HLAA History

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HLAA History

This history is not a complete account of all data or a complete listing of all pieces of legislation HLAA had input to. However, it is an informative sketch of some of the major highlights of the organization.

Updated March 2016


Convention is held in New Orleans, LA. Ahme Stone receives a 20th Century Woman Award. Clyde Black of TX receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian award. The Opening Session features keynote speaker, Lord Ashley of Stoke, England, a member of the Upper House of Parliament, and the “only deaf member of any legislature in the world.” 

SHHH Executive Director Donna Sorkin resigns to lead the A.G. Bell Association and Brenda Battat is named acting executive director. 

Board of Trustee National Committees are: the Executive Committee, Finance, Long-Range Planning, Nominating, (ad hoc) Steering Committee for Strategic Planning, Children’s Issues, Support and Education, Government Affairs, Membership, State Association, and Election Procedures. 

SHHH is contacted by the planning committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics to be in Salt Lake City regarding access to the games for people with hearing loss. 

SHHH plays a significant role in helping pass Congressman James T. Walsh’s bill for the early detection, diagnosis, and intervention for newborns and infants with hearing loss. 

SHHH celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a special November/December issue of Hearing Loss containing articles on 20 years of SHHH progress and achievements, technology history and conventions. 

John Jaco, hired by the board of trustees, begins work in October as the Third Executive Director of SHHH. 


The 20th Anniversary of SHHH is celebrated in June at the 15th National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Susan Matt from Washington State is elected SHHH President. Julie Olson of WI receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. 

During the convention the SHHH Strategic Plan for 2001-2004, as presented by a team of diverse SHHH members and endorsed by the board of trustees, is introduced to the membership. It focuses on six areas, each with specific goals: Information and Education Services, Community Based Support, Advocacy, Marketing, Income Development and Financial Resources, and Organizational Unity. A Transition Team is formed to look at the SHHH structure with recommendations to the board of trustees. 

The SHHH mission statement is simplified to read: “Our mission is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss by providing information, education, support and advocacy.” 

Better Hearing Australia hosts the sixth congress of the International Federation of Hard of Hearing (IFHOH) in July in Sidney, Australia. SHHH is a member of IFHOH along with 44 other worldwide organizations for people with hearing loss. Rocky Stone, SHHH Founder completes a term as IFHOH President. Marcia Dugan of SHHH becomes Vice President. 

SHHH invites members to join an Action Alert to advocate for hearing aid coverage by health insurance for Federal Employees. (The Federal Employee Health Benefits insurance plan is a model adopted by other insurance plans.) 

SHHH Deputy Executive Director Brenda Battat, represents passengers with hearing loss with the Department of Transportation and the airlines of America as they work to accommodate increased and better access to air travel for people with disabilities. 

SHHH joins a coalition to push for accessible digital wireless telephones for hearing aid and cochlear implant users. 

SHHH launches the first National Day of Hearing Screening on Saturday May 6. Eight national organizations collaborate with SHHH in this event sponsored by five hearing aid manufacturers. Chapters and groups across the U.S. set up 2,050 screening sites manned by local audiologists to provide free hearing screenings. A total of 75,850 people are screened. 

Brenda Battat becomes acting executive director in November when John Jaco resigns. 


Beth Wilson, Ph.D. of Rhode Island begins as executive director of SHHH in April. She had been an active SHHH member since 1986 and left Raytheon Corporation where for 18 years she was an electrical engineer. 

Convention is held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. More than 1,100 people attend the 16th year of this event. The Keynote presenter is William Kennard, former chairman of the FCC. SHHH presents Mr. Kennard with the SHHH National Access Award. Dr. Mark Ross receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. (Over the years, SHHH has developed numerous organizational awards, most of which are presented to individuals and chapters and groups at an Awards Ceremony during the convention.) The topic of the Eighth Annual Research Symposium is The Role of the Brain in Hearing. 

A Town Meeting is held during the convention where the discussion focuses on the findings of the Strategic Planning Transition Committee and recommendations of the board of trustees. Several select committees study ways to facilitate the strategic plan with a focus on election procedures; transition funding that will unite the organization, and inter-organizational relationships. 

As part of the Strategic Plan, SHHH initiates a State Office Pilot Program in 5 states. It will run for one year to test the feasibility of state offices. Brenda Battat, who has stepped aside as deputy executive director, serves as director of the project. 

SHHH revises and updates the organization Website adding many interactive features and more news from and about SHHH National activity. 


Executive Director Beth Wilson resigns.

