Lise Hamlin was born with hearing loss in one ear, though she was able to communicate adequately for 30 years.
That changed overnight.
One morning, when she was in her mid-30s, Lise woke up and suddenly realized she couldn't hear at all.
She was scared but didn't panic. "I thought that if I lost my hearing overnight, it would come back overnight," she says. But her hearing didn't come back. The only way she was able to hear people was if they yelled.
Six months later, she got a hearing aid.
When Lise suddenly lost her ability to hear, she faced new challenges. "I wanted to be with my family and be social. But I was missing the jokes," says Lise.
She recalls feeling self-conscious in social situations while wearing her hearing aid, which was "brown and ugly."
"There was a stigma with having a hearing aid, but now I know it was more of a self-esteem issue," she says. "Now I tell people that I have hearing loss, and they are almost always willing to work with me."
Lise sought help at the Hearing Loss Association of America. The Association has many resources and opportunities for people with hearing loss to help one another.
"I realized that people actually like talking about their disabilities if they admit they have one," she says. She started volunteering for the association and eventually was offered her dream job there.
Lise is now the director of public policy at the Hearing Loss Association of America. She works with Congress and federal communications agencies to make communication accessible and affordable for people with hearing loss.
Lise says she receives nearly 10 calls a day from people looking for affordable hearing aids.
"It's heartbreaking," she says. "We are social people. We need to communicate. Everyone should have access to hearing care."
Lise recently had surgery and now has a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other ear. "I live a full life now," she says. "If you know you have hearing loss, don't bluff, do something about it. Once you deal with it, your life will be so much easier."