Always Learning, Never Stops

I miss writing, a lot.  I think I said that in my last post months ago. 

My full time job is to assist others with hearing loss, I’m the Hard of Hearing Specialist. That’s a fancy title however it doesn’t mean I have it all down, I’m still learning and experiencing new situations.

Situation #1

A few weeks ago I was required to attend a 2 day training. Being mindful I requested CART (live captioning) in advance and even helped to hook them up with the CART provider we use. It was a smooth process, the state accepts that accommodations are needed at least in my department. I went in confident and came out feeling apart from the process even with the best accommodation. The source of the problem, a workbook.

CART 1

Only I didn’t have a screen, I was reading off her laptop.

It’s not just the workbook, it started off on the wrong foot. Usually when I go into a group I introduce myself and my hearing loss but that didn’t happen this time because this workshop was about getting outside of yourself and thinking as a team instead. They instructed us to get to know the person sitting next us and introduce them instead…and go! (About 20 people.)

The room erupted into so much noise I was rattled and had to take out my hearing aids so I could focus on the person next me. It was a woman and her voice was mostly out of my range so I had to keep turning around to look at CART until I got used to lipreading her. I was back and forth so much between her and CART that I could not properly introduce her. (Next time take notes.)

She did not properly introduce me either. I was upfront about my hearing loss with her, she saw my initial struggle after the room erupted into noise and was too nice to mention it during the introduction. She did say I came from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing center but didn’t say I was hard of hearing though it was kind of obvious I was getting some special attention with CART set up right beside me.  I think she was trying to be politically correct and draw attention to me in that way. I’m not just a hearing loss but it is a map for communicating with me. (Next time go ahead and speak for myself after.)

The workshop progressed, we had new books and a workbook. It came down to writing in the workbook several times, a pause to write a bit then, “Go ahead and write while we keep talking.” That was just not possible. The first few times I rushed to get my thoughts down on the workbook, which we shared with the others at the table, only to have my thought process interrupted by voices. I hear enough to know people are talking but can’t understand what they are saying unless I’m looking, at either them or CART. So I watched CART and lost my chance to work in the notebook. After about the 3rd time I gave up trying to write in the workbook.

Teamwork was the key topic of the workshop and I was highly aware that I was not participating, it was depressing. Usually CART gave me the freedom to participate but because of a workbook I was not able to. How ironic. (Next time ask about about the training process so I’m better prepared.)

So I went home upset but it doesn’t take long for me to turn from pity party to how I can I make this better? 

  1. Show up early and explain to the training leaders what’s happening on my end, how I cannot write and listen at the same time.
  2. Introduce myself properly to the other 2 at our table and explain why I have very little written in my workbook.
  3. Don’t stress the workbook anymore. 

Which I did and felt much more relaxed on day two. I learned things, appreciated the books and someday soon maybe I’ll be able to look at the workbook more closely. 

Situation #2

I attended the HLAA convention last week. I agreed to go to a breakfast with a group of people I hardly knew and I was excited to get to get to know them better to expand my network within the hard of hearing community.  

First of all, I tend to see a lot of people I know at hearing loss conventions and I tend to want to stay up too late, soaking up being around those of my tribe. I stayed up too late the night before and then couldn’t sleep well the rest of the night. I went to the breakfast meeting over tired and you know what happens when you’re over tired with a hearing loss, right? It makes it a lot harder to concentrate, the brain doesn’t work fast enough piecing together sounds and in fact, it doesn’t work well at all. (Next time plan for more sleep, being well rested means a lot to a hard of hearing person.)

Lucy

How I felt.

There I am walking to breakfast with everyone and there’s a lot of signing going on so again I feel my confidence sliding. I’m learning sign language and I’m nowhere near fluent. When I’m around the Deaf I tend to want to slink back into the shadows and then forget everything I know about sign. Here’s strike 2 right off the bat in this situation, I’m over tired and my sign is painfully slow. Sitting down in the restaurant without my usual alertness, I sat in the worst spot possible spot, the majority of my party were back-lit against a wall of windows. Strike 3, you’re outta there! 