The 17th National Convention attended by more than 1,000 people is held in June in Seattle, Washington. Ann Liming from Michigan becomes board president and past president Marcia Dugan receives the Rocky Stone Humanitarian award. The Research Symposium was sponsored and presented by The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Kathryn Stephens from the Maryland Association of Nonprofits is retained as interim executive director while the Board of SHHH focuses on the search for a new executive director. 

The Board of Trustees institutes organizational changes: a) SHHH becomes an umbrella organization offering non-profit tax exempt status to all local affiliates. b) To achieve unity, there will be one membership dues to SHHH national. Local organizations may not ask for or require membership dues. c) Local entities will be SHHH chapters, eliminating group status. A chapter will be recognized as an SHHH entity when it identifies four members, agrees to support the SHHH mission and abide by the SHHH bylaws. d) Trustee slots will include representation from all ten regions. Members residing in each region will vote for board candidates from their region only as well as for the at-large candidates via electronic means and paper ballots. 

The committee searching for a new executive director recommends four candidates. In December, the board of trustees hires Terry Portis Ed.D., as executive director. 

SHHH has 13 state organizations. Eight are associations with elected officers and four are offices with an appointed director and a core group of volunteers. (The state office pilot program begun the previous year is very successful.) All are extensions of the national office carrying out the mission of SHHH in the states. 

Thanks to the generosity of SHHH members, by the end of the year, the financial picture of SHHH is greatly improved. 


SHHH Executive Director Terry Portis sets organizational priorities for the year based on our strengths. He pledges support and resources for state organizations and local chapters. Attention will be give to expanding the SHHH interactive website – changed to www.hearingloss.org - unveiled in February as a tool to help members feel connected to SHHH and as a cost effective informational resource. The site receives 200,000 hits per week and will have 500 pages of information. Portis also wants to increase partnership with other organizations. He affirms the mission to make a difference in the lives of people affected by hearing loss. Issues this year are communication access in the community, health coverage for hearing aids and cochlear implants, and employment issues. 

The 18th National Convention attended by 1,000 members (100 first-timers) is in Atlanta, Georgia. Heather Whitestone McCallum, Miss America 1995 and recent cochlear implant recipient, opens the Convention with an address “Overcoming Challenges to Attain Your Dreams.” SHHH Founder Rocky Stone presents Paul Hopler of Annandale, Virginia with the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. Numerous awards are presented to individuals, states, and chapters at an awards ceremony. The Annual Research Symposium sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders focuses on cochlear implant research. 

SHHH initiates an Annual Fund Drive to raise $235,000 through appeals, challenges, and other activities. Sue Miller of Rochester, New York chairs the drive. (This goal is realized by year’s end.) With Cochlear Americas as sponsor, SHHH prints and distributes to 150,000 professionals and consumers a booklet: Cochlear Implants and Seniors: When Hearing Aids Aren’t Enough. SHHH also meets with Medicare to urge Medicare conform to the FDA in eligibility criteria for cochlear implants in adults. 

SHHH begins to target those states with poor Medicaid reimbursement rates for cochlear implants in children. 

SHHH establishes the National Information and Training Center for Hearing Assistive Technology. Support for the Center comes from manufacturers of hearing products. 

The Cochlear Implant Association Inc. (CIAI) ends operation and negotiations are begun to integrate CIAI into SHHH. 

Hearing Loss is redesigned and makes its debut with the Sept/Oct issue. The membership brochure is also redesigned. 

SHHH E-News – a twice monthly newsletter for leaders and members grows to 1,200 subscribers. 

The first state leadership training, made possible by a grant from Sprint, is held in Pennsylvania. The SHHH goal is to have leadership trainings in every state. 

SHHH is a pilot on a bill introduced by Representative Jim Ryun, the Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act, which provides a tax credit of up to $500 per device toward the cost of hearing aids. 

A few of the issues/organizations SHHH works with are: the Coalition for Movie Captioning, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Accessibility Working Group (assistance on access under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act), the Federal Communications Commission (as regards rules/regulations relevant to people with hearing loss) the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alliance (formerly COR) urging congress to fund infant hearing screening programs. New is ITEM - Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare/Medicaid - a coalition of 65 consumer organizations that forms to ensure that hearing related needs be part of policy changes and increased coverage for people with disabilities and chronic conditions. 

The letters sent by SHHH members helps the action that defeats the withdrawal of the American Standards Institute classroom acoustics standards. 

SHHH has a lead role in an FCC order to modify the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 mandating that digital wireless telephones be compatible with hearing aids. 

SHHH joins the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus Advisory Committee. 

CapTel - a phone that provides simultaneous voice hearing and text reading - are tested by SHHH members and prove to be very popular. 

