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Accessibility Accommodations Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Captioning College Disability Resource Center Communication Access Communication Practices Education Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Misconceptions Personal advocacy Public Advocacy Speech to Text Captions Vulnerability

Accommodations: This is Good Enough For You

Requesting appropriate accommodations can be a challenge, especially if the entity has already decided what’s good enough for you. Educating others is fairly easy, usually, once the communication need is explained. Once in a while, however, they aren’t open minded.  When they won’t go beyond their current rudimentary concept of an accommodation, it is frustrating and heartbreaking. 

For National Speech-Language-Hearing Month in May, we chose resilience as a topic. What a timely topic. Chelle was reminded how ugly the process of resilience can feel. It’s mind consuming and exhausting, but in the end worth it. When we stand up for ourselves and our rights as a human with hearing loss, we help ourselves and we help others who come after us.

Green crinkled paper background.
White font: Accommodations are a bridge.
Picture of a white bridge with two white outlines of people shaking hands in the middle. The Hearing Loss LIVE! logo is underneath, @hearinglosslive.
White font: There is diversity in hearing loss. IT's not your job to decide what is "good enough" for us if you don't walk in our shoes.
Resilience, What it Means

Chelle: The last two weeks have NOT been fun. Last December, I signed up for an online course, asking if captions were available for all videos and they assured me they were. When getting an education, I do not want to be doing a lot of educating from my end so I asked about that before buying the class. The first class was great, the second class was video after video without captions. It was a woman’s faceless voice narrating.

My hearing loss is severe and it happens to be profound in the high frequencies. That means women’s voices are hardest for me to hear, let alone understand. This is especially true when I don’t have a face to use lipreading skills with. I contacted the necessary people and asked about captions, letting them know I couldn’t do this without them. Then I reminded them I asked about this before buying the class. 

Using ASR

Three different people told me I could use Chrome’s ASR (automatic speech recognition software) in place of true captions. I said I’d try that but warned them that ASR can go wrong quite often and gave them a few examples. After 3 short videos, I thought I’d lose my mind. 

  • ASR would get behind in translating, then speed up so fast I couldn’t read it.
  • ASR also constantly changes the words in a sentence while it’s ‘hearing’ and figuring out what’s being said via context. (Kind of like hearing loss.)
  • Some words can’t be heard well due to lack of enunciation, or when words are combined with intonation to imply meaning. Example: dropping down in voice at the end of the sentence to imply emphasis or combining words with a little laugh. (Kind of like our hearing loss once again!)

While ASR has proven to be a great help to those of us with hearing loss, when the information really matters, it’s not enough. I gave them examples of what I was running into with ASR and told them I wasn’t able to retain the information when my brain is trying to make sense of where the ASR is going.

That’s when someone suggested I go through the proper channels to get accommodations. No problem, happy to do so. In the form I checked captions and transcripts. The contracted class said, “Sorry there are no transcripts or captions. Use Chrome’s ASR.” No, that’s not adequate and I shared my issues again.

Read the Summary Instead

They came back with; try a different browser and “Use the summary of information you can download from the front page of the class portal. That gives you most of the information from the videos.” A little later, they let me know they reviewed the Chrome captions and they found it good enough. 

This has to be a hearing person saying this. I know plenty of people with hearing loss who will say the same thing I did, it’s not adequate. Don’t get me wrong, I like ASR and use it in more casual settings. Since this is a class, and an important one for me, I do not want to leave the information up to chance. Nor did I feel confident that a ‘summary’ of the videos would suffice. My class was being reduced to a summary for 3 lessons.

Fighting Superficial Knowledge of Hearing Loss
Green crinkled paper background.
White font: When it's not going to work, stand firm for your rights to participate like anyone else.
Yellow font: Educate to the best of your ability.
White font: Enlist support and feedback from your HoH friendly community. 
White cursive font: Keep the scaled balanced.
Yellow image of scales; left side has a black Hearing Loss LIVE! logo and the right side has a white Hearing Loss LIVE! logo.
White font: We know, it's anything but fun. In the end, it's worth it for yourself and anyone comes after you. @hearinglosslive

No, this will not work. I explained that I represent the HoH (Hard of Hearing) community, there’s 48 million of us in America. I’m taking this class to upgrade my knowledge so I can better serve my community. What kind of cheerleader am I when I won’t stand up for the very thing I need for effective communication?

In thinking about the whole ordeal, I realized we are very much fighting superficial knowledge. Does the general public feel that ‘captioned videos’ are using web browser ASR? Do they know this is not a substitute for the real deal? Do they really think this accommodation fills the gap and is good enough? I have broken, distorted hearing but that does not make me less than!