I think all of us were at least hard of hearing and hard of hearing people tend to vie for the same spot in restaurants, it’s a comedy to watch if in the know. So there I was trying to read sign and lips when I could, failing terribly and feeling very sorry for myself. I ate breakfast in silence watching the others and not feeling a part of the group at all. It’s not often that I feel like I’m in no-mans-land anymore, it used to be in the hearing world mainly but sometimes it’s the Deaf world too. I could not wait to get away.

Feeling frustrated with myself I went for a walk after to shake it off. Why did I not speak up for myself? When would I ever be fluent enough in sign, will I ever learn?What a sorry hard of hearing specialist I am.

After a mile or so, I forgave myself. I was over tired and if there’s a time I will break down its when I’m overtired, my brain simply doesn’t function as well. I am learning enough sign that I could follow some of the topics even if I didn’t know the why of the conversation so give myself a pat on the back for picking up a portion of it. I am improving if slowly. When I’m around other hard of hearing people I tend to start signing as I go and it comes naturally. When I around Deaf people I freeze so maybe it’s time to put myself in the path of more Deaf people at work to get myself over that hump.

 

mt fluency

I’m not quite to conversation ridge.

In the space of two weeks I had two experiences that made sure to tell me I’m as much the student as I am a teacher. It’s always going to be that way. I learn from my failures and in working through them,  which in the future build confidence even if I don’t feel it right this moment. 

Now to lighten up with some favorite pictures from the convention because I really did have a good time!

HOH tribe

welcome party

maclains workshop

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Promoted to Hard of Hearing Specialist

It’s been a long time and I feel guilty about that. I love writing and my favorite topic is hearing loss and I get to do that all the time for work now. I was working part-time as a hard of hearing assistant, my boss decided to retire late last fall in December. When her job went up in December I applied and waited. I had to interview and I had to wait. Right before she left in late December, they came in and offered me a job. I collapsed on the desk when they told me because one of my weaknesses is not being fluent enough in sign language, but I had the rest of it down! I started full-time with benefitst the second week in January.

Working 40 hours a week took some getting used to and sitting in front of the computer all day made me not want to look at a computer in the evening which is why it’s taken me so long to write. I have a lot to say and I hardly know where to begin. I feel lucky feels like a good place to start. I have a lot of support from certain staff and I’m happy to go to work each day, none of that daily grind feel because I love my job.

Me under my desk during an earthquake drill last week.

I started this blog when I didn’t feel so lucky; I felt a little angry and depressed about not being able to hear. However, all that ‘bad’ was actually the beginning of this journey, where I am today. I look back at when I started going to the Sanderson Center to Deaf and Hard of Hearing in 2009. I was learning to cope again after a big drop in hearing. I felt lost and hardly knew where to begin. I was certainly depresse because I couldn’t cope as a hairdresser anymore hearing wise. I could probably do it now if I had to but that’s not my path anymore…but it was devasting to me back then. In 2009 I was shy, kept to myself and very unsure of my place in the world. Who knew that woman become the next hard of hearing specialist? I find it incredible at time, like I should pinch myself.

2009 was the lowest point in my hard of hearing life but that’s where I also learned the most. I attened local HLAA meetings and I re-joined SWC. I started small by being there only, finding mentors and slowly building my confidence back up. Re-learning how to get along better in the hearing world. I volunteered and I kept moving up in my volunteering in repsonsibillity and was even the SWC president last year. I learned thing in the SWC convention committee, how manage issues on email lists. At the Sanderson Center I took sign Living with Hearing Loss and Speechreading classes. I took on more repsonsibility in my HLAA chapter, being president and treasurer over the years. I was getting support in the beginning and learning to give support later on.

For four years I grew slowly and in 2013 I applied for that part time job at the Sanderson as a hard of hearing assistant. I started teaching the classes that taught me and in the process I started letting go of doing hair. Not doing hair wasn’t the end of the world after all, it was the beginning of my life now, it’s so hard to feel resentful for losing that anymore. Or feeling resentful toward hearing loss at all. This is my place, it’s where I belong. It’s where I can now help others struggling like was 9 years ago and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

There’s a lot of credit to give for people who helped get me here.

