Smile and nod. We’ve all done it, right? You’re in a conversation, and you couldn’t quite make out what the other person said. So, you just smile and nod to be polite, and hope they don’t notice or follow up with a question. “I have definitely been guilty of acting like I understand what people are saying but I really don’t know what they’re talking about,” says Crystal Vaccaro.
Vaccaro realized that this small misunderstanding or embarrassment on her part was just a tiny part of what people who are hard of hearing experience every day. Her friend Meg, a fellow college student who was deaf, helped her realize what everyday life is like for someone in the deaf or hard of hearing community, and she wanted to do more to bridge the gap between those who can hear and those who can’t.
So, like true everyday heroes, Crystal Vaccaro, along with her friend Spencer Kontnik, founded a non-profit organization called The Smile and Nod Project, designed to help members of the deaf and hard of hearing communities. “The idea is, if you’re able to advocate with people with a little bit of hearing loss and people who are deaf, people all along the whole spectrum, you can create a stronger community and a stronger voice,” says Kontnik. With a stronger community, there is a stronger support system, greater understanding, more job opportunities, more freedom, and overall improved quality of life and happiness.
Who is Spencer Kontnik?
Kontnik was happy to work with Vaccaro, since he himself is hard of hearing. He’s a successful lawyer in Denver who has always struggled with his hearing. “I was born with bad hearing in my right ear and good hearing in my left ear,” recounts Kontnik. “Then, when I was six years old I was playing baseball at recess and I was hit in the head with a baseball ball bat on my left side. And that’s when we found out I had lost all the hearing in my left ear. So, now I have one deaf ear and one ear with a profound hearing loss,” Kontnik shared.
He can read lips, and wears a hearing aid, but in the office his captioning telephone has been the most helpful. Speaking to officials or judges used to be a struggle, but with appropriate assistive technology, Kontnik is able to be successful in his career.
The Smile and Nod Project
The Smile and Nod Project provides a lot of services for the deaf and hard of hearing community. They provide community events, and award grants. One grant recipient is an emergency room nurse. Clarissa Hardman applied for a grant to buy an electronic stethoscope. As a nurse with a hearing deficit, she was forced to take out her hearing aids every time she had to listen to a patient’s heart. With her new electronic stethoscope, she’s able to be more efficient, and provide better care to her patients. “By giving this one little tool to one person we’re actually helping hundreds of people,” Vaccaro explains.
The Smile and Nod Project is showing Americans that there is no difference between those who are deaf and hard of hearing, and those who can hear. Everyone is capable of living the life they want. By providing a supportive community and access to technology, The Smile and Nod Project is helping people pursue their dreams. Remember, if you have hearing loss, you don’t have to suffer alone. There is a huge community of people who know what you’re going through, won’t discriminate against you, and are willing to help. To learn more about The Smile and Nod Project, or find out how you could get involved, visit their website at www.thesmileandnodproject.com.
If you’re ready to take control of your hearing health, then visit us at Denver Audiology. We believe hearing loss shouldn’t stand in your way, and that’s why our team of training hearing specialists are waiting to help you. Whatever your level or hearing loss or lifestyle needs, we have the hearing device that can change your world, help you follow conversations, be productive at work, and reconnect with the people you love the most. Call us for an appointment today.