Remarkable individual working to break down barriers for the deaf and hearing impaired community.
Hearing loss impacts more people than one realizes, and the effects are usually invisible.
With such a great number of people experiencing the effects of hearing loss, the efforts toward more awareness are increasing.
Altoona’s Kay Tyberg is one individual who is responsible for much of this awareness locally.
Tyberg’s service and efforts were recognized last month, when she was presented with Hamilton Relay’s 2018 Better Speech and Hearing Month Recognition Award for the State of Pennsylvania at the chapter’s monthly meeting.
This is just the most recent milestone in a lifelong journey for Tyberg.
Raised on a farm in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, Tyberg was placed in the mainstream public school system. Being one of very few deaf or hearing-impaired students, she was presented with numerous challenges in her education, and she worked hard to succeed through high school.
When she was later accepted to Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university in the world for the deaf and hearing-impaired, Tyberg’s life took a new path. She found herself in a whole new environment populated with others who were deaf or hard of hearing.
Since then, Tyberg has been inspired to lead a life of service.
“It made me realize the importance of getting out there and sharing my story and challenges,” she said.
She later retired after more than 45 years of working fulltime in administrative positions at various Fortune 100 and 500 companies, as well as non-profit organizations. She has since devoted her life to volunteering, and she still serves around 65 hours per week.
Tyberg is the chairperson for the Telecommunication Relay Services for the Public Utility Commission in Harrisburg.
The organization reviews issues related to telephones and works with captioned telephones and telephones provided by the state for individuals of low income and serves all of Pennsylvania.
Hamilton Relay is the organization’s contracted provider through the state. In each of the 18 states Hamilton serves, it awards one outstanding individual with the Better Speech and Hearing Month Recognition Award per year.
“I think it is important to recognize people who volunteer,” Cheryl Deitz, the Outreach Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Captioned Telephone Services, said. “Kay demonstrates what we are looking for — strong leadership and volunteerism in her own community.”
Tyberg is a part of EVERY national deaf and hard of hearing organization, and she is a strong advocate for others who are affected by hearing loss. She started two separate chapters of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), including the Blair County Chapter.
“We do not just serve Blair alone,” she said. “We serve surrounding counties that do not have any support or services for people with hearing loss.”
After losing all of her residual hearing in 2008, Tyberg explored her options, as she now encourages many others to do, and eventually got a cochlear implant.
“It has been an amazing journey,” she said.
She uses her own experiences and the knowledge she has gained through her work and volunteerism to further encourage and advocate for those with hearing loss.
“Kay is a superb individual. She has a cochlear implant, a surgically-implanted device, but she has never let that get in her way; rather she uses it to be a champion in life,” Deitz said.
In attempt to further reach others, Tyberg teaches local sign language classes At No Cost. Additionally, she does a program with Gallaudet University in which she is a peer mentor for others who have hearing loss.
“I can talk with them and hear their concerns and try to address them — not to resolve anything, but to try to address some of the issues they have,” she said.
She is also involved with the HLAA national chapter’s NRERC program and recently became certified as a network consumer hearing assistive technology trainer.
Assistive technology for those with hearing loss is on the rise and becoming more advanced. Much of Tyberg’s work includes informing others and reaching out to those who deal with hearing loss to introduce them to assistive technology that will meet their individual needs.
“Most people, when they talk about assistive devices for hearing loss, stop right there,” Tyberg said. “But it doesn’t end there. What you can do is further amplify or modify and adapt your surroundings with certain types of equipment.”
Tyberg works with devices such as the captioned telephone, alarm clocks and emergency alert systems, all of which can be made useful for those with hearing loss.
She has taken over running the HLAA campaign at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, one of the largest events at which HLAA appears. At events such as this, she speaks with individuals, families and couples.
Tyberg emphasizes that hearing loss affects not only individuals, but their families and friends.
“(Kay’s work) is important to everyone, not just those with hearing loss, and it affects people of all ages because anyone can experience hearing loss, not just the elderly,” Deitz said. “What Kay does benefits everyone.”
In addition to her work through HLAA, Tyberg volunteers at the Center for Independent Living and Blair Senior Services as an ombudsman to help advocate for residents in the facility to see that their needs are met by both the facility and the state.
Tyberg also visits stores and other local public places where she encounters others with hearing loss and strikes up a conversation about how things can be changed to help them function better.
“The stigma I saw with hearing loss when I was a child still exists today,” Tyberg said. “We need to break down those barriers.”
One of her primary goals is to educate others on hearing loss in order to make communities more welcoming and understanding of those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“In the hearing world, we need to be the ones to educate them on what we need,” Tyberg said.
She said that awareness not only increases understanding but also saves lives. In a world where the general population is undereducated about hearing loss, it can often be a difficult battle for those who do encounter it. Hearing loss has been proven to lead to depression, anxiety and even suicide in numerous cases. Furthermore, it is the number one health issue for veterans, aside from injury.
Because of this, Tyberg hopes to make individuals aware of the support and resources available to them.
“My goal is to make sure the next person doesn’t have to go through what I went through,” Tyberg said.
Source: Altoona Mirror
Image credit: Kay Tyberg (left) Cheryl Deitz (right), Altoona Mirror
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