My SWC friend who turned into my best friend, Michele. She’s taught me it’s possible to lose all hearing and still get a long just fine in the world. Not that we don’t have struggles anymore but we now know how to take care of them and move on. She continues to inspire me.

My local HLAA friend and mentor Kathy, always patient and willing to guide people along. She gave me hope from the very first time I met her in 2009, so competent in her hearing loss and so good with people. I wanted to be just like her…then realized I had to be me. Kathy is special and there’s no way I can be ‘like’ her but I still try to take lessons from her. All these years later, I still rely on her.

Robin, my boss who retired and who’s job I got. When I became her assistant, she often gave me my head and pulled me back when needed. Edie, my co-worker, also often encouraged me. She remembers when I first came to the center, how quiet I was and how much I kept to myself. We worked on a lot of projects together, Robin, Edie and me made a great team and it taught me teamwork makes the best work.

I also credit my volunteer work for getting me this job. I learned how to create events thanks to working on the convention committee for SWC. I also learned how to tactfully resolve issues by being the list representative for SWC. My local HLAA chapter kept me involved with the Sanderson, people got used to seeing me, I became a regular and they had to hire me as an assistant (I often joke about that). Volunteering is an assett and it meant a lot on my resume, I gained experience in the volunteer world that I might not have otherwise. I highly recommend it.

Being the hard of hearing specialist for northern Utah means I get to help more people with hearing loss, I get to know more of my tribe. I hope I can shed some light on hearing loss for others in time of need. My job is rewarding in that I get to help hard of hearing people in a fuller capacity, help them like I was helped 9 years ago.

* Side note: Excuse my spelling and grammar errors. My nearly 8 yr old computer is giving me hell and I dread starting that thing up so I’m sitting here on my tablet and can’t find the spellcheck option. Hopefully soon I can buy myself a new computer. I’ll fix this post up next time I’m on a computer.

Hearing Loss Memes

I look for hearing loss memes to post on our work Facebook page. Some are funny, some are true and some are way off base.  Let’s take a look at memes.

This happens all the time with people who have hearing loss and there’s a variety of reasons. We can sense the other person’s agitation and we still didn’t hear it so we nod and let it go. Or someone is in deep denial still and afraid to admit they can’t hear.

There are a few fixes. One, we ask the other person to rephrase instead of saying “what” or “huh” a third time. We can repeat the parts we heard and ask them to repeat only the words we didn’t hear. If the other person doesn’t know we have a hearing loss, we can start being upfront about it and hopefully their agitation goes down. We can also chose to make these learning experiences for the hearing person. Hearing aids don’t correct hearing like glasses do for vision.

HL meme11

Wrong! They are called hearing ‘aids’ for a reason, otherwise they’d be called hearing miracles.

My high frequency hearing loss prevents me from hearing some consonants so conversations are like the wheel of fortune. Let the other person know that gesturing aids communication or have them use the ASL alphabet to finger spell the word.

HL meme 2

Excuse my language but this one bugs the shit out me. Yelling and shouting does not help most people with hearing loss. Plus, its in the ear (decibel damage there) and the person is not facing me. I hear with my eyes and my ears. Yelling in my ear or at me will only piss me off.  I will reach out, put both my hands on each side of your face and have you face me. That’s the correct way to communicate.

Hold everything! This might be funny to hearing people but let me tell you there are huge mistakes in communication here. You cannot talk to us like normal hearing people, it’s setting up communication for complete failure so you too need to change your ways. Number one, get my attention before you start speaking. Number two, be sure you face me so I can see what you are saying too.

For the hard of hearing people; tell the hearies in you life to face you. Be upfront about your hearing loss and your needs. Don’t just say “I’m hard of hearing,” tell people what you need to facilitate communication. Ask for a booth or a corner table at a restaurant to help block out some noise. Make sure your hearing aids have a program for noisy situations (the program should drop the noise level a few notches and have microphones on focus forward). Sit in well lit areas so you can see what’s being said even if you don’t think you lipread.

