LipreadingMom.com is the blog of a mom raising three kids who she can't hear well. Writer Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss two months after the birth of her first child. She was 27. Over the past decade, she has written stories and authored two books---Lip Reader and the soon-to-be published Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom---that describe her daily life as a hard of hearing mom. Shanna is passionate about teaching her kids the importance of advocacy. Her desire through the Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign is to share how vitally important captioning is to those who can't hear. Her mantra: "One person can make a difference. It takes many more people to make the difference permanent." Join her on this journey.
Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom
Time to ’fess up. My ears aren’t as sensitive as they used to be.
I confess that I pretend to hear everything my kids say even when they’re calling each other “stupid” and I don’t know it.
I confess I laugh before a joke’s punch line, not because of a warped sense of humor, but because I didn’t catch the joke’s first sentence.
I confess I wear my hair long to keep my hearing aids from sticking out like Dumbo ears.
I confess that I am unable to hear my telephone ring without my hearing aids in.
I confess that I don’t understand most dialogue on TV without the closed captioned turned on.
I confess that I get irked when the closed captioning isn’t working is turned off.
I confess that most people I haven’t seen in years are shocked when I tell them I have to read lips to “hear” them.
I confess that my older two kids usually act as my ears in the following situations: when a person asks me a question and I don’t respond; when someone knocks softly at my door and I don’t answer it; when the phone rings and I’m not wearing my hearing aids; when my youngest child wakes from his nap upstairs and is crying at the top of his lungs; when anything in the house beeps.
I confess that I have learned to accept my limitations. I will never be successful in making a phone call without some sort of special accommodations (i.e., using a loud-volume phone or speaker phone; asking the person on the other line to repeat themselves 2-5 times).
I confess that being a hard of hearing mom is not my choice. In fact, it can make me downright cranky.
I confess that being a hard of hearing mom makes me smile sometimes, especially when my kids are squealing, whining, moaning, or acting like brats.
I confess that being a hard of hearing mom has changed me. I’m not as quick to judge others who are different than me.
I confess I’m not as impatient as I used to be. I don’t get as frustrated with having to repeat things to a store cashier, to wait in a long line, or drive in rush-hour traffic.
I confess that being a hard of hearing mom has changed me. And I like how I’ve changed.
An Open Letter to My Hearing Friends
I want to discuss an important difference we have—something that can impact our entire communication from this point forward.
When you were born, your hearing was normal. So was mine. For years, I took the ability to hear for granted. I listened to my car stereo several notches too loud and sat in concert arenas filled with the shrill sounds of guitars, drums and vocalists belting out tunes. As a college student, I worked in a noisy printing press environment without wearing earplugs. All the while, my hearing gradually suffered.
For the past eight years, my life has differed from yours. It’s all because of a diagnosis I received two months after my oldest child was born: I have progressive hearing loss.
What does that mean? Imagine losing the sensitive hairs that line the back of your neck, one by one. You wait and wait for them to grow back, but they never do. For some unknown reason, the hairs are gone forever. That has happened to my inner ears. The nerve hairs in the deepest part of each ear have been destroyed permanently. Cause unknown. Without these hairs, my ears are not as sensitive to sound as yours.
The first part of my hearing that disappeared was with high-frequency pitches—birds singing, kids screaming, phones ringing, and all soft consonant sounds (f, s, t, v). Gone. Permanently. I am deaf to these noises.
The inability to hear high-frequency pitches affects all of my conversations with you.
You: “Is the baby sleeping?”
What I hear: “Ha! Baby leaping.”
You: “What time is it?”
What I hear: “Whoa, I’m in.”
I have worn hearing aids for six years to help with hearing better. But please repeat after me:
HEARING AIDS ARE A HELP, NOT A SOLUTION FOR HEARING LOSS.
With my hearing aids, I can hear the phone ring and the kids scream and soft consonant sounds—most of the time. Yet even with the aids, I still can’t hear robins chirping over me as I sit on my backyard swing. Do I miss that sound? Yes. Every day.
I want to ask that the two of us find a way to bridge the gap between our hearing differences, to understand each other. So, here are my suggestions...
