Talk Corner: Elena Nen

Picture of a woman in a black top with a friendly smile.

Did you know that hearing aids batteries cost from a range from $30-$150 a year depending on battery size? Keeping up with the Hearing World is no easy task for hearing aids and cochlear implants users who are D/deaf and HOH. It can also be expensive for many of them, especially when keeping up with other costs of living.

I am here today to introduce Elena Nen, who is the leader of the campaign called, Hearing Aids Batteries Please ( Also known as “HABP”, pronounced as “Happy”.) Elena provides hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries for D/deaf and HOH people who can’t be able to afford them.   I am thankful that Ms. Nen took the time for answering my questions about HABP, the D/deaf and HOH community, and the hidden costs of cochlear implants and hearing aid batteries. I think it is important to understand these issues in order to minimize barriers for the community.

  • What led you to come up with HABP?

EN: I created HABP in 2013 when I was pregnant. I had a really rough pregnancy and it led me being on bed rest when I was seven months along. I actually was still in college when  I was pregnant! I ended up finishing the semester online when I was put on bed rest. I couldn’t work anymore because of it, and due to bills, my savings drained quickly. I was broke. Really broke. I ran out of batteries and I had to ask for help, but a lot of people refused to help me. They didn’t know that hearing aids and cochlear implants require a lot of (expensive) upkeep. When I finally got the money for my batteries, I never really paid attention to the price as I always got them from my audiologist’s office for 40USD for 40 batteries. I saw the price for 8 batteries… 15USD! I was curious if there was some kind of organization that helped D/deaf & hard of hearing people with getting them, but to my surprise, there wasn’t. So, then I thought, why don’t I be the first? Maybe it’ll lead an example.

  • I noticed HABP expanded from beyond just providing hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries, how were you able to stay motivated in keeping HABP up float?

EN: Easy! I thought about all the deaf and hard of hearing people who need it. I needed it just as bad when I created HABP four years ago. But I never had any help. So, I have no doubt that there are a lot of us in the community that doesn’t have help for it. I don’t get very many donors and I’m not sponsored. But the fact that I give people hope keeps me going. I can’t believe it’s been four years already, wow.  

  • Besides the cost of hearing aid and cochlear implants batteries, what is a challenge that people who are D/deaf and HOH face?

EN: Discrimination. Everywhere. Not just in school, but at home, work, and finding an equal opportunity for just about anything. It’s hard to overcome it because people don’t care to listen to us. But we’re breaking barriers for that because if you google #DeafTalent, you’ll find loads of people who are fighting for equal opportunities.

  • In your own words, how can hearing people help the D/deaf and HOH  communities?

EN: The number one thing that I believe hearing people should do is learn how to communicate with us. For the love of Harry Potter, PLEASE learn sign language!

Notice that I didn’t say “American.” Because there is more than one sign language out there. It varies by where you live. Please be willing to write (or type) things down, and/or repeat themselves. Stop getting angry with us for something we do not have any control over. Be more patient.  
Also, I really wish hearing people would stop marketing us and our culture for their own monetary greed. A lot of them bring recognition on things like ASL, which is nice, but the problem is that it’s a hearing person doing it not to bring awareness, not to be an advocate, but.. to get 15 seconds of fame or money from it.

  • Who are your role models?

EN: My Mom and my Dad. I lost my Dad in early October this past year. 
  • Did the cost of hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries surprise you?

EN: Yes. I never really paid attention to it when I was growing up because my mom always paid for them. But when I was in college, I had to pay for it myself. It wasn’t until last year when I did calculations, and for a society that demands us to hear like them, they sure do make it really expensive to get batteries.
Depending on the brand, it costs between 1 to 1.50USD for just one battery. HABP provides 60, ranging between 4 to 6 cents for one battery. But the way I run HABP, it’s free, just as long as you don’t
take advantage of it.  

  • Starting up a project like this must have been very difficult, what were the challenges and successes with HABP?