HL meme 7

Turn up your hearing aid! He said, “your money or your life,” not your money or your wife.

Um, how is he supposed to “hear” through a mask? I’m sure he uses lipreading with his remaining hearing. Volume will not help, lipreading and proper enunciation makes a big diffidence.  Does the guy with hearing loss know how hears, does his wife? Have they been properly educated about his hearing loss? Do they know hearing aids don’t replace true hearing? I’m thinking they don’t.

There is something to this one. What I heard compared to what was said is often a lot more fun! As long as we both have a sense of humor, it’s lots of fun. Go with it and laugh.  Another round please waiter!

Hearing aids pick up all kinds of noise, not just speech and it can be awful. It will make me clench my teeth so hard I can’t concentrate anymore. Maybe we had too much noise all day and we just need a break. Or we were lipreading for hours and need to rest the brain which brings me to…

HL meme 5

It is so much work and so tiring. If I’m already tired, there’s no way I can keep up so please excuse me from certain social activities at this point. I’ve learned my limit.

HL meme 12

Don’t we wish! Why did hear that and not that? I don’t know but it’s not selective hearing I promise you that. Maybe good acoustics help or the rotten acoustics wrecked my hearing. Maybe I was looking at you and maybe I wasn’t. Maybe you enunciated better than usual or your mumbled. There are so many variables when it comes to hearing loss.

HL meme9

Without captions or a hearing loop I can’t hear you in certain situations. If you want to include me and other hard of hearing people accommodate us and we’re happy to go out to those lectures, pep rallies and workshops. Otherwise you get “what” and we feel isolated while in a crowd.

Hearing loss still has too many misconceptions, there’s still a lot of educating to do and our job is to correct them. If you are hard of hearing please advocate for yourself because when you do, you educate the hearies. Figure out what is is you need to hear and stand by it, you deserve it.

Hearies, it takes too to make communication work. Do your part because we did not chose hearing loss, hearing loss chose us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Technique of Lipreading

And another post by my friend and me from last week.

Readable Lip Tips

Another post on lipreading, Michele and my collaboration.

Speechreading Basics: Anticipation & Prediction

what's next

This piece on speechreading/lipreading is co-written by me, Chelle, and Michele. Michele has been lipreading most of her life and she’s awesome at it. I’ve been lipreading somewhat half my life and only started taking it seriously the last 3 years or so. Michele tells me she doesn’t know how she does it but I figured I could get her talking more about her life long skill by bringing up certain aspects that I use to teach classes.

This post is about using prediction and anticipation with lipreading skills, it‘s a piece of the pie regarding speechreading but it is helpful to become aware of using this and make certain situations easier. Michele added some great comments about advocating for ourselves from the start.

Chelle: In the speechreading class I have handouts with blocks of words. We take turns saying the words, without voice, with repeats as needed. The students tell me it’s easy to do while in class because the words right in front of them but this can be used in daily life in a number of situations also. Knowing the topic of a conversation will carry a person a long way in speechreading and there are a lot of situations we can anticipate or predict the topic.

Michele: I learned to speech/lipread naturally, without even knowing that I was doing it. By the time I was diagnosed with hearing loss in grade school I was already a speechreading whiz, according to the doctor, which was news to me. Once I knew I was good at speech/lipreading, I still didn’t realize how involved of a skill it was and how much of a role anticipation and prediction played in conjunction with lip movements, facial expression, and body language. All of those things work together and it may seem like a lot of effort, but when it comes naturally at a young age it’s simply a part of how you are hardwired, so I don’t even have to think about it. It’s how I made it through 12 years of public school with a severe hearing loss and no help from anyone but me.

Looking back, I can see all of anticipatory skills I used for success. New situations posed a challenge, but I’d gather information and learn as much as I could ahead of time so that I was prepared and knew what to expect. That gave me a head start and meant I didn’t have to work as hard in the moment. I’ve talked to others who lost their hearing early in life and gradually, and it’s something we all share.

