Jake Van Ness

Whether it be his parents helping him come to terms with his hearing loss when he was young or spending time with his grandfather in the outdoors, Jake Van Ness has always been connected to family. Van Ness, who hails from Queensbury, New York, in Upstate New York, is connected to nature, the marketing and Virtual Production firms he owns, and the gaming and blogging worlds, too. However, it was the foundation he had as a child that makes Van Ness the man he is today. Van Ness explains, “I think my parents wanted to work hard to make sure that my hearing loss didn’t define who I was and didn’t hold me back from anything and everything I wanted to do. I ran long distance, both cross country and track, throughout my public school days and some in college. I learned to play the cello and was in my high school orchestra. Boy Scouts was a big part of my life growing up and I am extremely proud to have made the highest honor of Eagle Scout. While I knew not everyone had to deal with the challenges of hearing loss, it never felt like it was something I should be ashamed of or should hide behind. My support system helped me grow up with an extremely full life and that same support system is what has allowed me to reach other areas of success such as running my own businesses.”
Van Ness’ journey with hearing loss began when he born; however, he was not diagnosed with hearing loss until he was five years old. “Testing on infants was nowhere near as prevalent as it is today,’” Van Ness says. “While my parents weren’t completely sure there was a hearing issue, they did notice something. Once I was tested it was determined that I had moderate sensorineural hearing loss in my right ear and profound sensorineural loss in my left ear. At that time, I was fitted with two hearing aids and wore two until the age of about 30 or so, when I made the personal choice to no longer wear a hearing aid on my left ear, after a lengthy and careful discussion with my audiologist. Due to my profound loss on that side I did not feel it was beneficial as it did not help with clarity of words and only increased the volume of what was already very incoherent speech. I had already been making adjustments in my life to deal with my profound loss in my left ear and felt I would not inhibit my lifestyle in any way with choosing to not wear a hearing aid on my left side.” However, Van Ness has very recently gone back to wearing two hearing aids, one in each ear. His left hearing aid is a CROSS, which feeds sounds to his right side rather than to the left. “The CROSS has really been a game changer for me” Van Ness said.
Van Ness says he relies on lip reading as his primary mode of communication today. He explains, “This was not a specific skill that I feel I was taught but rather one gained through daily use to communicate. I also feel I am very fortunate that I am able to speak as well as I can. This in no small part comes from my parents working with me closely as a small child and taking the time with extreme patience to teach me how to speak well.”
One of Van Ness’ passions is the outdoors. Living just outside the Adirondack State Park, Van Ness shares that he loves to hike and fish for bass, salmon, and trout. He says this love was fostered by his grandfather early on. “I think my love of outdoors comes from my grandfather who used to own a beautiful home on a lake in Maine. He taught me how to fish and we spent many summers there swimming off the dock, fishing, sailing and just being out in the beauty of nature. One of my fondest memories was sitting on the porch on the back of the house listening to the Loons sing. Sometimes they were tough to hear for me but most of the time those birds were loud!”
Another frequent hobby of Van Ness is that he is an avid video gamer. He states that using a headset has really assisted him while playing. “This allowed me to increase volume and make it easier for me to isolate sounds. Having profound loss in my left ear does make it difficult with sounds on that side of me with a true surround sound situation but as in real life, in gaming I learn to adjust. I do not wear my hearing aid while I wear the headset despite having an in the ear model hearing aid. I haven’t found a way that it is comfortable,” Van Ness says. He also credits closed captioning as being a help while gaming.
In addition to all of Van Ness’ hobbies, he runs Graphic Precision (www.graphicprecision.com), a venture that came about after spending time working in the printing industry for over 15 years. He has owned and run Graphic Precision for 10 years. Van Ness says he is a self-taught graphic designer and specializes in print design and marketing. In 2020, he has also started a new business, Elevated Virtual (www.ElevatedVirtual.com), which is a Virtual Production business. It helps people run better virtual meetings, webinars, learning sessions, and multi-day virtual conferences. In addition to the rewards that come with the daily running of his businesses, Van Ness cites freedom as the top reason he works for himself. “The number one reason I work for myself is freedom. I control my time and that is most important to me. One of the benefits of my business is the ability to travel and continue to work. That is part of that freedom as well. In 2019 I got to feel the full benefits of that when my father fell ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and I spent almost three weeks at the hospital and my parents’ house providing the support both my parents needed during the tough time and still being able to work. Also allowing me to firsthand see my father miraculous recovery. This is only one example of what the freedom allows me and that is worth more than I could possibly explain,” Van Ness shares.
Van Ness also enjoys the freedom blogging brings. Launched just in the last year, Van Ness currently has LivingHoH.com online. Van Ness’ motivation is simple: ”I want to help others realize that while experiences can be unique, there are so many things we all go through as individuals with hearing loss that are all too similar. While I want to explore some of the not so fun things that have happened, it is my overall goal to focus on the positive things. It’s my goal to put my voice in the ring in hopes of helping others and inspiring others very much the same way many have in the Deaf Culture over the last year or so, as I have become more interested.”
Van Ness says, “I had the idea years ago that I wanted to share my experiences more public and was not sure how I wanted to go about doing that. Finding out more about the Deaf Culture has opened my eyes to how much being more public about my experiences could impact others, especially when I know I have read a lot that has impacted me over the last year or few years