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August Newsletter 2019: The Deaf Men of NASA & Interview w/ Hearing Assistive App Specialist, Lois J

Upcoming Meeting!

Monthly meetings every 2nd Saturday of the month.

This month's meeting will be held on Saturday, August 10, 2019 at 9:30 am

Meeting Location:

We now meet at St. Luke Presbyterian Church

8915 Timberside Drive Houston, Texas 77025

(Visible from Bethany Methodist parking lot.)


Our speaker for July,

Chereece N. Andrews

Come join the HLAA meeting on August 10, 2019,

Chereece N. Andrews, former senior audiologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, is going to talk about the factors that help adults cope better with hearing loss and the factors that help adults accept/adopt hearing aids.


Chereece N. Andrews was the senior audiologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, for nearly ten years, where she supervised graduate audiology students and accurately assessed and identified hearing loss in pediatric patients.

Since 2017, she has been with the University of Houston as the clinical assistant professor teaching the Introduction to Audiology and Aural Rehabilitation courses and the audiologist at the university’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic. Dr. Andrews has served as a volunteer audiologist in Kumasi, Ghana, with an organization called Sound Seekers since 2013 and recently spearheaded her department and the first study abroad program in Belize.


Our Chapter Board Members

Jan Connolly President email:

Allan Ofield Past President email:

Enriqueta Martinez Treasurer email:

Mike Quinlan Secretary email:

Teri Wathen Advisor email:

Lois Johnson Advisor email:

Upcoming Events!


Article to Read From - The Washington Post

‘I wanted to serve’: These deaf men helped NASA understand motion sickness in space.

“I’m a red-blooded American,” Gulak said. “I wanted to serve our country the best that I could. Being that I’m deaf, I could not join the military… It was my way of serving.”

Deaf test subjects prepare for zero-gravity flight. (Courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives, David Myers Collection) By Sarah Larimer May 5, 2017

Barron Gulak remembers one experiment, which did not take place in a lab.

In 1964, Gulak and the other test subjects for the research were sent out on a boat, which traveled through rough waters off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Really rough waters.

Just super bad.

Listen to this story on “Retropod”:

The ship rolled and pitched about in a storm, tilting back and forth. But those who’d volunteered for the research were immune to motion sickness.

“Honestly, it was a wonderful time,” said Gulak, who, along with the other research test subjects, is deaf.

It is, however, probably safe to assume that those who were conducting the research, who were notimmune to motion sickness, did not share this view.

“We were enjoying ourselves,” Gulak recalled. “We actually had meals during the storm. And when they saw us eating, it made them even more sick, and they were vomiting.”

For years, Gulak and others took part in research conducted by the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine, conducted during the early days of the American space program more than a half-century ago. By extension, these test subjects helped NASA, which sponsored the work, according to Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian. They spent days in rotating rooms. They went up on parabolic flights, floating in zero gravity. And they rocked on that boat out in the angry waters.

A group of deaf men helped the U.S. understand how humans could cope in space. They participated in a series of experiments to help researchers understand how humans could survive in space. (Gallaudet University)
“They were interested in researching balance and motion sickness, sea sickness and the like. That kind of thing,” said 79-year-old Harry Larson, who took part in the research. “Because NASA wanted to know more about how man could perform in a zero gravity environment.”

The research and the stories of the participants are detailed in an on-campus exhibit at Gallaudet University, which opened in April.

“I’m a red-blooded American,” Gulak said. “I wanted to serve our country the best that I could. Being that I’m deaf, I could not join the military… It was my way of serving.”

The research has deep ties with Gallaudet University, the nation’s premier college for the deaf and hard of hearing. Many of those who participated were selected when officials came to the Washington, D.C., campus in search of test subjects.

“All of those experiments we went through, none of us got sick,” said 80-year-old David Myers, another participant. “There would be two groups, my group and the hearing group, and the hearing group, many of them would always get sick. And we never got sick. So that, essentially, the whole purpose of research was to find out ways to prevent motion sickness.”

Research participant David Myers, in a head brace. “There was a metal cage that you would lay in, and it would sway left and right,” he said. The machine, he said, rocked him to sleep. (Courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives, David Myers Collection)

Here’s the gist of how this all came to be: In 1961, a doctor named Ashton Graybiel and other personnel from the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine visited Gallaudet, Jean Bergey, associate director of the Drs. John S. & Betty J. Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center, said in an email to The Washington Post.

Officials tested more than 100 students, faculty and staff and narrowed the group down to a handful who were selected, which was mostly made up of students. The research with that group continued for years.

