ALOHA was founded in 1984 by Gloria Baral, a former teacher who had lost her hearing as an adult. Her own experience with deafness, and her own need for support prompted her to establish ALOHA initially as a peer support group. Over time it has grown into an agency that offers support, advocacy, information and training to individuals with hearing loss, enabling them to improve their quality of life.
We have a broad definition of hearing loss, thanks to the vision of Gloria who named the organization the Adult Loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA), before Self Help for Hard of Hearing (SHHH) changed to Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to become more inclusive. So when we talk about the people we are serving, we also include deafened people who grew up in the hearing world and also lost their hearing.
Gloria described herself as “deafened” since she could not hear much at all even with hearing aids, and used sign language and speech reading to communicate, or used a TTY or TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) for telephone communications. She would never have considered using deaf or deafened in the ALOHA name. She was on the board of the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf (COPD), and friends with the then director of Arizona State Schools and Programs for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB). Those organizations are for the (Capital “D”) Deaf. She made the distinction that ALOHA was not for the Deaf, and did not call herself that even though she was (Small “d”) deaf. She meant the organization to be for the HOH people, who lost hearing after learning English. She knew there was a vast difference between deaf and Deaf as far as services go. We have had visitors who were Deaf (big D) particularly to try out assistive devices in our demo room, mainly signalizing devices. We certainly do not turn away anyone with hearing loss, whether deaf or Deaf, but the Deaf community people in our area know that ALOHA services per se are not for them. They go to COPD or other organizations for the Deaf in Arizona for help (or national organizations for the Deaf).
Shortly after founding ALOHA, Gloria attended the very first meeting of the National Association of Deafened People (NADP) in England 27 years ago, before our own US Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) was formed. She was the only one there from the US.