Young Adults Representative at the HLAA Convention 2024

Qais Khan, Coordinator of Young Adults with CI and board member of CIICA, has traveled all the way from the UK to attend an HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) convention in Phoenix, USA. He was invited to join the panel on ‘Raising Awareness of Cochlear Implants Worldwide and Ensuring Lifelong Support,’ where Qais shared CIICA’s work and his experiences as an advocate. He participated alongside representatives from three cochlear implant manufacturers: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear, and MED-EL.

Upon arriving at the luxurious resort Sheraton Grand Resort at Wild Horse Park, where the convention is taking place, I was completely blown away. The resort’s rich architecture, cultural ambiance, and the lobby’s stunning view of Arizona’s landscape made it a truly authentic experience in the heart of the American Southwest. There, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Barbara Kelley, HLAA’s Executive Director and board member of CIICA, whom I had met at CIICA conference: CI Advocacy in Action in Brussels.

The HLAA Convention offered an extensive three days filled with dynamic events and educational workshops including diverse topics such as growing up with hearing loss, learning more about the latest technology, discussions on cochlear implants and hearing aids, building a community, addressing workplace challenges, advocating for yourself, and much more.

On the opening day, I had the honour of meeting Keynote Speaker Shanna Adamic, a proud survivor of a rare brain tumour, a Fortune 100 Social Impact Leader, Author of ‘Audacious Optimism’. Shanna shared her personal story with hearing loss and her struggles, and highlighting the power of positivity and resilience. One profound lesson she imparted to me is the importance of wearing a smile! I’ve also attended Research Symposium, where experts explored all sides of The Emotional of Hearing Loss in depth. They delved in how hearing loss can affects on our emotions, behaviours and mental health.

As part of the convention’s highlights, Barbara Kelley moderated the panel session on “Raising Awareness of Cochlear Implants Worldwide and Ensuring Lifelong Support” alongside with myself and representatives from three leading CI manufacturers: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear and MED-EL. During our discussion, I highlighted the importance of CIICA’s initiatives in ensuring lifelong support and services for individuals with cochlear implants, including CIICA’s report on CI Services Matter and other resources to support advocacy. I emphasised why Young Adults with CI should be a New Stakeholder Group and why this group must be recognised as a stakeholder group by the industry and major players. Throughout the session, three manufacturers provided valuable insights on lifelong support and rehabilitation following the initial cochlear implantation.

Throughout the HLAA convention, I made meaningful connections with individuals from across the United States, bright young people with hearing loss, fellow attendees, families, experts and manufacturers, all of whom I’m sure will lead to lasting connections. The entire event left me inspired and filled with optimism.

Reflecting on my past experiences at conferences focused on cochlear implantation, these events were often highly scientific with audiences who are professionals, ENT surgeons, manufacturers and rarely individuals with hearing loss. Whereas, the HLAA convention in Pheonix stood out as an incredibly memorable event, including attendees of all ages with hearing loss.

I am grateful to Barbara Kelley for her encouragement to attend HLAA convention and for inviting me to share my experiences. I also appreciate Cochlear’s support in making this journey possible!

P.S As someone from the UK, I drink a lot of tea. I shared with Barbara Kelly that I went to the lobby’s bar and asked for a tea, and all I got was iced tea! What I meant, of course, was British Tea!

9 July 2024