use HearStrong as a platform to educate and make a difference!

Jake: I totally agree, and feel the same way! Before we end this interview, can you give me one last thing you’d like to “brag” about?

Latisha: After my video of me speaking about my hearing loss story was put online — the one at the conference with Ed (HearStrong’s Founder) asking me questions — I was invited to speak at New York’s Road Runners Women’s Speaker Series in the fall!

Jake: Whoa! That’s a huge compliment!

Latisha: And it’s all because of HearStrong!

Jake: I’m so glad—and I look forward to hearing about it when it comes around. I’m so glad I got to talk with you and update the HearStrong community on what you’re doing now, especially after receiving the award. Thank you for the opportunity!

Latisha: Thank you, Jake!

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Latisha is an amazing HearStrong Champion. She’s active in her local community, and always advocated for hearing loss. You can do the same! To get started, check out the HLAA Walk4Hearing. In addition to the New Jersey chapter, there are chapters hosting this walk all across the country!

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can educate others in your community, reach out to us at info@hearingstrong.org. We’d love to help you get started!

1CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation. A stenographer/CART reporter uses a stenography keyboard to type up, verbatim, the text of spoken presentations live, in real time.

2Mad Money takes viewers inside the mind of one of Wall Street's most respected and successful money managers for free. The host, Jim Cramer, teaches viewers about the stock market and how to make money, while being entertaining and playful. Cramer gives his buy, sell and hold opinions on stocks to callers through the show, making it interactive and engaging.


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