Amy Becktell, chapter leader of the Western Colorado Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America, told those attending the Feb. 3 meeting in Grand Junction that there was a genetic factor for hearing loss in her family. She remembers that her father “always wore hearing aids.”
“Let me put my glasses on so I can hear you,” Becktell recalls her siblings, a number of whom also had hearing loss, telling each other as youngsters. They realized that those siblings were reading lips and needed their glasses to “hear.” She was the fifth of six children in her family.
Topics at the monthly hearing loss association meetings range from technology available and the sometimes challenging communications with family members to the topic scheduled for the March 3 meeting on tinnitus, a condition of ringing in the ears, or phantom sounds, that has no cure.
Becktell told those at the February meeting that meeting speakers often talk about their life with hearing loss, and that she thought it was time to talk about, “How my hearing loss has impacted me. Some stories are good and some not so good.”
The chapter newsletter posed the question for Beckell’s talk, “How did a shy girl from Chattanooga, Tennessee, become a leader and advocate for hearing loss in western Colorado?”
Becktell has degrees in music education and taught school for two years. She also has degrees in accounting and computer science. As her hearing grew worse over the years, she struggled to stay a part of the fast-paced corporate world. In 1988, she found support and opportunities for leadership when she became involved in an organization that is now the Hearing Loss Association of America.
Today, Becktell is also a commissioner on Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She said it provides services to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind.
Her hearing loss became noticeable by her teens. Becktell had a profound hearing loss by the age of 35. It is described as progressive, bi-lateral, hereditary, sensorial hearing loss. Earlier in life she sang in the choir and played the violin. “I was a good solid second fiddle,” she quipped.
Becktell said she had surgery on Dec. 9, 2009, to provide her with cochlear implants. Prior to the surgery, she was able to hear only 16 percent of speech sound, with the use of hearing aids. “I was pretty much relying on lip reading at that point.” The implants are electronic devices to provide sound.
Becktell told the meeting that when the implants were activated, “I was able to understand speech immediately.” Now, “It’s like normal hearing. I just feel very fortunate,” she said. A member of the audience noted that it took him six months to reach his best level of hearing.
Becktell told the audience, “I would really like to see this chapter grow and develop.” She said she would like to reach out and provide education to the courts, police, hospitals, as well as the city and county about assistance for those with hearing loss. Kinds of assistance include screen captioning and electronic loop systems that provide sound directly to those wearing hearing aids and implants.
Becktell said anyone interested can help with outreach and education. The meetings are held monthly at the Center for Independence, 740 Gunnison Ave., Grand Junction, www.cfigj.org. The meetings are free to members and non-members, including family and friends. Meetings are the first Saturday of the month, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. No meetings in June, July, or August.
People of all ages and all types of hearing loss are welcome. The center’s auditorium is equipped with a loop system. The talks are also presented using a microphone, as well as on-screen transcription.
Becktell can be contacted at HLAAWCO@gmail.com and 970 241-2592. More information can be found at the Hearing Loss Association of America website, www.hearingloss.org. Also, see: https://hearinglosswco.org/.