EN: The first issue I had starting up was getting recognition. I was able to provide for a few people when I first started up. Not a lot of people knew about me or HABP just yet.  Then I got more recognition when a fellow and popular advocate, Rikki Poynter reblogged a post about me. That’s when HABP really started taking off.  It’s been four years since I started HABP and somewhere in the middle of the third year, I
noticed a lot of people started trying to take advantage of HABP. So, unfortunately, I had to cut out overnight shipping and I then created a security process in order to protect HABP and it’s clients.

I wanted HABP to be free and I’m determined to keep it that way. I refuse to start charging money for batteries; because disabled people are already on a very strict budget and the upkeep of hearing aids and cochlear implant batteries makes it really hard to keep that budget.  Anyone that is caught attempting to take advantage of HABP will be banned without notice and won’t be able to order again.
I have to protect my clients. A lot of them have only me to rely on. I don’t want a couple of jerks to ruin that faith they have in HABP. If somewhere in the future that I absolutely HAVE to start charging for batteries in order to keep people from taking advantage of HABP, it’s definitely still far cheaper than what it costs. I’d only charge 5USD for one box of 60 batteries, compared to 45 to 60USD. That doesn’t even cover shipping!

Another challenge is some people just don’t read their emails after they put in an order and get upset with HABP because they don’t know when their batteries come. Some don’t double check their information before they order and don’t answer my email until they realize it’s been a week or more that they last put in an order.

  • Upon reading your story on your website, this one quote stood out: “I wanted to be the beacon of hope to those who lost it along with faith.”  I really like this quote because it is very uplifting. What is your advice for those who feel like they lost hope?

EN: Thank you! I came up with that because it’s true. I’ve been there and it gets really hard. My advice is to keep pushing. If you start questioning where you’re at in life, ask yourself if you’re passionate enough about it. Will it be worth it in the end? If you answer yes, then keep pushing at it.

I know it’s hard. HABP also doubles as a support system for a lot of clients. Some of them have my phone number and some of them email me whenever they need someone to talk to that understands. They all can always come to me whenever it gets hard.  

  • What is your advice you would like to give to HOH and D/deaf people who are struggling now?

EN: Remember that you aren’t alone. If you’ve exhausted all your resources, ask your resources what their resources are. If you’re angry, find a healthy outlet where you can take that anger out on. Sometimes, I think society sets us up to fail because we work so hard for half the amount of respect from our able bodied peers. But then I remember that we have to keep pushing through and pave way for ourselves and the future of HOH d/Deaf people, too.

BE the change you want to see, don’t expect for someone else to do it because it may not even happen. I did that with HABP.  

  • What’s next for you?

EN: I’m actually going to go back to school this semester for a BA in Human Services so that I can work for Vocational Rehabilitation! I graduated in an entirely different major two years ago, and now I’m going back so I can do more outside of HABP for the disabled, not just the d/Deaf & HOH community!

I would like to thank Elena Nen again for her insight about the D/deaf community and talking about HABP.  If you know any D/deaf and HOH person or yourself that needs hearing aid and cochlear implant batteries, please visit Hearing Aids Batteries Please website.  You can also check out Hearing Aids Batteries Please on Facebook!

You can also check out the #DeafTalent hashtag on Twitter and Rikki Poynter to learn more about the D/deaf and HOH community and latest issues that the community is advocating for.

End of Year Reflection: Never Stop Learning

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford

As 2016 comes to close, I learned an important lesson about learning. This lesson came from my late grandfather who always put the value of learning.  As long as I can remember, I would see books related from math to science whenever I visited my grandparents’ house. It felt like walking into a mini library when I came into the study room. When I got older, I still valued learning, but not just traditional way. 

In my previous posts: The Benefits of Learning Outside Your Field and the Importance Knowing Yourself, I have ready discussed the importance of learning outside of your field and self-awareness. However,doing these things comes down to a desire for learning about yourself and willing to be flexible on trying new things.

This year, I created this blog, which is a big step for me in trying new things. I always wanted to blog, but I simply kept putting it off. The main reason I started blogging was that I wanted to get my voice out and educate others about deaf issues and advocacy. However, learning how to blog was a big task !  am still learning how to manage a blog and learn new additional skills. I plan to continue on improving my blogging skills and explore many topics to learn outside of blogging into the new year.

