My Experience at the 2023 VOICE Conference

By Kelsey Hampson

In mid-October, I had the opportunity to fly across the country to attend the VOICE Conference in Oakville, ON. The two-day conference was held at the conference centre of the beautiful Sheridan College campus. I was responsible for manning the booth for CHHA in the vendors’ room, as well as speaking on a panel of young adults with hearing loss on the second day. The conference was split into two demographics for the two days. Day one was for professionals, those who worked with deaf and Hard of Hearing children such as speech-language pathologists, teachers of the deaf or pediatric audiologists. The second day was aimed more at parents of Hard of Hearing children.

Day 1

The keynote speaker who kicked off the first day was one of my favourite sessions of the entire event: Marshall Chasin presented “Music and Hearing Aids”. I particularly enjoyed this speaker as I have been a musician my entire life, playing piano since age 3 while my hearing progressively declined. It was fascinating to hear how different types of sound compression affect music and speech differently!

The “Talk Yoga” session with pediatric speech and language therapist Julie Sparkes that came next was also very interesting. While I never needed speech therapy in my own childhood, being able to incorporate yoga poses, mindfulness and breathing exercises into speech therapy would have been incredible to go through.

The last panel of the day was about how important parent-child conversations are in spoken language development. It was intriguing to find out that a recent study demonstrated that children do not obtain more language learning from speech heard through watching TV, interactive toys, or assistive devices such as Amazon’s Alexa speakers.

The CHHA Booth

Between listening to panelists I spent my time at the conference running the CHHA booth. I really enjoyed telling people who stopped by the booth about our organization and our different programs and initiatives such as our Mentoring Program, Get In the Hearing Loop!, and the Young Adults Network. I had the opportunity to chat with several of the other attendees about my own experiences and hearing journey, as well as my career with CHHA.

Day 2

The second day was geared towards parents of Hard of Hearing children, but it was surprising how many of those parents were also professionals from the first day. Now reflecting, it makes sense that they went into a field of work that affects them personally!

The opening keynote panel for day two was by Jodi Michelle-Cutler, parent of two children, one of whom has hearing loss and a cochlear implant. Jodi was inspired by her deaf son’s experiences to write a children’s book called “Rally Caps”, which has now been made into a movie starring Judd Hirsch and Amy Smart. The movie will be released in 2024, but we got to see a sneak peek trailer and clips from the movie. I was very excited to learn about the character in the movie who has a cochlear implant, as I don’t think there is nearly enough hearing loss representation in media. I will definitely be looking out for “Rally Caps” when it comes out!

Young Adults with Hearing Loss Panel

Mid-afternoon on Saturday was the young adults with hearing loss panel that I was a part of, alongside Kellina Powell, member of the CHHA Young Adults Network’s Board of Directors. “What We Wish Our Parents, Younger Selves, and Others Knew” was quite a broad topic to speak on, and I was incredibly nervous! I actually had to rework my speech in the heat of the moment as I had planned to speak quite a bit about finding a community of other young people with hearing loss – but the person who spoke right before me also tackled that topic! I didn’t mind it in the end, as it gave me some more time to expand on other anecdotes that I had initially skimmed over when writing my talking points. During the break right after the panel discussion, I had another attendee come up to me and thank me for my contribution to the panel as she felt she had learned the most from me specifically. That made all my anxiety about the public speaking worth it!

Overall, the trip out to Ontario for the conference was quite the adventure, and I had a lot of fun. I was not able to do any sight seeing this time around unfortunately, but I did get to see the Great Lakes from the plane! It was amazing to get to meet CHHA’s Executive Director Richard Plummer and Anne Marie Langlois, Programs and Services Manager, in person. I look forward to the next adventure!