Chelle: The grocery store is one of the easiest places to use prediction and anticipation and focus on lipreading. Different clerks ask the same questions over and over again.

“Did you find everything okay?”

“Do you want paper or plastic?” (for bags)

“Credit or debit?

I can anticipate those questions almost all the time and get by. Later stamps and ice came into play at the grocery store and I was ready for that one too. It’s not asked all the time so I might get tripped up with it from time to time. I’m sure to look up and focus on his/her face for the repeat. “Would you like stamps or ice?” Ice comes up in the summer months and not so much the rest of the year, stamps can be year round.

Another question that blew me out of the water when I moved to the Salt Lake area was “Do you want curbside service?” There’s only one store that does that here and it must have taken five repeats before I understood the girl for the first time. I even threw in I was hard of hearing and couldn’t understand her. When I finally understood the question, my answer was, “You do that here?” I shop often at that store and even though it’s not asked all the time, I now anticipate it when I hear something I don’t understand.

Most grocery store clerks look down when talking or I’m looking down getting into my purse when they start talking. I hear enough to know someone is talking but I can’t understand what they say until I’m looking at them. After I hear a voice, I’ll look up and let that person know I use lipreading. (I never say hard of hearing anymore because they still look down and talk louder which doesn’t help me.) Usually people will make sure to face me after that and we get through it without a struggle. The grocery store is a great place to practice lipreading with anticipation and prediction.

Michele: Yes, the grocery store is pretty easy, however the whole looking down while talking (them), and digging in your cart to unload grocery items or rummaging through your bag for money or credit card (you) means you’re going to miss something that is said to you, so I no longer wait for something to go wrong. I let the cashier know from the get-go that I’m a lipreader and if they are looking down while talking, or if I’m looking away, I’m not going to get what they said. Problem solved before it’s even a problem.

It is a good thing that we can anticipate the routine of a thing, as that is a big help in getting through the check-out smoothly, but we can also hone in on the stumbling blocks in a situation ahead of time and take them out of the mix by informing people of what we need from the very beginning. And, as Chelle stated, some things (regional and other) just can’t be anticipated or prepared for. When it’s a place you frequent you can get “smarter” about out of the ordinary exchanges and get to know people and procedure better, but when you’re traveling or it’s in a situation that you know you’re not going to repeat, it’s a different story.

Chelle: As a side note, let’s hear for the self check out stands! There are times when I’m too tired to focus on speechreading and I just want to get out of there as fast as possible spending little as energy as possible.

Michele: Ditto! It’s great to have the option to self-check if you’re brain is fried and you just can’t talk to one more person that day.

Chelle: Restaurants are feared by many hard of hearing people but not me, I often go alone. When I walk in the door I look for daily specials right away. (That’s having the words right in front of me like in the speechreading class.) The waitress announce the specials but they usually say it so fast it sounds like “yadda-yadda-yadda, yadda” to me. I can’t keep up with their recitation without having read it first on the board. That’s anticipation.

Michele: I have a theory… many things attributed to hearing loss—reluctance to go places alone or eat at a restaurant alone, are really not so much because of your hearing loss as they are to the variety in social “norms”. I know many people who have all of their senses in tact that would never travel alone or eat out alone.

Chelle: Now for using prediction; when the waitress comes to the table, she may or may not say her name (If she does I’ll look for a name tag but I won’t overly stress this bit) . One of the first questions she will ask is “What would you like to drink” taking a note and it will be followed by “I’ll be back to take your order.” Sometimes they will ask me if I’m ready to order too after getting my drink down but not always. Somewhere in here, I’ll let them know I use lipreading and to please face me. These people want a nice tip so they are generally very good about following my request.

Before ordering I read the fine print so I can complete my order with as little questions as possible. Back to anticipation here; what are the side options for a sandwich, and what are the options for my steak, etc. Sometimes I’ll get a salad and salad dressings aren’t always listed. If I have enough energy I go for the basics, either a vinaigrette or the always dependable ranch dressing.

