Bradenton Hearing Tech Expo expands in third year

Herald Health CorrespondentMarch 4, 2014 

The third annual Hearing Tech Expo on March 8 at the Manatee Technical Institute will be a gadget lover's delight with vendor displays of items like pocket talkers, bed-shaker alarm clocks, remote doorbell alerts, train-your-brain listening programs, telephones that display conversations in text, and caption glasses for going to the movies.

Along with the exhibits, there will be ongoing presentations by experts in hearing loss and communication about when to consider a cochlear implant to how to carry on conversations despite a hearing loss. They'll be talking about topics like "10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Hearing," and the nine devices people wearing hearing aids should be using.

With an estimated 135,000 people with hearing loss living in Manatee and Sarasota counties, the expo has a large potential audience. This is the first year the expo will be in the Manatee Technical Institute, a venue with a much larger space than last year's location at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall. Last year, seminar rooms were too small and not everyone could get in.

The Hearing Loss Association of Sarasota designed the expo for two purposes: To show hearing aid users the many opportunities to further improve, and help people with untreated hearing loss discover a wide array of options and how their lives could improve.

People who do nothing about their hearing loss are part of a large group, said Ed Ogiba, president of the Hearing Loss Association Sarasota chapter. Only 14 percent of those who could be helped by a hearing aid actually get one. And those who do buy a hearing aid often aren't satisfied.

"There's an incredible non-use rate for hearing aids and an incredible return rate," said Ogiba. "But often it's not the hearing aid that's the problem."

"Most people don't realize that hearing aids aren't the end solution. They are the start," he said. "I think that is usually an eye-opener for a lot of people."

Learning to use a hearing aid to the best advantage can take weeks or months. Ways to succeed will be presented at the expo, such as communication strategies, software-training programs for improving listening skills, advanced technology, and seeking out a peer mentor for guidance and encouragement.

Other expo highlights:

• Vendor displays by a range of support groups, including one for people with tinnitus, a condition that causes chronic ringing in the ear.

• Opportunities for permanent Florida residents to receive free volume-control and captioning telephones from the Florida Relay Service. The Manatee County Fire Department also will be on hand to talk about its free alerting-devices for smoke alarms, which it installs at no cost.

• A presentation about cochlear implants and how to decide when one is needed if hearing aids aren't enough. Leading cochlear implant companies will have vendor displays, too.

• Information about where to go if financial assistance is needed to purchase hearing aids. Four local and state groups will be available that help cover the cost of hearing aids for those who can't afford them.

• Free hearing screening tests.

• Participation by other health and community groups, including: The Neuro Challenge Foundation with information on Alzheimer's patients; the Florida Department of Health that will offer free HIV tests; and MTI with details about its nursing program.

• A live demonstration of Sony Captioning Glasses, which provide individual captioning for nearly all movies shown at Regal theaters. The glasses are available to moviegoers at Sarasota's Hollywood 20 and the Oakmont 8 in Bradenton.

Through the Expo, the Hearing Loss Association Sarasota Chapter also is giving a $1,000 scholarship to MTI. Incoming freshmen with a hearing loss will be eligible for the award.

Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be reached at shemmingway@hotmail.com.

If you go

What: Third annual Hearing Tech Expo featuring vendor displays and seminars about new, innovative technologies to assist and improve hearing, communication strategies, and community resources.

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 8

Where: Manatee Technical Institute, Cantrell Hall, 6305 S.R. 70, Bradenton

Cost: Free

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