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Hear we are

James Boswell, CEO of the House Research Institute; Janette Brown, executive director of the USC Emeriti Center; and Pinchas Cohen, dean of the USC Davis School of Gerontology (Photo/Courtesy of USC Davis)

According to the World Health Organization, more than 360 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss, which includes one-third of all people over 65 years old and one-half of those older than 75.

To draw attention to this crucial area, the USC Emeriti Center, House Research Institute and USC Disability Services and Programs teamed up to present the 2013 Hearing Health Symposium at the USC Davis School of Gerontology on April 19.

“No matter what your age, hearing clearly makes all the difference in quality of life. That’s why we held the USC Hearing Health Symposium: to showcase multiple perspectives discussing research, resources and how to find the best treatment for different types of hearing loss,” said Janette Brown, executive director of the Emeriti Center.

“Today’s event represents a tremendous opportunity to engage so many in an incredibly important topic. In gerontology, we talk a lot about the spans — life span, health span, wealth span — but I’d like to coin a new term today: hearing span,” said Pinchas Cohen, dean of USC Davis. “Hearing loss is, in essence, an age-related disease. We have to address this more closely in the gerontology community, and I’m looking forward to a partnership with the scientists and attendees of today’s event.”

The three panel discussions — “Exploring Your Hearing Health,” “Latest Research, Communication and Effective Self-Advocacy” and “What’s New – Assistive Devices, Technologies, Community Resources” — were moderated by James Boswell, CEO of the House Research Institute, Charlotte Schamadan of the House Research Institute and Kenneth Lopez of the USC Thornton School of Music, respectively.

The panels, organized by Marilee Potthoff from the House Research Institute, featured such speakers as John House of the House Clinic and House Research Institute, Katherine Hammons of USC Disability Services, John Orr, professor emeritus of religion at USC, Ryan Epoch of Contacta Inc. and Roberta Smith of the California Telephone Access Program.

Throughout the event, a Hearing Health Awareness fair was held in the USC Davis courtyard, which included samples of a proposed shell-shaped, universal symbol designed by Mary Lou Dauray to indicate hearing loss.

“The time is ripe for a symbol to identify those with hearing loss as well as those situations detrimental and dangerous for the hearing-impaired,” Dauray said. “Whether it is worn as a pin or posted in areas or on products, the ‘Hear I Am’ logo elegantly communicates crucial concerns. Hearing loss is an invisible disability we should make visible.”

With Q-and-A sessions, networking opportunities and multiple booths, panelists and attendees alike were able to reaffirm their commitment to increasing awareness, advocacy, treatment and options for those affected by hearing loss. Just as important, however, was the story of how the symposium came to be in the first place.

“I’m especially proud that today reminds us that USC’s retired faculty and staff are invaluable contributors to the USC community,” Brown said. “Today’s symposium took place because of the interest of professor emeritus John Orr. Every day and every year, the USC Emeriti Center is enriched and changed based on the wisdom of our retirees, and I encourage everyone to consider adding their unique voice to ours.”

The event, which was closed-captioned as well as made accessible by a sign language interpreter and hearing assistance devices, is also available in its entirety online at

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