On January 23, 1916, a group of about 30 hard of hearing individuals and teachers of the deaf met for the first time and organized under the name Chicago League for the Hard of Hearing. The group was led by Rose Dickinson and Gertrude Torrey, who modeled the organization after leagues that had been founded a few years earlier in Boston and New York.
The League incorporated as a nonprofit agency on May 6, 1916. Its original purposes were:
1. Promotion of social intercourse among the membership.
2. Assistance for the deaf and hard of hearing in the matter of procuring and retaining employment.
3. Promotion of an interest in lip-reading.
4. Aiding and furthering in each and every way possible helpful work among the deaf and hard of hearing.
In 1918, Miss Torrey wrote, "The most difficult and most important part of our work is finding employment for our applicants." In addition to job placement, the League's early programs included lip-reading classes and social activities to alleviate the isolation often imposed by hearing loss.