My First Walk4Hearing

Stepping Out for the HLAA

Walk4Hearing_Manhattan
My son and I strode into Riverside Park for the annual Walk4Hearing in Manhattan on a crisp September day. A little girl with a purple cochlear implant had her face painted. A man spoke in expressive sign language, his hands raised in the air like doves. A team with yellow matching t-shirts milled together. Nearby an arch festooned with balloons, I saw Richard Einhorn, the composer with hearing loss who has become an avid spokesperson for hearing loops.

I had never attended this walk before. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had only a tangential understanding of the organization behind Walk4Hearing, Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). For most of my life, I tried to hide my hearing loss. HLAA’s mission—to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss through education and advocacy—remained hazy and vague to me because I was trying to avoid that troublesome topic of my own loss.

Then in 2011, I came out of the closet, if you’ll allow me to use an overused yet distressingly accurate phrase, about my hearing loss. I joined the board of the Hearing Health Foundation, excited by their mission to fund a cure for hearing loss. The author Katherine Bouton, who wears a hearing aid in one ear and a cochlear implant in another, introduced me to Holly Cohen, who is an active leader in HLAA of Manhattan.

Once I stepped into Riverside Park, I felt comfortable, understood, downright similar, to the crowd around me.

Holly invited me to the Manhattan Walk4Hearing. I said no. I had a good excuse; my daughter’s soccer games are on Sunday. But perhaps too I said no because part of me wanted to avoid the walk, or more precisely, that part of my identity that has hearing loss, fresh from the closet but still blinking at the glaring light.

Yet providence was on HLAA’s side, because it turned out that my husband and daughter’s YMCA camping trip fell on the same weekend of the walk. I persuaded my 13-year-old son, whose weekend activity of choice is reading TechCrunch, to come with me. When we boarded the bus for Manhattan, I was nervous.

But once I stepped into Riverside Park, I felt comfortable, understood, downright similar, to the crowd around me. How was it, I wondered, that I had allowed so many years to go by without being part of this camaraderie? At the end of the walk, my son wrapped his arm around me. “I had fun,” he said. Next year, I resolved, I would form a team, raise money, and order yellow matching t-shirts. I would do the Walk4Hearing in style.

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