Living with hearing loss, I have always wanted to take a lipreading course, but was never able to find one in New York City that worked with my schedule. So when I learned about a new online tutorial created by the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association – Newfoundland and Labrador (CHHA-NL), I was excited to give it a go. Read My Lips is a self-paced online course that uses videos, exercises, and quizzes to demonstrate and teach basic lipreading skills.
I consider myself a good lipreader, but most of my knowledge has come intuitively, driven by necessity. Taking the Read My Lips classes helped me gain a firmer understanding of the basic lip, tongue and jaw movements involved in many letter sounds. Knowing the mechanics of how the sounds are made can only improve my skills. I am glad I took the course.
Thanksgiving is a time to join with family and friends to express gratitude for the many joys in our lives. For people with hearing loss, it can also often be fraught with anxiety. Will we be able to follow the dinner conversation and partake in the merriment? Will we be exhausted from all the listening fatigue? Will we remain a relevant and important part of the family dynamic?
My family usually heads out of town for Thanksgiving, but this year we are hosting! Sleeping all eight of us in a Manhattan apartment will make for tight quarters, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I have ceded control of the cooking to my mother-in-law, so my focus will be on setting the table, arranging the seating, and creating the perfect hearing friendly atmosphere — a great role for someone with hearing loss.
People with hearing loss LOVE captions! They help us combat hearing loss exhaustion by reducing listening effort, help us fill in words that we miss during a speech or when watching a movie, and give us confidence that we can participate more fully in a number of different listening situations. It turns out we are not alone.
A recent visit to Verizon Media’s Accessibility lab taught me that everyone loves captions, even people without hearing loss! I had always suspected as much as I watched my husband with typical hearing using the captions at Broadway shows and other events over the years, but now there is proof.
Someone at the end of the table was telling a funny story. Someone else jumped in to add a related comment or share an anecdote. Interrupting was the norm. As was covering mouths with hands when speaking. The pace was rapid fire. The background noise was incessant. But nobody seemed to mind. There were smiles and laughter and joy — a celebration of the camaraderie and interconnection of the group as each person enjoyed this special connection with new friends.
Except for me. I was at the other end of the table, too far from the speaker to get in on the action and too overwhelmed with the pace of the overlapping chatter to even try. In the moment, I felt isolated and alone, but strangely, also gratitude. I realized how lucky I am that I spend most of my time in the land of well-trained conversation partners. I vowed to try to remember that feeling the next time my family and friends forgot to talk so I could hear them.
Cocktail parties are a fact of life, but with hearing loss, they are also a challenge. In my latest post for Hearing Tracker, I share my tips for surviving a cocktail party when you have hearing loss. See an excerpt from the piece below. To read the full article click here.
Cocktail parties are tough for most people, but when you have hearing loss, they can be brutal! The constant buzz of conversation bounces around the hard surfaces of the room, making it difficult to pick out the important sounds — the voices of your conversation partners. When music is playing in the background, it is even harder. The whole experience can be frustrating, embarrassing, and incredibly exhausting. Many people with hearing loss would prefer to avoid cocktail parties like the plague. But cocktail parties are a fact of life and we must face them head on.
Surviving A Cocktail Party When You Have Hearing Loss
When approaching a cocktail party, people with hearing loss may opt for easy fixes — dominate the conversation or nod, smile and hope your responses are appropriate. While I admit utilizing these crutches in a pinch, the following list of strategies provides a more authentic and satisfying experience.
1. Arrive rested. Hearing at a cocktail party requires significant concentration and brain power. Arrive rested and having eaten something. An empty stomach makes it harder to concentrate.
2. Find a good position in the room. Upon arrival, scope out the best possible acoustics within the setting and set up shop. A corner location often works well because it limits the background noise behind you. Areas with carpet, drapes or cushions are also good choices since soft surfaces help absorb excess sound.
3. Advocate for yourself. Let people know about your hearing difficulties and ask your speaking partners to move to a quieter part of the room if possible. Or invite them to step outside for a breath of fresh air and respite from the cacophony. If possible, ask the host to turn down the music in at least one part of the party.