Ableism!

Julia: We talked about ableism in March and here it is! I can’t help but wonder how many students who purchased this program were made to feel less than or received a bad grade and/or did not earn the certificate that came with the class because not all the material was not accessible? Or asked for a refund and dropped the course and went elsewhere?

Higher education needs to hold their contractors accountable for providing full access to the programs they offer. There was absolutely no reason for this program to not caption their videos other than down right laziness. This program’s hope is you just give in. Accept what you’re given while they pocket the money.

When faced with these types of situations, our resilience can look a couple different ways. One, we can dig in and fight it all the way to the end, which may include legal counsel. Two, we can get our money back and find a program that is better suited for our needs.

Do the Right Thing
Green crinkled paper background.
White font: Maybe one thing won't work out exactly. Get creative and find an appropriate workaround. Do not leave the Hard of Hearing person feeling like have to accept less than everyone else.
Image: White arch with the Hearing Loss LIVE! logo in the middle. Underneath is a fat zero under the left starting point of the arch. there's 2 dots then a fat X, two more dots and fat checkmark. The arch goes from the zero to the checkmark.
@hearinglosslive

If you are an educator, don’t leave people out. If your course offers video classes and you don’t have time to caption them properly, offer an alternative to videos. Meet with them in a video meet. (Be sure to follow the 3 Golden Rules and have good lighting on your face in the video meeting.) Take time to email and make them feel welcome. Don’t just say it’s in the summary because at that point, you’re cheating them of the class material everyone else gets.  

We highly recommend captioning all videos. There’s different ways to go about this: Use Otter.ai for a basic transcript, that’s what Hearing Loss LIVE! uses. Rev also works. Upload the transcript to the video and take the time to correct the captions. ASR comes up with some off the wall things at times, like we’ve seen cuss words go in and more.  

Captions not only help people who are deaf and hard of hearing, they also help people with auditory processing disorder, English as a second language, ADHD, autism and more. You help a whole group of people when you have captions. Be inclusive.

Learn More!
  • Read our Personal Bill of Rights for the Hard of Hearing when you feel yourself wavering.
  • Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): “The ADA is meant to ensure that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of civil life.” Title II applies to state/local programs. 
  • US Department of Education on Auxiliary Aids and Services for Post Secondary Students with Disabilities (website); higher education’s obligation.
  • Another resource from our friend Terri with the HLAA-Boulder Chapter. It also lists ways to get video content captioned.
Categories
Accessibility Accommodations Advocacy Cochlear Implants Communication Access Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Misconceptions Personal advocacy Public Advocacy Self Advocacy

Accommodations for Hearing Loss

Let’s talk about accommodations for hearing loss for Better Communication Month. May used to be known as Better Hearing and Speech Month. It’s been changed to National Speech-Language-Hearing Month, which doesn’t slide out as well as it used to. ASHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, recently changed the name to match theirs. Whatever we want to call it (we see others using mixed titles), May is dedicated to educating the general public about communication disorders. Hearing loss is considered a communication disorder because we lose receptive communication.

Most of the focus for hearing loss is “get a hearing aid,” or a cochlear implant. That helps but hold on a minute! It’s not just up to those of us with hearing loss to get fixed. Communication takes two. Our hearing communication family, friends and coworkers also need to change a few habits. We need to accommodate each other for real communication to happen. 

Hearing devices are a great first step, but as most of us know, we don’t get normal hearing back. That’s a misconception. We love our hearing devices, they give us more details to life but they have limits, which we wrote about last month in Unrealistic Expectations. Even with hearing devices, we also need to learn how to advocate for ourselves in day to day life. There’s technology and services available to fill gaps.

Light green, white and dark green background.
Black font: Accommodations bridge the gap for better communication outcomes.
Image: Outline of two people shaking hands in the middle of a bridge.
Under the bridge: Hearing Loss LIVE! with the 3 leaves logo.
Accommodations Definitions

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an accommodation as an adaptation and adjustment.  Some adjustments are easy and others take time to make a habit. To adapt, we need to know what’s available.There is a wide range of accommodations to go along with our hearing loss, with our hearing aids and cochlear implants. Accommodations include strategies, technology and services like CART/live captioning. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (hearing devices). Having several strategies and tools to choose from in situation to situation makes you more resilient.

Personal Accommodations

Do you feel funny asking people to accommodate (make adjustments) you? Do you know what to ask for? For a solid foundation, we created the 3 Golden Rules which are: Get my attention, face me and be within 6 feet. This works with hearing devices and without hearing devices. If the people in your life follow these 3 rules, you will have less communication breakdowns, less repeats and frustration between you both. 