As part of a Forum on Interactive Voice Response Systems, SHHH brings over 200 member responses on voice mail barriers to the Forum. 

SHHH completes the largest outreach project in its history, distributing 150,000 booklets on Cochlear Implants and Seniors to a broad range of professionals and consumers. 

SHHH advocates for and helps achieve an historic FCC ruling whereby wireless telephones are required to be hearing aid compatible. 

First SHHH state leadership training held in Pennsylvania, sponsored by Sprint. 


The year’s advocacy focus is on improving access to hearing aids, cochlear implants and other technology. SHHH actively supports the hearing aid tax credit bill, and works to increase reimbursement for cochlear implants and to harmonize the Medicare criteria for implantation with those of the FDA. 

The 19th National Convention is in Omaha, Nebraska. The keynote is an entertaining presentation by Jim Fowler (and some of his wildlife), one of the world’s best-known naturalists and former host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and other television shows. Mr. Fowler stressed that we must “realize we are part of the earth’s ecosystem, and learn to respect and live according to the basic biological laws of nature.” 

The Annual Research Symposium sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other communication Disorders is titled The Inner Ear: the 21st Century Frontier. Seven distinguished researchers present their studies that go beyond gene recognition of hearing loss to the next step which includes gene therapies. SHHH Founder Rocky Stone presents Jerry Hohnbaum of North Platte, Nebraska with the Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award. Richard H. Meyer of Illinois becomes the new SHHH President. 

The National Center for Hearing Assistive Technology (NCHAT) receives equipment and financial donations from several manufacturers. During the Convention, on behalf of Cochlear Americas, Donna Sorkin, Vice President, Consumer Affairs, former Executive Director of SHHH presents a check for $10,000 to SHHH for NCHAT. Cochlear Americas also sponsors the production of a booklet: Cochlear Implants and Seniors: When Hearing Aids Aren’t Enough. This is distributed to 150,000 professionals and consumers. 

SHHH has 13 state organizations. Six states hold state or regional conferences. PA and NJ hold leadership trainings. The conferences generate revenue for the state organization, raise awareness of SHHH in each state and bring in new members. Rather than conferences on general hearing loss information, some states chose to focus on specific topics such as assistive technology, employment and leadership. State organizations are building coalitions with other state agencies; representation on state advisory boards is at an all-time high and states are involved in advocacy efforts especially legislation to get hearing aid insurance coverage. 

On August 13, just a few months short of our 25th anniversary, SHHH Founder and Executive Director emeritus Howard E. “Rocky” Stone dies following complications from pneumonia. Hundreds of tributes from all around the world are expressed reflective of his distinguished 25-year CIA career and his humanitarian work for people with hearing loss and other disabilities. He was 79 years old. An endowment fund is initiated in his name. 

The November/December issue of Hearing Loss is a 25th anniversary tribute to SHHH and its founder Rocky Stone. It includes an article by past President Patricia Clickener: SHHH 25 years and Still Growing, A Flashback to 1979, and Earlier. Ms. Clickener reflects on the growth of SHHH along with the amazing advances made for people with hearing loss. 

In November SHHH launches a promising trial run of a new Patron Membership which gives people the option of sending in an additional $10 with their membership dues which is reimbursed to their local chapter. SHHH hopes this will promote membership among chapter participants who are not SHHH members, and further promote the concept of “one SHHH membership.” 

Terry Portis, executive director announces that the last few months of the year show the greatest membership renewal in our history. We now have over 10,000 active, paid national members. This is a five year high for membership. (The highest membership count was in 1997, with just over 11,000.) In addition there are another 4-5,000 participating only at the local level. 

The SHHH website averages over 1 million hits per month and is generating revenue for the first time. It contains nearly 500 pages of information including a new online bookstore. 

SHHH meets the $250,000 Annual Fund goal with 3,000 people – a record number of donors - giving to SHHH. 

SHHH fundraising evening at the Australian Embassy, sponsored in part by Cochlear Americas, is attended by Washington, DC, supporters including U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson. 

SHHH establishes the American Academy of Hearing Loss Support Specialists™. The Academy provides training and oversight for the Certificate in Hearing Loss Support, which establishes a set of core knowledge and basic training for individuals who support and work with people affected by hearing loss. 

SHHH Executive Director Terry Portis appears on the Today Show to an audience of 4.5 million people Relaunched SHHH website – www.hearingloss.org – receives over 3 million hits per month 

SHHH state leadership training held in New Jersey, sponsored by Sprint. 