That’s how I get by at restaurants. If they communicated with me properly I’ll leave a generous tip so if they see me again, they will be super accommodating.

Michele: I do many of the things Chelle does—look for the specials board and read the fine print—but I also ask my server if there is a written transcript of specials. If not, I let them know that many people, not just those with hearing loss, would benefit from reading about the specials, as it enhances understanding for all.

And, for someone who has that sixth sense—they are so perceptive that they know you have a hearing loss even before you tell them—I thank them for being perceptive and sensitive, and I give them an especially generous tip.

Chelle: Banks are fairly predictable too. For some reason they often comment on the weather, maybe because they are stuck indoors? It’s easy small talk? They will ask my how I’d like my change back, clarify which account, ask me for my ID as needed. Again, there is an easy out at banks thanks to mobile banking and ATMs. It all depends on my energy level.

As we get to know people, we can apply prediction and anticipation with them too. Everyone has their favorite words and topics to talk about. John talks about politics and Annie talks about her kids and grand kids all the time. Our neighbor will talk about gardening. Nancy talk about work and Bill loves sports. Some people use certain words over and over. This is why lipreading is easier once we get to know someone. If you have some hearing left, it even seems like you hear them easier.

Michele: Yes, as we get to know people better we can often improve our “smarts” here too. However, I’ve met a few people who aren’t predictable at all and their subject list is endless. If I have a hard time following them, I tell them straight out… “You’re going to have to tell me what you’re talking about first so I can put what I see on your lips into context.” This helps, but it’s a continual effort to remind them.

Chelle: The calmer we are, the easier it is to get by in these, and more, situations. We have to learn to relax and that’s no easy task at first. The minute we get tripped up, nothing will go right. I’ve always hated going to eat at Subway for that reason. They are always looking down when they talk because they are gathering ingredients and making the sandwich, even after I’ve told them I lipread. I get so uptight there that more than a few times I asked to “Please just make the sandwich like the picture and I’ll eat it!” Only one time have I had one person point to each ingredient and give time to nod or shake my head. If I frequented the place more often I’d get the hang of it and over come my dislike of the ordering process. I’m not a big sandwich person, however, so that won’t happen anytime soon.

Michele: I have to say that I almost never let something slide these days. When I do, it makes me feel bad about myself. However, if someone else just wants to move on, that’s their prerogative. We are all different and that’s part of what we have to teach the hearing public—one size doesn’t fit all… one accommodation isn’t a solution for everyone. Be very specific in asking for what you need.

Chelle: A few days ago I paid a visit to another fast food place I rarely go. I don’t know drill. The cashier was quiet and I don’t think she enunciated well either because I could only snag a word here and there. (I think she may have been hard of hearing because she missed part of my order, or maybe she got sidetracked by my hearing issues.) She asked a few questions that took multiple repeat and some gesturing before I understood what she wanted to know. There was another question I could not get at all and we both finally gave up. I didn’t have paper and pen and neither did they. Only later did I puzzle out that she was probably asking me what sauce I wanted.

Michele: For this scenario, I’ve started to let people know that they need to give me time to process what they’ve said, as lipreading isn’t like hearing instantly. We often need time to process what someone has said, and so I say that. It really does help, as I found I was often walking away when it dawned on me what the person was trying to say or ask. When you say, “Give me a minute to work out what you said.” you’re telling them exactly what you need.

Chelle: Often my students teach me things; little differences in mouth shapes, they might show me a new app for the phone or a gadget. Last week a new student showed us her Boogie Board. Her daughters bought it for her because she has a severe/profound hearing loss and she was having a hard time with errands. It’s a board to write on and by pushing the button it erases it. It’s like having small chalk board, nothing is recorded or saved. It’s super light weight so easy to carry around. When she has a hard time understanding someone, she whips out that board and gets it in writing. How clever! I love how she does what she has to without fear to help with communication. She swears it’s been a lifesaver. I went out and bought one and I’ll keep it in my purse from now on. Well, after buy a bigger purse because the one I have now is already packed.

