What is a Conference?

A Personal Reflection by Myrtle Barrett, President — Canadian Hard of Hearing Association

There is a conference on hearing loss coming your way!  Every year after a conference we get messages about how the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association Educational Conference and Trade Show changed a life;  this year it could be yours or someone you know.  Please help spread the word.

A conference means many different things to different people as they gather to explore a life issue or specific topic.  Let me tell you about the impact that one conference had on a life – mine.

It was a beautiful summer morning and I awoke to the sound of a bird singing. I listened to my favourite music and took extra time with my hair and makeup. I searched the closet for my favourite outfit, and I was feeling really good about myself as I headed off to work. I walked into the office and gave my usual morning smile. One of my co-workers said “Wow! You look like you’re expecting something wonderful to happen today.”  Jokingly, I replied, “Oh yes, I am expecting one of those life shattering moments that will change my life forever.”

At the end of the day I was deafened.

So, I began my journey as a person with hearing loss. I thought my life was over, and it was – or at least the life I knew before.

Then began the screaming, tears, and the frequent “What happens to me now?!”

I felt like I was at rock bottom.  Eventually and gradually, I told myself there was nowhere to go but up, so I might as well give it a try. I had to come to terms with the fact that no one was going to make this go away, and that I was in charge of my own destiny. I had to accept that my hearing loss was a part of me yet did not define me. It was a long climb back up; as I struggled with anger and denial, I really was my own worst enemy. I missed the conversations, the laughter and the sounds around me. I missed my music.

I missed me.

My family, friends and co-workers were at a loss as to what to say or do. I felt alone and helpless, and I was so fearful of my hearing loss because I felt like I was losing my identity. I was losing me.

I had a hard time voicing the words ‘hearing loss’, because once I said them out loud, they would become a reality.

Then my audiologist told me about a conference in Toronto. It was the first meeting of what we now call the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) – attending it changed my life forever.  It was there that I observed people like Charles Laszlo, Marilyn Dahl and Ruth Warick in action. I remember watching them and thinking “Oh my dear God, what do they have to be happy about – they have hearing loss?” Over the course of the weekend I watched, went to workshops, listened to plenary speakers, and learned about accessibility.  Most of all, I looked into people’s eyes and saw the same emotions that I was feeling.

I no longer felt alone! No more need to make excuses, no more need to feel inferior. The people at that conference were living my life, but they were living it better.  I had found a way up from rock bottom.

I went home, determined to learn to cope with hearing loss, and believe me, it was not easy, but it was worth it.  I saved me and I was a stronger and more confident Myrtle than ever.  I’m not sure if it was a case of CHHA finding me, or me finding CHHA, but here I am, still with CHHA over 30 years later.

I can honestly say that I always meet old versions of me at the annual conferences.  When I see it in their eyes, I reach out to them and, like I did so many years ago, that person goes home empowered.


So, if you or someone you know is on their own hearing loss journey, please help them by allowing them the experience of a Canadian Hard of Hearing Association Educational Conference and Trade Show.

If you are a professional, come learn about how we go about our daily lives.

If you are a manufacturer or supplier, come and join us to see, firsthand, the fruits of your labour, and how well we wear your technology, and learn about our ideas how you can improve your products and services.

I look forward to welcoming you to Montreal. It’s going to be yet another inspiring   Conference and it could be a life-changing moment for you, too.

Stay tuned for more information about this year’s conference on our website: www.chha.ca or email us at events@chha.ca for more information or to learn how you can be involved.

Myrtle Barrett
National President
Canadian Hard of Hearing Association