Dear Lipreading Mom,
How do you respond when upon explaining to someone that you are deaf, they respond by being amazed at how ‘well’ you speak? I know that 95 percent of the time they mean it as a compliment. They don't seem to realize
how condescending or patronizing that statement is. Most of the time I just
deflect it and say that it is a compliment to my speech pathologists and
additional proof of my stubbornness!
I applaud you for bringing up this topic. It is something that I hear regularly from strangers and lifelong friends and family. Maybe my story will help you a bit.
As a child, teachers used to put checkmarks by my name on the chalkboard for 'talking too much in class.' My kindergarten teacher wrote on my report card: 'Needs to nip the talking habit in the bud.' That was 1979, the same year my parents took me to an audiologist for a hearing test because I struggled to understand words through headphones in the school listening lab. Although the audiologist couldn't detect a hearing loss then, I did grow up thinking that something was wrong with me: I talked too much and couldn't hear words clearly. No second opinion was sought for my hearing issues, and I never worked with a speech pathologist.
As a teen, I debated what to do once high school ended. One college awarded me a theater scholarship after completing a dramatic monologue audition for the school's head of drama. I loved to talk even then, especially on a stage with bright lights shining! Theater taught me how to project my voice so that the person sitting in the back of the room could understand my dialogue.
In college I switched majors to Communication with a Journalism emphasis. I had developed a love of writing and reporting. As a young adult, I juggled jobs as a reporter for the university newspaper and the local paper. It was cool to attend press conferences and ask the hard questions. As a Communication student, my undergraduate courses included Voice and Diction and Public Speaking. Again, I was learning how to hone my voice.
At the age of 27, I was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss. Two years later, I decided to begin wearing hearing aids to help with my listening issues that stemmed way back to childhood.
As a person with hearing loss, I had a choice to use my voice or shut up. I chose the former. Why? Because I love to talk. Always have.
My advice, Excellent, would be to share *your* own story when people ask you this question. Maybe they can learn something new about the deaf and hearing loss world---and about themselves.
Ask Lipreading Mom
Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child. She was 27. Raised in a hearing family, Shanna traces her hearing loss to a genetic loss on the paternal side of her family. She is mom to three young children, a published author, and speaker. Her books are featured at www.ShannaGroves.com. Shanna blogs about being a hard of hearing mom at http://LipreadingMom.com.