The truth is, we never stop learning, even after we leave the school doors.  Even outside of blogging, I still learn about many things from the latest software to social media management. While at the same time, it is challenging and scary. Learning new things can be frustrating, but it can be worth it for the long haul.

I do like to thank people for all the lovely comments that I received from my blog posts. I am eternally thankful for people who give advice and encouraging comments. My goal is that Empower The Talent will continue to reach and educate others about many issues, including deaf issues. 

Questions for readers:

  •  In 2017, what are your plans to enhance or learn new skills in relation to your career?
  • What new skills did you learn this year?

The Importance of Quality Captioning

The previous post talked about how business owners, bloggers, and vloggers are missing an opportunity to caption their videos. While it is important to the caption, we must also realize that quality captions are important. There is nothing worse when watching a video where the captions are missing, inaccurate, and inappropriate for your target market. It is worth the investment to take the time and make sure your captions are good quality.

Gary Robson’s TED Talk “ Does Closed Captioning still serve for Deaf people?” describes, how important quality captioning are for the D/deaf and HOH audiences:

While a lot of Deaf activists have spoken out about this issue, quality closed captioning is often disregarded as not important.  Sometimes poor quality captioning can be seen as entertainment rather than being accessible. Everyone is familiar with Youtube’s automatic captioning feature and how terrible it is. It is famous for making fun of poor captioning. Many people forget that speech recognition hasn’t reached its peak yet.  It is not 100% accurate which makes reading the captions unbearable for people who need them.

What if Your Business  is Promoting on Youtube?

If you have a Youtube channel, you may not have noticed there is a feature that the community can contribute captions for your videos. It is a wonderful  tool if you cannot afford to create your own captions. However, like the automatic captions, it can be prone to quality issues if the content creator is not reviewing them.

There is a trend where people can vandalize the captions.  People can take advantage of the feature by adding their own commentary and jokes. These issues with the automatic and community contributed captions need to be kept in mind when captioning your content.  It is the content creator’s responsibility to ensure quality captioning.

What Can You Do to Promote Quality Captioning

  • Follow the FCC ( Federal Communications Commissions) Guidelines.

While the FCC does not apply to every video situation, it is a good idea to use the FCC captioning quality guidelines as a reference.

  • Don’t put up captions without checking.

Whether you chose to allow others to contribute captions or do them yourself, check over for review. Make sure they are correct and accurate as possible.

  • If you are a content provider or business, please respond to any inquiry if there are captioning problems.

Be responsive if there are captioning issues. Allow the  audience to give out feedback on how to improve your  captions in the future.

  • Speak up to promote quality captions.

Help do your part to speak out when captions are poor quality. Poor quality captions should never be accepted and improving the quality of captions is a must.


“We wouldn’t tolerate grainy pictures, sloppy camera work, poor audio quality, bad lighting. Why should we tolerate bad captioning?”Gary Robson

Poor quality captions  is an issue. Many people who use videos should be mindful to caption their videos properly. Youtube automatic closed captions should not be used as a substitute. Everyone (including the hearing) should encourage quality captions. This will help ensure that accessibility is available for everyone.

Captioning: A Missed Opportunity

I am always on the lookout in finding opportunities to learn and advance my skills.  However, sometimes it can be a frustrating experience at times. Whenever I see an exciting learning opportunity online,  I go check it out in curiosity.  People like to use videos for educational reasons. Many of these videos are not captioned which makes the information inaccessible to D/deaf and HOH people.

The Importance of Captioning

A picture with the different world world continents in light green.  Hands that are shades of blue, yellow, and purple boarding around the world continents.

“Captions are words displayed on a television screen that describe the audio or sound portion of a program. Captions allow viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing to follow the dialogue and the action of a program simultaneously.”-National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

This is the definition of closed captioning. Closed Captions are not just only for TV entertainment but needed for educational reasons. As I look through many people who offer online courses to teach people many topics. Most of the time, the learning is through the use of videos.  These videos are often not captioned. This leaves out a group of people that do not have access to useful information that can help advance their skills.