In February, SHHH Deputy Executive Director Brenda Battat received a 2005 Oticon Focus on People Award for her outstanding advocacy work on behalf of people with hearing loss. Oticon awards honor hard of hearing people who prove that hearing loss does not limit a person's ability to live a full, productive, and even, inspiring life. 

In March, two booklets for consumers about cochlear implants: When Hearing aids Aren’t Enough (revised) and Questions to Ask Your Surgeon are mailed to 25,000 professionals and 10,000 randomly chosen consumers. Bulk mailings of the publications are also sent to other groups such as BHI, AARP, cochlear implant clinics and all SHHH chapters and state organizations. The project is sponsored Cochlear Americas. 

Prior to the July 4th celebration, the 20th International Convention is held in Washington DC. It commemorates the 25th anniversary of the founding of SHHH. During the Convention, the Stone family holds a Memorial Celebration of the Life of Rocky Stone. At the organization’s banquet, the Howard E. “Rocky” Stone Humanitarian is awarded to Alice Marie (Ahme) Stone, the beloved wife of the founder. Award-winning singer songwriter Mary Sue Twohey performed a lovely “Ode to Rocky Stone.” 

A 2005 SHHH Telecommunications Access Award is presented to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps following his presentation on the progress in telecommunications accessibility for people with hearing loss. At the 12th Annual Research Symposium, leading scientists shared the results of their research into the developments in stem cell research and hearing loss. 

With the integration of the Cochlear Implant Association Inc. (CIAI) into SHHH, Hearing Loss magazine introduces “Cochlear Implants: Today and Tomorrow”, a section of each issue of magazine devoted to cochlear implants. 

In September SHHH responds to the devastation caused Hurricane Katrina by establishing the hear2care project. SHHH serves as a depot for donations of money, batteries, hearing aids and assistive devices to be distributed to victims. Several hearing health related businesses and organizations provide services along with donations. 

During the year, membership is enhanced with the addition of several benefits to including discounts with car rental agencies, Best Western Hotels, and Costco stores. 

In the fall, the first class of the American Academy of Hearing Loss Support Specialists™ launches. The Academy is a self-paced online, distance learning certificate program designed to build knowledge about hearing loss, increase understanding, improve services and enhance the professionalism and credibility of people in diverse professions who provide support services to people with hearing loss and their families. 

During the November 2005 Board of Trustees meeting, the board votes to change the name of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Richard Meyer, president of the SHHH Board of Trustees stated, “This strategic decision is a significant milestone in SHHH’s 25--year history. While remaining committed to the vision of founder Rocky Stone, SHHH is evolving to best meet the needs of people with hearing loss today and in the future, continuing to be a pioneer in advocacy and support for consumers with hearing loss.” 

Terry D. Portis, Ed. D., executive director of SHHH stated, “SHHH needs to position itself to meet the needs of a new generation of people with hearing loss while continuing to serve the constituents who rely on us today. I believe that by updating our name and image we will be better able to communicate our message and fulfill our mission. SHHH expects to complete the transition to the Hearing Loss Association of America in March 2006.” 

Hearing Loss publication gets name change to Hearing Loss Magazine


Name change to Hearing Loss Association of America and new logo are implemented in publication in March. 

The Walk4Hearing™ is launched in an effort to end the stigma associated with hearing loss and provide support and resources for hearing loss prevention and education programs. Six walks are conducted in four states: New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and California. The walk sites grew to 15 in 2007, 17 in 2008 and 21 in 2009. 


In March, a new coalition, the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Telecommunications (COAT) of disability organizations is launched to advocate for legislation and regulatory safeguards that will ensure full access by people with disabilities to evolving high-speed broadband, wireless and other Internet Protocol (IP) technologies. 

Historic consensus agreement reached between consumers led by HLAA and industry regarding cell phone accessibility 

Cordless phone manufacturers respond to HLAA advocacy by committing to make 100% of their digital phones hearing aid compatible 

HLAA advocates for Hearing Aid Tax Credit. HLAA holds events in three states to publicly recognize Congressional representatives for their support of a tax credit for hearing aids. 

FCC responds to HLAA by opening the way for IP relay nationwide. 

HLAA advocates to protect and expand healthcare coverage for cochlear implants 


Brenda Battat steps up to the plate and becomes executive director of HLAA in March. It has brought renewed strength, morale, and rallied the staff as well as having spread enthusiasm to, and increase in, its national membership. Barbara Kelley becomes deputy executive director. 

Because of all the letters written to FCC telling how much captioned telephone would help, WebCapTel service has been introduced. This allows one to make a captioned telephone call from any phone, including a cell phone. 

HLAA presents its first, newly-created Lifetime Achievement Award to Mark Ross, Ph.D. at the Reno Convention in June.