“All but one of the selected test subjects became deaf from spinal meningitis, which impacted their inner ear physiology,” Bergey. “This meant they could endure motion and gravitational forces that make most people nauseous.”
She continued: “The ability to withstand intense movement turned the so-called ‘labyrinthine defect’ into a valuable research asset — no matter the test of equilibrium, the deaf participants simply never got sick.”

Harry Larson in rotating room. (Courtesy of Gallaudet University Archives, Harry Larson Collection)

“Harry Larson, one of the research participants, explained, ‘We were different in a way they needed,'” she wrote. “Indeed, their difference made it possible for researchers to explore human reactions to weightless environments and extreme motion and to better understand the complexity of entangled human sensory systems.”

Bergey said in an email that she wasn’t aware of any other research projects that involved Gallaudet and the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine or NASA.

Hearing loss wasn’t really a factor in the research, said Myers, one of the participants. Instead, those who were involved didn’t have a functioning vestibular system.

(Do you know what the vestibular system is? It’s a pretty neat thing, science-wise. The participants didn’t have functioning vestibular systems, which meant their balance and sense of movement were affected, and they didn’t get motion sick.)

Myers also explained in an email that this happened at a time when “interpreter services was neither a right nor expected by our group.”

“About the only interpreting made available was by hearing family members who by growing up in a deaf family learned sign language and could serve as an interpreter for a deaf family member,” he wrote. “Some churches would ask family members to interpret church services for their deaf members. Interpreting as an occupation was unheard of as interpreter jobs did not exist.”

The group for Gallaudet, he wrote, participated in the research with “limited preparation and understanding of the tasks at hand.”

“Brief written instructions were often provided  which focused  mostly on what we were supposed to do rather than providing an understanding of the nature of the tasks,” he wrote. “This lack of interpreter services was a reflection of the times rather than any denial of that need for the services.”

(Some interviews for this story, including in-person conversations with Myers, Larson and Gulak, were done with interpreters.)

Larson remembers when the Navy came to the Gallaudet campus, looking for volunteers to be part of a space research program. At the time, he was a senior at the university; it was the spring of 1961. Larson volunteered, he said, “just for fun.”

“Overall, I have to say, I was really pleased to be able to go on the different trips,” he said. “It was an adventure to us. We certainly weren’t thinking about any of the danger. It was more of like, fun things to do.”

Larson was also on the ship that was tossed in waters off Nova Scotia and remembers traveling to Ohio for zero-gravity flights. He recalled one project, in which he had to stand up against a post. He was strapped to the post with Velcro, it was the first time he’d seen the material. Larson said he spent hours like that, while others took pictures of his eyes.

“That was really tough,” he said, “just having to stand for that long.”

Myers, another one of the subjects, recalled a rotating room, where those involved in the research would stay — even to eat and sleep — for days. Initially, he said, it was tough to walk, but by the second or third day, the research subjects started to adapt.

“It was a lot of work. A lot of hard work,” he said. “For the [hearing group of participants], many of them got extremely ill in that room.”

Myers said he once met with John Glenn, a Marine Corps fighter pilot and the first American to orbit Earth. Glenn, he recalled, told Myers that he had heard about the Gallaudet research subjects.
“Once he got word that there was a group of deaf folks who would never get sick,” Myers said, “he quote ‘envied’ us.”

Research on this type of stuff can be found today at the Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Laboratory, located at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Paul DiZio, an associate professor at Brandeis and associate director of the lab, attended the opening of the Gallaudet exhibit and told the crowd that the work of these research subjects comes up quite frequently, even decades later.

“The conversation gets difficult, and we forget where we are, and we say to ourselves, well, what do we know?” he said. “What it comes down to is what we learned from these people.”

We are HEAR for you!


The Hearing Loss Association of America Houston Chapter is your local support group and organization for the deaf and hard of hearing of Houston, Texas. We wouldn't be here helping those in need without YOU! We are continuously growing in support, technology, and resources to help all who we can.

By joining the HLAA Houston Chapter, you're not just a part of support group.

You're a part of a family. What's a better way to get to know your family than getting an exclusive interview with the people of your chapter? This month's interview is with...

Advisor, Lois Johnson

The infamous Lois J has been such a generous contributor to the hearing loss community and HLAA. She is light hearted, welcoming, and the longest member of the HLAA organization in the Houston Chapter.

"She has been a pillar of support to the hearing loss community," says Enriqueta Martinez (treasurer)

Let's learn more about why she's still supporting us to this day!

With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support HLAA?

Yes there are many great agencies other than Hearing Loss Association of America to support but HLAA is one of the leading agencies that I contribute to because it has helped me to survive in the hearing world with my hearing loss. In the beginning I did not know who to turn to for advice. I have Meniere's disease. It is not a very common diagnosis among people with hearing loss.

When did you discover you had hearing loss?