While captioning is not just for the D/deaf and HOH community,  Christopher Pappas, from e-learning industry explains the six  benefits of why captioning are  so important:

  • Better accessibility for many other people, such as second language learners and people with different learning needs.
  • Appeals to people who are not just auditory learners.
  • Ability to retain information better.
  • By not captioning, you can risk being subjected to law penalties and fines.
  • Increased Visibility as captions can improve your SEO ( Search Engine Optimization) and sales.
  • People who are in places where they don’t have access to sound can benefit from it too.

Captioning is seen as an afterthought which it is a shame because reaching out to a broader audience should be the main goal.   Captioned videos would show more impact and assist with learning with your audience.

What can you do to avoid this missed opportunity

  • Research  the untapped target market: The ones who can benefit from captions. ( Fun fact: Captioning your videos can increase page views, search traffic, audience engagement, and etc.)
  • Learn and research anything you can about closed captioning then apply it to your product and course.
  • Make captioning a part of your plan from the beginning to end when  developing a product or learning course.
  • Be open to feedback. If someone points out anything wrong about the captions, be responsive to customers who address problems.


As more people are engaging with videos, it is important to caption videos. Just promoting to one group shouldn’t be an option.  Everyone should have the chance to learn, advance their careers, and improve personal life. Learning should be inclusive and this helps your business.

The Benefits of Learning Outside Your Field

In graduate school, I decided to take a business course, despite that I was a Human Resources major. I was always a person who liked learning about things that I was interested in. The business course I chose to take was Marketing.

It was only recently that I became interested in learning outside of my field again. It can be a useful thing to do when you want to gain new skills.   In my undergraduate years, I wanted to  become a teacher and took a lot of education related courses.  So I  also took some creativity classes  on the side. I knew having some creativity skills can be an advantage for me when being a teacher. Taking a class on creativity was the best decision I ever made, since I learned later the creativity skills is transferable to any career field.
Many students always ask teachers: “Why we should take [insert academic course] when I’m going to be in this[ insert career occupation]?”  

Let’s face it. We all have those moments where we hate those required courses in our majors and ask our teachers how this connects to our career field. It can be the same when we take jobs outside our career fields as well. We think of it as a “time waster” and can’t possibly learn “useful” skills from them .  However, we can learn from our unrelated experiences to connect it to our career of interest.

Mark Lukens from TalentCulture pointed out,

” If there was ever a case for applying the lesson to the lesson then this is it: professional development. Because, not only should you never stop learning, but you should never stop learning new approaches to the way that you learn.”

The article explored ways to enhance how you learn. The biggest takeaways of this article are the importance to learn outside your comfort zone and how it’s specific to your interests.  You should every once in a while be open to learning from another career field and change how you learn.

Lukens also pointed out that , you should not just learn from “standard paths” in your career field. For example, you are a sales person and responsible for selling clothes. It may be helpful to learn about the fashion industry and understand fashion trends to enhance your selling skills. It is also important to make sure is what you are learning is useful to you. My personal example of this is  when I learned about segmentation in Marketing. I felt it was useful to me since I learned some of recruiting strategies can be related to segmentation.  The other information about marketing may not be useful for me to learn since it may not apply to my current career field.

Overall, learning outside of your field is a good thing. It teaches you other valuable skills to enhance your ability to create strategies and solve problems throughout your career.

My question to readers:

  • What experiences or courses you have taken that are not related to your current career field?
  • Did these experiences or courses help you learn new skills that benefited for your current career? If so, please explain?

The Importance of Knowing Yourself

Picture of four gray people figures standing behind a blue figure person who is raising their hand up and standing on a podium.

During my first year of undergrad, I lived in a community-themed floor dorm at my university. I was placed in a community floor which the theme was leadership. Oddly, this wasn’t the floor I choose as a college freshman. At 18 year old, I was more interested in my own self-awareness as an adult and preferred the “personal adult journey” floor of the dorm. I wasn’t interested in the topic of leadership at the time.

On the first week of college, I listened to my dorm mates’ stories about their leadership experiences. A lot of them brought up being in a leadership position of a club or sports teams. I felt the odd one out of the group since my only leadership experience was from one group experience for a school project. I felt a less sense of accomplishment that people have been in a position where they have been exposed to leadership.

