Hearing loss is an invisible ailment. A person does not use a wheelchair. There is no Seeing Eye dog. Though people cannot see if someone has hearing loss, it is the third most common physical condition.
The Hearing Loss Association of Lycoming County began last August as a way to fill a need in the county for those who have questions about their hearing loss or a loved one's hearing loss, President A. Kay Tyberg said.
Along with information on the services available to a person with hearing loss, members can share their experiences and solutions to the problems they faced.
Annette Clark, left, and A. Kay Tyberg talk with a mix of hand motions and speech.
Tyberg was driving to an appointment at Geisinger Health System when her car broke down near the Danville exit.
"Many people take for granted a hearing person is always there," she said. "That's not the case. I was frightened."
She pulled an "I Am Deaf" sign out of her glove compartment and waited with the windows locked. One man stopped, but Tyberg was too afraid to talk to him, so she pointed to her ears and her sign, and he left.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Meet the Audiologists night
WHEN: 7-9 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Center for Independent Living of Northcentral Pennsylvania/Roads to Freedom, 24 E. Third St.
MORE INFO: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
"You don't know who's going to pull over," Tyberg said. "You can't text the hospital. It was an ordeal."
Instead, she texted her husband about her car. She called the hospital, with the cellphone on speaker. She had no idea if she was talking to a person or a machine, but she said her name, what happened and her medical information.
Finally, a police officer pulled over. Once again, she held up her sign. Because they could not talk, they wrote back and forth.
"We found some way to communicate," Tyberg said. "I got back here safe and sound. Those are the scenarios people will run into."
Tyberg teaches sign language classes and she kept getting asked questions about hearing loss, which inspired her to start the organization. She saw many people, some with hearing aids, some without them that needed them.
The Lycoming chapter of the Hearing Loss Association was the newest one in the state in eight years, joining more than 200 others throughout the country.
"We welcome anyone, hearing or non-hearing," Tyberg said.
Those with hearing loss are encouraged, as well as spouses, relatives, friends and co-workers.
The chapter meets the second Thursday of the month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Roads to Freedom Center for Independent Living of North Central Pennsylvania building, 24 E. Third St.
On Thursday, the organization is hosting a Meet the Audiologists Night as a way for specialists to answer questions from the community.
Audiologist Dr. Amanda Malvica sees a lot of patients with hearing loss and a variety of solutions are available.
One available option is a phone caption call that prints conversations.
In a household where one person has a hearing loss and another does not, a volume device helps. A hard-of-hearing person picks up the phone, hits the button and the volume increases. When the non-hearing loss person answers, it will not be too loud.
Having a hearing loss means finding new solutions to problems, said Annette Clark, group member.
Waiting for an X-ray, a person with a hearing problem will not know when it is his or her turn.
At restaurants, waiters stand behind customers. A person with hearing loss would not hear and would not know to answer.
"The average person doesn't think of it," Clark said. "It's amazing the things I took for granted."
People tend to grow annoyed if others do not answer, but she said as soon as it is explained a person has a hearing problem, they change.
"Ninety percent of the time, there's a change of personality," Clark said. "They're more as ease when you tell them."
Some people wear a pin that reads "Please face me. I have a hearing loss," so that others will know, but some refuse to admit the hearing loss and just live in denial.
One of the ways for a person who does not have a hearing loss to understand what it is like for those who do is to watch a television show on mute, with no captions. Clark suggested trying to explain to someone who knows what happened in the episode what you think happened, and then watch it with volume to see how close you were.
Clark watched an episode of NCIS, a police procedural drama, that she already saw and tried explaining what she thought happened when she watched it again, but found she was completely wrong.