At work I kept telling people that the microwave was broken because I could not hear the bell go off although I could hear the spring that set it off. At home I kept trying to hear a bell on one of my kids toys. I pushed it so many times my son asked what was wrong. Again, I could hear the spring that set it off, but I could not hear the bell. Just a note, people often think those who have hearing loss just need amplification. In my case, I was not hearing certain tones. I also began having some health issues like ringing in the ears (tinnitus), migraines, and dizziness. After many visits to the doctors and consultations with a friend, I was diagnosed with Meniere's disease.

Meniere's disease is an inner-ear condition that can cause vertigo, a specific type of dizziness in which you feel as though you're spinning. It also can cause ringing in your ear (tinnitus), hearing loss that comes and goes, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear. Usually, only one ear is affected.

You can read my story in the Hearing Loss Magazine in the May/June 2010 issue. The article is rather late but it shows what I went through with my hearing loss to achieve what I have achieved today.

What was the biggest challenge you were facing before finding the organization?

The biggest challenge I faced before becoming apart of HLAA is a feeling of loneliness. I did not know anyone with a hearing loss. I tried going to events with deaf people but because I did not sign I could not communicate with them.

What would you say to someone facing the same challenges you went through?

It is a lot easier now for people with a hearing loss to find information on their communication needs. When I started loosing my hearing the only thing that was readily available was a phone to turn up the amplification. In my career as a librarian I had to find all my information through books. The internet and email had just started evolving. Now it is very easy to find out information on the internet. I would advise someone just starting to go through hearing loss to contact organizations like HLAA and A.G. Bell for support. They can then put you in contact with other sources to meet your needs. In Texas, we are very lucky to have hearing loss resource specialist who can further assess your needs.

How has this organization changed you?

It has taught me to be more assertive and to advocate for my needs. For example: when I attended workshops at work, I requested CART (computer assisted real-time translation). I explained what it was and gave them the contact info of a CART reporter. I also knew that others could also benefit.

What do you think other people should know about this organization?

HLAA provides us with a lot of different resources, such as webinars with info on hearing loss, and advocacy on the national level. They advocate with the FCC, and other agencies on the national level which we in turn need to follow through on the state and local levels.

Why do you continue to support HLAA?

I continue to support HLAA to help others. I remember when I had that feeling of loneliness. I want to make sure that others know there is help out there.

We understand you are involved with a program that develops apps to assist the hearing impaired and deaf; tell me exactly what the program does?

At the February meeting, I presented a program on apps for people with hearing loss. I am enrolled in an online learning program with HLAA, in partnership with Gallaudet University, and AIR (American Institute of Research) called N-CHATT. N-CHATT training includes webinars and eight online modules, each two weeks in duration. The online portion of the program is followed by an in-person two-day training session in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, with presentations on training activities and hearing assistive technology topics, hands-on technology exploration, and opportunities for training practice and interactive learning. Upon successful completion of the training, individuals attend the HLAA Convention and commit to conducting at least three community training programs within one year of the start of the program. It is funded through a federal grant.

Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of during your time in the program?

I have really enjoyed being a part of N-CHATT and the experience I received learning about all the different technology available for people with hearing loss. I have met many older adults who are beginning to experience a mild hearing loss. In my programs, I am able to introduce them to available technology items or apps they can use before they need to purchase their first hearing aids.

Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

Throughout the years, many people have contacted me for information about different services for people with hearing loss. When I worked for CaptionCall, I sent many of my customers our newsletter. Several of them have become members. Several of them may never have attended a meeting but they have followed and stayed in touch thanks to the info they have obtained from our newsletters. I am also thankful for the many friends I have met through HLAA both on the state chapter and local levels. Please keep in touch. Read not just our chapter newsletter but also the HLAA website and subscribe to the e-news. These are great sources of info. Also please don’t forget to contribute and participate in the Houston Chapter's Walk4Hearing. It is our only our fundraiser and a great social event.

For more info contact me at

C0set Media Management

With the internet & media rapidly growing,I am here to help the HLAA Houston Chapter reach those in need of support and to raise awareness of hearing loss to audiences through social media, thus giving the organization more outreach than ever before.


Photography, Videography, Editing, Website Development, Social Media Management

Follow us on social media! @HLAAHOU

Meeting Schedule
Date : Guest Speaker
September 14: Carolyn McMahon – an N-CHATT trainer, will be presenting on “10 Questions about Hearing Loss.”
October 12: Javier from Cochlear- topic pending
November 9: Open slot

This concludes our August E-newsletter of 2019!

A special thank you to the readers and sponsors supporting the HLAA Houston chapter. The best is yet to come!

Our Newsletter is proudly created by C0set Media Management & Content Creation

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