Throughout the year, I learned a lot from being in this community-themed floor which led to me to learn  more about being a leader. So I tried to take any opportunity  to expose myself to leadership experiences. I went and attended leadership conferences leadership conventions.  Lastly, I even had a short stint as an executive officer under the president of an Honor Society.  Despite all my previous experiences, I didn’t learn that leadership isn’t about titles and status.

The desire of being a leader is different from being a leader itself. I learned a lot of about leadership through  my experiences. I forgot the important thing about being a leader is being self-aware about who you are. It was selfish of me to demand to be a leader when I should have learned and managed about my own self-awareness and personality.

Many leadership experts talk about how important it is to be self-aware. Knowing yourself is important.

Leading yourself first is to recognize you’re the leader of your own life. It’s to recognize that you lead from within. It’s founded on a choice to live a life of meaning, a choice to live a life of purpose, a choice to have a positive impact on others.—George Ambler

Through my observations, I met many people who like the idea of leadership as a title and status. However, some of them did not know how to manage themselves before leading a group.  Psychology Today pointed out that those with low self-awareness end up not being effective leaders. Many of them get caught up with the power and perks that come with being a leader.

After my university experiences, I still focus on learning about leadership, but I work on my own self-awareness. I may not be able to be in a leadership role yet. Focusing on learning and practicing self-awareness can benefit to prepare an individual to become a better leader.

My Questions for my readers:

  • What is your personal journey that relates to leadership?
  • Has your definition of leadership changed over the years? If so, why?

Solving the Communcation Puzzle

Deafness is always complicated thing to explain to people. There are so many “shades”  of deafness and it’s not a complete black and white. Many hearing people think every D/deaf or Hard of Hearing (HOH) person can’t hear everything. When in truth, not all of them have the same deafness.This leads to many misconceptions about deaf people. In order to explain deafness better, we must understand the science behind hearing.  This video below describes how hearing works and how deafness can happen:

Most people would think hearing is focused on the ears, but the brain plays a huge role on how we can hear. However, it puts D/deaf and HOH people at a different place compared to hearing people. Learning how to hear is like solving puzzle like in what is said in the video. Some people can solve the puzzle faster, but others solve it at a slow pace. But what about those who wear you cochlear implants and hearing aids? Does it help them solve the puzzle faster?

While cochlear implants and hearing aids can help a little, both devices require a learning curve for your brain to learn or relearn where or what the sounds are. Cochlear Implants work with the auditory nerve and the neural signals are sent to the brain. In addition,hearing aids only amplify sound to help the surviving hair cells turn the sounds into neural signals so the information is sent to the brain.  It may help solve the “communication puzzle” slightly quicker, but it is still at a slow pace.  Which is why accommodations may be still needed despite using these devices. Having accommodations can help D/deaf and HOH people help solve the puzzle in communication.

Deafness is not black or white. So let’s both sides, hearing and deaf, help solve the puzzle together by understanding deafness, developing communication strategies, and providing the proper accommodations. Doing these things can help people succeed in their life and careers for the better.

The Ups and Downs of Social Bluffing

Imagine you are at work. You have a co-worker that is D/deaf or HOH that you occasionally work with on a daily basis. Let’s say your company has  an open office plan and you are talking to your co-worker about some important issues from the company’s last meeting. Your co-worker sits there and tries to listen over through the background noises in the office and other people’s conversations. He nods his head as you talk and laughs whenever you make jokes. At the end, you turned the conversation back to serious issues and you believed your co-worker had understood you. 

You asked, “Oh so you will bring that report by tomorrow? “

Your co-worker is confused and asked, “Report?  What about tomorrow?”

This is just one example of social buffing.

“Social Bluffing is pretending to hear or understand something that is being said, and behaving in a way that shows you understand, even when you have little or no clue as to what is being said.”- Karen Putz, Hands and Voices.

It is a common habit among D/deaf and HOH people when they are communicating with hearing people. This habit has some good and bad things about it. Social bluffing is good in certain situations where you don’t want to slow down the conversation by constantly asking other people to repeat what they just said. Conversations are fast and not everyone has the time to stop for anyone.