Michele: I love it when someone comes up with a new way to facilitate understanding. While ordering food at a restaurant in the airport in Boston, MA the server typed out what I wasn’t understanding on the ‘Notes’ feature of his smart phone. I usually do have a pen and paper with me (I save the note pads from hotel stays and carry them in the outside pocket of my purse), or I’ll sometimes resort to handing someone my phone so they can type it out. Whatever works is the right way to go, and what works for some won’t work for all. Be flexible.

boogie board

I knew this would be a good collaboration! As is often the case, Michele inspires me to do more. Being friends with and hanging out with people who are hard of hearing/deaf offers many opportunities to improve on communication by comparing notes. Does anyone else have anything to add about prediction and anticipation?

Speechreading Tips and Hints

Speechreading Tips & Hints
(also called Lipreading)

I teach speechreading at work and it’s becoming a popular class. The classes become a support group of sorts and we all share any insights we might have about lip shapes. They teach me as much as much as I teach them. I enjoy leading this class and sometimes I talk about it on Facebook. I have lots of hard of hearing friends thanks to attending hearing loss conventions. A number of those friends reply to my posts saying they wished they could take the class so I thought maybe I’d start sharing some of what I do here. I’ll even try adding videos.

You’re going to see me swap out the terms speechreading and lipreading. It’s the same thing but someone thought speechreading was better since it’s not lipreading alone. We rely on facial expressions, body language, gestures and situational cues as an aid to reading lips.

First of all, I am not the best lip reader and my students have witnessed me bomb…which I think actually helps them. It keeps it real, lowering expectations for themselves. It’s not something that just snaps in – it takes time, practice and patience which is why I also try to make the class fun. Having a sense of humor is a great help. So I’m not the best and I’m not the worst either. I fall somewhere in between. The students see my confidence and they know I don’t fear social situations and maybe that’s enough to encourage them.

Without hearing aids or my eyes I have a 30% word discrimination. With hearing aids and no eyes I have a 60% word discrimination. With my eyes and hearing aids I catch about 90% of what’s said. Without hearing aids and my eyes I’d guess I’m somewhere around 70%. Lipreading fills in the gaps hearing aids miss. I still get stuck on words but I have ways around that now too. I use my remaining hearing to aid speechreading, they work together.

My speechreading ability depends on a few things:
~Advocating for my needs and making sure the other person knows I use lipreading. I often tell grocery store clerks, “I hear enough to know you are talking but I use lipreading to hear.”
~Whether or not I’m tired. My brain works lightning fast piecing together what I heard and saw all while using deduction to make sure it fits into a proper sentence/thought. If I’m tired, or sick, it’s hard penetrate the brain fog and I can’t keep up.
~How well I know the person. I have a harder time with new people but as I get used to people I do better and better.
~How long I’m lipreading. After a two hour meeting my brain is fried and then I go into shutdown mode for an hour or so afterward to recuperate.
~Am I relaxed or uptight? The more relaxed I am the better I do. The harder I try, the worse I get.

It also depends on the speaker, here are some examples….
~Do they talk too fast or too slow? Yes there’s such a thing as too slow and I call it monkey lips. That’s when people over exaggerate their words in slow motion.
~Do they have a mustache that covers their lips?
~Do they keep turning their head? Some people habitually turn away while giving me directions.
~Did they get my attention before speaking? If everyone did this, it would cut down on many a repeat.
~Do they have an accent? Accents shape words a little differently. After a while I can get used to that too but it takes more time.

I think all hard of hearing people use lipreading to a degree but taking the class brings it up to the next level. During my first class I encourage the students to start focusing on lips and tell people they are reading lips, even if they are just starting. Get in the habit of it. For practice, watch the news with low volume and try reading reporters lips. Use captions (which are usually slightly behind) to figure it out. Some reporters are going to be easier to understand than others simply because they form their words better than others.  You might surprise yourself with how much you catch.  To prove that point in class, I’ll turn my back and read a paragraph.  How much did they get? Very little.  When I turn back around, they get a lot more.  We are already doing it.

Chelle

Me and my red hearing aid molds.