~ Please face me when you speak. My eyes have become my ears. I watch your lips move and interpret your facial and body gestures. That is impossible to do when I am in the driver’s seat and you are talking to me from the passenger’s side of the car. Let me stop the car or come to a stoplight so I can give you my full attention.
~ Quiet rooms are always the best place for me to hear you well. When this isn’t possible, I hear better in a private booth rather than at a table in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Better yet, pull me aside, look me in the eye, and speak slowly and with good articulation. Doing this will decrease the chances of you having to repeat yourself three times before I get it.
~ I don’t expect you to walk on eggshells if you are unsure whether I have heard something you said. It is much better to tell me that I didn’t respond to your question, than to assume I am rude, dumb or zoned out for not answering.
~ If any of my suggestions seem too radical, I’d like you to try an experiment. Wedge two cotton balls in both of your ears, then try to carry on a conversation in a noisy room with your eyes closed. Difficult, isn’t it? Welcome to my world!
By writing to you, I hope to provide insight that will help when we have our next conversation. You are a good friend for taking the time to read this letter. You’ve shown support in my hearing journey by taking an interest in what I write. Thank you for that.
As your friend, here is my commitment to you...
~ I promise to give you my full attention when you speak to me.
~ I promise to politely ask you to repeat yourself if I have missed something you said.
~ I promise to care about what you have to say because I care about you.
I'm Having a Bad "Hear" Day
The alarm clock blared at seven o’clock this morning, but I didn’t hear it. My pillow muffled the sound. Turns out, I had rolled on the side with my “good” ear. The one that hears better than the other. The one that hears the alarm clock. The one that lay pressed into the pillow.
I slept through the alarm at 7:00, 7:15, and 7:30. When I woke up, it wasn’t to the shrill beeping clock or the radio dial cranked to full volume, but to the whine of my sweet little girl.
“Mommy,” she cried, “you overslept again.”
I wanted to blame it on the pillow, which had kept my good ear from hearing a blaring alarm clock. But I didn’t. Instead, I decided that I was just having a Bad Hear Day.
I breathed cool air into my steaming cup of coffee while fiddling with one of my hearing aids in the other hand. I put the listening device in my ear and switched it on. Nothing. Dead silence.
Out came the expensive contraption that looked like a sea shell with wires in it. The wires that were supposed to help me hear better. Could it have been a dead battery? Or worse, a hearing aid clogged with a blob of my ear wax? The most disgusting part of the morning was scooping wax out of this ear shell. After adding the fresh battery and scooping out ear boogers, I put the hearing aid back on. Nothing. Dead silence.
“What’s wrong with you?” I shouted at the expensive device. I threatened to throw it on the floor and stomp it into a mess of wires and ear shell plastic. But I didn’t. I just decided I was having a Bad Hear Day.
The coffee spilled between my pant legs as I drove the kiddos to school. My sweet girl chatted on and on about so-and-so in her class and this-and-that at school. I nodded and smiled, marveling at every word she spoke. (I didn’t have a clue what she said.)
The car A/C blasted, the wipers squeaked against the pitter-pattering of rain on the windshield, and my baby son screamed in harmony with a Hannah Montana song on the radio. Plus, my hearing aid still didn’t work.
Stupid hearing aid.
I wanted to announce at the top of my lungs how much I loathed that hearing aid, to yell so loud, it would be heard over A/Cs, windshields, kids, and whiny teeny bopper music. But I didn’t. I just decided I was having a Bad Hear Day.
Trying to make light of the situation, I interrupted my sweet girl to tell her a knock-knock joke.
“Knock knock,” I said.
“Who’s there?” she asked with a smile.
“”Huh?” I said.
“’Huh’ who?” she answered, sweetly.
I squinted at her through the rear-view mirror. “Huh? What did you just say?”
And that’s when I really, truly decided …
A BAD Hear Day.
About the Author Shanna Groves has been a hard of hearing mom since 2001. She is the author of the novel Lip Reader and writes extensively about hearing loss issues at http://LipreadingMom.com.