State Advisory Boards Representing People who are Hard of Hearing

Consumers with hearing loss can and should be on state advisory boards to represent the needs of people who are hard of hearing and improve services across the state.

Most advisory boards have slots allocated for consumer and/or specific disability representation. This is to ensure that the agencies have input from the widest range of constituencies. As a consumer on the advisory board you can make sure that the services being provided are appropriate and adequate for people with hearing loss.

There are two main types of state agencies that have advisory boards:

  • Those related to disability issues such as Vocational Rehabilitation and Telecommunications Relay Services.
  • Those related to general services, such as the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services.

We strongly encourage people with hearing loss to get on both types of advisory boards to play an active role in raising awareness about hearing loss issues and improving state services for people with hearing loss.

Membership on the boards is usually through appointment by the state governor. It is therefore important to play an active role at the state level in order for people to get to know you and your expertise so that they can nominate you to be appointed.

Hints To Get You Started:

  • Learn what advisory boards are in your state and select the one that fits your interests and expertise
  • Sit in on meetings to observe how business is conducted and what issues are currently under discussion
  • Get exposure to the key players for you to know them, and for them to know you
  • Know and keep up-to-date with the issues – talk to consumers who use the services, read the HLAA position papers on relevant subject matters (check the HLAA website, www.hearingloss.org), and consult past issues of the HLAA Hearing Loss Magazine. Get information from other consumer or professional organizations to get the broadest perspective about the issues
  • Know what you need for accessibility in order to be able to hear in the meetings, where to get it, and how to request it
  • Get the word out that you are interested in serving on a specific advisory board and get supporters to push for your appointment
  • Do your homework and have basic information on hearing loss statistics, nationally and statewide
  • Link through the HLAA national office with consumers on advisory boards in other states to share expertise and experiences
  • Apply to participate in HLAA leadership training programs to update your leadership skills

How To Advocate for Better Classroom Acoustics

Unnecessary noise interferes with our children’s education. Children with temporary hearing loss (because of colds and earaches) or permanent hearing loss are especially at risk from excessive noise and reverberation in their classrooms.

A standard for classroom acoustics, ANSI/ASA S12.60-2002, was developed by the Acoustical Society of America working with the US Access Board, parents, teachers, the Hearing Loss Association of America, and the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It was published by the American National Standards Institute and spells out maximum levels for background noise and reverberation to ensure good speech intelligibility in learning environments.

What to Do

Know where to get the standard and other resources.

There is also a toll-free technical assistance line at 1-800-872-2253 voice and 1-800-993-2822 TTY.

Contact school officials in your community and educate them on the importance of implementing the standard when new schools are built.

Meet with PTAs to educate them about the standard and get their support.

Meet with local and state architectural firms to ensure that they incorporate the standard into school building designs.

Educate parents and teachers about the importance of good acoustics and get them to advocate for the standard also.

Parents have found the standard useful in obtaining acoustic modifications to their children’s existing classrooms under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) law. To view the IDEA go to the US Department of Education’s IDEA website at http://idea.ed.gov.

Educate personnel in your state agencies for deaf and hard of hearing people, divisions on civil rights, technology assistance programs, and other agencies involved in providing services for citizens with hearing loss.

Form coalitions of key stakeholders – audiologists, speech therapists, auditory-verbal therapists, CART reporters, teachers, parents, young adults who were mainstreamed, state agency and state division on civil rights staff – strategize together and go out and advocate for better acoustics.

It's a lot less costly to incorporate good acoustics in new construction than to fix a poorly performing classroom later.

Educational failure related to poor acoustics costs the US millions of dollars in remedial and correctional programs and in loss of individual earning and other potential. US Access Board data suggest that 1/3 of the children in every classroom are missing 1/3 of the spoken lesson every day because of excessive background noise. These children are being left behind. The most seriously disadvantaged are children for whom English is a second language. If this wasted money were redirected to the design and construction of schools that provide speech intelligibility as good as adults get in conference rooms today, many more children would be successful learners and contributing members of society. This is the message we need to convey to educators and lawmakers.

The key is the level of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), 35 dB background noise + 25 dB needed by children with hearing loss = 60 dB, the unforced level of a woman teacher's voice. This level is being achieved every day in facilities for adults where we deem good communication to be a design determinant (meeting rooms, A/V and teleconferencing facilities, performance spaces, libraries etc).

Adults who question the importance of good acoustics should imagine themselves sitting next to a motel HVAC unit (the same kind used in schools) while trying to understand a speaker with a pronounced foreign accent who is reading text that is unfamiliar to the listener. Without their usual cues of context, even adult listeners will perform poorly on any test of intelligibility (and children have been shown to need  a 10 dB greater SNR than adults). Furthermore, they will find that the need to focus intensively on the listening task exhausts their ability to do other intellectual work.