The 8th to 12th September is Lipreading Awareness Week in the UK and so my post is in honour of the Lipreading tutors around the world. Thank you for all you do!
When I got my first analogue aid, I shoved it in a drawer because it amplified everything and the sounds of cutlery or a running tap scared the living daylights out of me. Nobody checked up on me and it was left up to me to ask to be referred to a different hospital where I’d discovered they were (at that time) trialling the use of digital hearing aids.
At the second hospital, I was given an ‘in the ear’ aid and told to ‘build up use gradually from an hour a day to all day’. The hearing aid was set far too loud and the audiologist refused to turn it down to make it bearable (let alone comfortable) and so, it too got shoved in a drawer never to see the light of day again.
I then enrolled on a lipreading class.
There I met other people (albeit very elderly people) with hearing aids but for me, more importantly, I met a very helpful tutor. She didn’t have hearing loss but she did have a ‘bag of tricks’: helpful, seemingly magical tips and hints which transformed my life. With her support, I was able to realise I could arrive early to meetings and position myself in the ‘best’ placed seat so that everyone was on my ‘good side’. I also learned to sit with my back to the window in meeting rooms. I learned to ask for context if I didn’t know what someone was talking about. Oh, and I learned to lipread! (Mirror practice really is the key!)
However, it wasn’t lipreading which was the greatest thing she taught me: that was how to have the confidence to tell people that I had hearing loss. This was the turning point for me. This was my ‘light bulb moment’. The first time I told someone I was deaf in one ear, she told me she was too. We were both sat on each other’s ‘bad side’ so we swapped seats and enjoyed a good chat. After that, I never felt afraid to let people know I had hearing loss.
Sadly, after two years, my local college cut the funding to this course and now lipreading classes are no longer available where I live. I really worry about what is happening to the newly deafened and people with gradual hearing loss who don’t have access to the wonderful support I found.
When my hearing started to deteriorate in my other ear and I could no longer put off using a hearing aid on a daily basis, I found it much easier to cope with the third time round as I knew an awful lot more. I knew about ‘open fit’ hearing aids for one thing and about Access to Work.
I wonder what you do if you don’t have access to a wonderful lipreading tutor like mine..?
Years later, when I suffered sudden sensorineural loss in my ‘good’ ear, it was to my former tutor –and now friend – that I turned for support. I didn’t know where else to go. So, this week, I will raise a glass to toast my wonderful lipreading tutor and all the others out there!