Woman addresses problem at center ANNE ARUNDEL SENIORS

BATTLING HEARING LOSS

October 14, 1992|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

Miriam Gilbert grew up watching her father struggle with the frustrations of losing his hearing. And when her own hearing began to fail her years later, she knew she had to help other seniors with the same problem.

So, at age 64, she took over a support group, Coping With Hearing Loss, from Dr. Sam Trychin of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The group meets at the Pascal Senior Center in Glen Burnie.

"There are lots of problems when you can't hear," Ms. Gilbert said. "You get depressed and angry and you need some way to cope."

Ms. Gilbert, now 71, had been a member of the group, then took training courses at Gallaudet under Dr. Trychin in which she said she learned "how to facilitate support groups for the hearing impaired."

In seven years, she has expanded the support group to include an Assisted Listening Devices Lab that displays the most current technology for dealing with hearing loss.

Those with hearing losses can make appointments to see the gadgets, which range from special phones to the latest in hearing aids.

"My goal is to support those who have hearing difficulties and to educate the public on how to communicate with us," Ms. Gilbert said.

She estimated that as many as 28 million Americans suffer from hearing loss.

The support group, which meets every Thursday at 12:30 p.m., is designed to let its members discuss any problems troubling them. When she enters the room, Ms. Gilbert said, she has "no idea what we're going to talk about.

"We could discuss hearing aids, cochlea implants, telephones or TV. It's up to them," she said.

Mary Kiester, 74, has been in the program with Ms. Gilbert since she took it over. She said her hearing loss bothered her so badly that "I felt like I needed a psychiatrist. This group really helped me cope."

For nearly all of his 69 years, Charlie Cochran has been coping with a severe hearing loss. The support group has been helpful in filling him in on the latest technology, he said.

"It's a matter of survival to take advantage of what is available," he said. "If I didn't have a hearing aid, I could be dead now."

The members said Ms. Gilbert's method of support and instruction is unique and valuable to anyone suffering from a hearing loss.

"That's one thing she is, easy to understand and very helpful," said five-year member Esther Jones, 81.

But Ms. Gilbert's support groups are not always just chat sessions.

Recently, she invited a speaker from the University of Maryland to talk about hearing loss and on at least two occasions, she has brought a hearing watch dog and trainer to meetings to explain the benefits of owning the animals.

"I'll give them support any way I can," Ms. Gilbert said.

Ms. Gilbert also travels to senior centers in Laurel and Columbia and visits the Charlestown Retirement Community every week to discuss the problems of hearing loss.

Ms. Gilbert said she hopes to help the hearing impaired cope and to increase the sensitivity of the public.

"We're not deaf and we're not dumb. We're just hearing impaired."

For more information on Ms. Gilbert's program, call 222-6682.

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