Goulds take hearing loss presentation to Vermont

Wiltonians Alan and Pat Gould will share a presentation about hearing impairment with third and fourth graders at the Mary Hogan Elementary School in Middlebury, Vt., on June 17.

According to Hearing Loss Magazine’s March/April 2014 issuethe Goulds’ presentation stemmed from an idea of Fairfield resident Marcia Zola, who taught her grandchildren techniques to orally communicate with her. After seeing how quickly they picked up the techniques, Zola created a program to teach other children how to communicate with hearing-impaired individuals.

After initiating the program, Zola asked the Goulds to develop it for presentation, and through the Goulds’ efforts, Wilton’s public schools opened their doors to the presentation.

During the first half of the presentation, called Noise Isn’t Cool, Zola would talk to students about what hearing loss is and teach them how to communicate with people who are hard of hearing. During the second half of the presentation, the Goulds would stress the importance of volume control and limiting time spent in noisy situations.

The Goulds have presented Noise Isn’t Cool in Wilton, Fairfield, New York state, and other surrounding communities over the years.

“It’s about how kids have to stay away from ultra-loud music, be aware of the environmental sounds like heavy-duty construction that goes on — anything that has a sound intensity — we try to tell the kids about it,” Alan told The Bulletin.

“We have a PowerPoint presentation to go along with it, we hand out samples of different decibel levels having to do with sound intensity,” he said, “and we share background information with the kids on hearing loss.”

Alan said there’s a difference between hearing loss and deafness, which is something children tend to confuse.

“The kids sometimes think that if you’re hard of hearing that you’re deaf and you can’t hear, and they have a tendency to speak very, very loudly to a person they think can’t hear very well,” he said.

“We try to teach them ways of dealing with hearing loss and being sensitive to those who have hearing loss.”

Alan said he and his wife try to help children avoid hearing loss, “which is happening on a more rapid basis than ever before because of the loudness of the environment.”

Wilton Playshop project

In 2009, the American Disabilities Association Coalition of Connecticut awarded Alan for his help in setting up a looping system at the Wilton Playshop for those with hearing loss. A looping system is a special type of sound system that provides a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by hearing aids.

Over the past 30 years, Alan said, he and his wife have been “pioneers in establishing programs through our community theater in local areas as well to help those with hearing loss.”

Alan, a graduate of Middlebury College, said his family has “a very close relationship with Middlebury,” and friends of theirs living in Middlebury are also establishing hearing loops in their own local theater.

“The reason we’re going to Vermont is because a major town hall theater in Vermont has basically tried to do some of the things that we’ve done here in Wilton,” said Alan.

“It was through our friends at Middlebury and the town community theater that we accepted the invitation to come do this program for the kids in Middlebury.”

Alan is a former speech and language pathologist and past president of Hearing Loss Association of America’s Southwest Connecticut Chapter, and Pat is a former fourth grade teacher.