Technology is bringing about important changes in all our lives, and this is especially true for people who are hard of hearing or deaf. The trend in technology is to make greater use of smart devices that can be connected to each other, which offers people who are hard of hearing or deaf with new and better ways to communicate using their hearing devices combined with specific technology, such as hearing assistive technology. However, people will only make use of these new opportunities if they know about them and understand how to use them.
Training is the key to making sure that people who are hard of hearing or deaf—the consumers of hearing assistive technology—have the knowledge and skills necessary to take full advantage of the hearing devices and other emerging assistive technologies they might want or need to use. Consumers, who include both people who are hard of hearing or deaf and parents of children who are hard of hearing or deaf, can benefit from high quality and in-depth training, particularly when it is provided by other consumers of hearing assistive technology. These “consumer trainers” can serve as examples to other consumers of how to use technology with confidence. The consumer trainers bring real life understanding from their personal, social, and workplace experiences. They can share with other consumers their positive experiences and lessons learned in searching for the right technology, learning how to use it correctly, and advocating for themselves with technology producers to make sure they get just what they need. This project aims to provide a technology focused train-the-trainer program in response to this important need of consumers to learn from other experienced consumers.
The Network of Consumer Hearing Assistive Technology Trainers (N-CHATT) is a nine-month program that includes online courses, in-person training, and a final meeting at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention. The vision for N-CHATT is “to build a network of consumer trainers with the knowledge and skills necessary to train others impacted by hearing loss in the successful integration of hearing assistive technology to support individual hearing and communication needs at home, work, school, and the community.”
The training is available to adults who are hard of hearing or deaf and parents of hard of hearing or deaf children who currently use hearing assistive technology, are comfortable with and interested in learning more about technology, and are willing to train others in their communities. The training participants must commit to conducting at least three community-training events as a volunteer. Participants are selected for the training after they complete an online application; the program is small and will begin with eight participants in the first year growing to twenty participants by the 4th and final year of the program.
The training team also developed a number of evaluation activities to make sure that the training is high quality and useful to consumers. This evaluation will include feedback on the training and feedback from other consumers in the community who receive training from the N-CHATT participants. By the end of the final year, the goal is to have an established consumer-training model that HLAA, Hands and Voices, and other similar associations can use to offer support to their members.
Gallaudet University is partnering with HLAA, Hands and Voices, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR) on this project. Team members include:
- Linda Kozma-Spytek, MA, CCC-A (Investigator), Senior Research Audiologist, Technology Access Program, Gallaudet University
- Dahlia Shaewitz, MA (Investigator), Managing Researcher and Practice Area Director, American Institutes for Research
- Ruth Sugar, MA (Project Staff), Researcher, American Institutes for Research
- Kshitij Verma (Project Staff), Research Assistant, American Institutes for Research
- Victoria Lennon (Project Staff), Communications Specialist, American Institutes for Research
- Lindsey Willis (Project Staff), Senior Communications Specialist, American Institutes for Research
- Lise Hamlin (Project Staff), Director of Public Policy, Hearing Loss Association of America
- Beth Torp (Project Staff), Coordinator, Hearing Loss Association of America
- Janet DesGeorges (Project Staff), Executive Director, Hands & Voices
- Lisa Kovacs (Project Staff), Director of Programs, Hands & Voices