I learned this all too well for most of my life, it was a challenge to keep up with group conversations and ignore other background noises. However, social bluffing is not good for situations when it needs a response  such as when a person asks you a question. When you do not have the right information because you have been pretending that you understand, you can get in trouble. Therefore , it is critical for both employees regardless their hearing status to understand the concept of social bluffing and how to use other communication methods to get your point across.

Hands and Voices give out some strategies to help you avoid social bluffing for people who have hearing loss. It is worth trying these strategies to enhance your communication skills better.

Here are some tips for hearing workers assist your D/deaf and HOH co-workers in conversations :

  • Be patient and offer repeats if requested.
  • Have a cellphone for texting or pen and paper in hand when needed.
  • Allow the person to email you to help recall the conversation afterwards.
  • Move to a different environment where it is well lighted and has little background noise.
  • Ask what communication method is preferred and do not make assumptions.

It is important for both sides to understand the upsides and downsides of social bluffing. The bottom line, we all deserve to have access to communication and be understood.

Problem Solving and Deafness

Problem solving is “the process or act of finding a solution to a problem”- Merriam Webster Dictionary

Problem-solving is an everyday process for a deaf or hard of hearing person. It has been known that deaf and hard of hearing people are “mediators” that bring value to the workplaces. This helps bridge gaps between cultural and communication issues every day.

A good example of this is telephone communication. When my hearing loss wasn’t too bad at a young age, I was able to do telephone communication well.As I got older, I realized my hearing as changed over the years. I wasn’t able to keep up the same energy like I did in my high school and early college careers.  Despite hearing aids, they aren’t completely perfect to get every sound even on the telephone!

I had a great struggle with phone conversations with people who were outside my social circle. When I did attempt to get teacher certification years ago, I was trying to get in touch with someone to schedule accommodations for the PRAXIS exam ( a teacher certification exam). It was tough to try to hear the other person over the phone, eventually, I had to have my mother to relay the information to me. To be honest, it is embarrassing to ask my mother to relay information to me. But at the time, it was the only option for me.

For years, I had to deal with the struggling telephone communication. So I decided to research information that I could about  deaf friendly telephones or other methods to work with the telephone. While email does help, I knew the world preferred telephone based communication. So I search for solutions that at least make telephone communication more manageable. As of now, I now have a captioned phone for a landline and the same for my cellphone, a captioning app that works with telephone communication. While the solutions are not a sure fire, I constantly test them out to see if they work best for me. Some solutions were horrible, others did make the test to at least make communication more manageable. It was mostly trial and error similar to conducting science experiments. In the end, it was up to me to solve the problem to figure out how to navigate the hearing world.

This is only just one example of D/deaf and HOH people ( or any disability) using problem-solving for their everyday life. A TED Talk, “ We design for disability, we all benefit” explains that this very well and there were many great inventions and ideas that benefited not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.
Just because a person has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t contribute and come up with great solutions to solving a problem . Everyone has their own point of view about the world and their contribution counts in order to create ideas and solutions in solving everyday problems.

Labels are Personal

I was never really a big label person. I never liked being fit into a box, but I understood why labels were necessary.  As a hard of hearing person, I do not prefer the term “hearing impaired”. As I grew older, I no longer define my deafness by this term.

Why this is important to know? Over time, you will be meeting many deaf and hard of hearing individuals that prefer to label their hearing loss in different terms. There are some terms that are considered outdated and it is important to remember for future reference.

There is a huge difference between the Deaf and deaf individuals in the community. As stated in Deaf Linx, the capital “D” in the word deaf refers to the culturally Deaf individuals who are involved in the deaf culture. They use sign language as their primary communication mode.

In most cases, you will meet a lowercase “d” deaf person who is not involved in the Deaf culture. They can use a variety of communication methods but mostly use oral communication.  Sometimes some of them will refer themselves as hard of hearing which is more friendly term over “hearing impaired”. Deaf Linx recommends, you should use the term” Deaf, deaf, and hard of hearing” to describe the deaf community .

Generally, I would recommend asking the person who has hearing loss individually. It always better to ask rather than continue to use a term that could potentially offend the person. Do not assume that you know this person’s hearing loss. Defining labels are personal to each individual which should be taken with lightly.

While labels may not be a big deal to some people, it is important to know about these terms to make a person with hearing loss feel comfortable in the workplace.