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Accommodations for hearing loss look like:
-Face me when talking.
I'm going to use my speech recognition app to make sure I understand what you are saying.
-I'd like assistive listening for this event.
-I need a transcript to understand the videos. 
@hearinglosslive
Hearing Loss LIVE! logo of 3 green leaves. The bigger leaf to the left has a spiral to symbolize the cochlea.

Because we have hearing loss, we depend on the visual elements of communication. Whether we consciously know it or not, we are constantly looking for visual cues. 

To hear/see better, get closer, turn on the lights and/or trade seats. Those are minor accommodations you can ask for. 

Do you want to know more about the visual aspects of communication? Would you like to learn how to better advocate for yourself? Take our June 1st, Super Saturday Lipreading Concepts class. (It’s all about using different strategies and tools.) Get a 3 hour crash course on setting your stage for easier communication. Empower yourself with more know-how and build your confidence. Read more HERE.

Other personal accommodations: Text me instead of calling. Can you send me an email with all the information? Can we turn the captions on so I can fully enjoy the tv show too? How about we turn off the car radio while we are talking?

Personal Accommodations via Technology

Do you know why we struggle to hear on the phone? We don’t have visual cues. It’s a faceless voice. If it’s a video call, it’s a lot easier to ‘hear’, as long as we can see the other person’s face. Technology is keeping pace with us and we have more tools than ever. If you have a smartphone, there are several apps to caption your phone calls. We have a post on that HERE which includes helpful apps. In that post, we also talk about automatic speech recognition (ASR) apps that caption in person conversations as well. 

Hearing aid/cochlear implant companion mics are also a great accommodation. They are small devices that pair to your hearing aids/CI giving you more flexibility. Hearing devices work best within 6 feet, right? Companion mics extend the distance and also give you more clarity in noisy situations. Give it to someone to wear at a lecture. Attach it to your travel mate in the car. Use it in a restaurant. It’s not perfect, nothing is, but they are helpful. Do not let an audiologist tell you that you don’t need it. They come in handy in a variety of situations. Read more HERE.

How about alerting devices? There are alarm clocks that shake your bed to wake you up. Systems that will alert you to doorbells, fire alarms, weather warnings and more. Check out either Diglo or Teltex to learn more. Both places offer several accommodations for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Accommodations help us worry less about what we are missing.

Public Accommodations

Our hearing devices work best within 6 feet. How does that work in public venues? It doesn’t always work well, especially as hearing loss progresses. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has requirements for “Effective Communication”.  Choices include assistive listening systems, captions, interpreters and more. This includes movie theaters, live theater, sporting events and more. There are requirements for schools and hospitals as well. 

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Black font: One size doesn't fit all. Try different strategies and tools to see what works best for you.
Image: A circle with a question mark under a line with 4 circles coming up from the line. The first 3 circles hold an X, the last one has a checkmark.
Black font: Also, different stratgies and tools fit different situations. It's good to know your options.
Green hearing loss live logo lower left. 
@hearinglosslive to the right
Accommodations are Everywhere!

Experiment with new strategies and tools until you find what works best for you. Explore different ways to request accommodation until you find what works best. Try it all, discard what doesn’t work for you. Accommodations improve our communication outcomes. They give us access, helping us to participate which allows us to stay active. The more you know, the more you grow…and so does the general public’s knowledge which we desperately need. 

“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

Categories
Communication Access Communication Practices Emotions, Psychological Stress Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss Personal advocacy Vulnerability

Resilience & Hearing Loss

 Let’s talk about how to use resilience to navigate hearing loss setbacks. For the month of May, we take a look at how to use several resilience strategies: flexibility, humor, social support, dealing with challenges and disappointments and so much more. We explore this topic with Gloria Pelletier (MSW, LCSW, LISAC) throwing light on the mental health aspects of resilience.

May also happens to be National Speech Language Hearing Month (ASHA). “… the focus and effort that goes into making May a month of educating the public about the importance of human communication and what we can all do to prevent and address communication disorders.” Hearing loss is a communication disorder. Let’s learn how to be resilient with our communication exchanges. We invite our hearing partners to join us this May to improve awareness of Hard of Hearing communication needs. Acceptance of new communication tools and strategies needs to come from both sides. Together we can improve the flow of communication. 

Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.” Elizabeth Edwards

Get back on that horse!

Gloria: I am old enough that I can remember when “resilience” was  “get back on that horse and ride again.” My father said that right after I took a nasty fall from a bucking horse.  I was not happy nor did I have a good attitude about that horse but I got back up on that horse anyway. I sat in that saddle with every ounce of “fake pride” I had. Then, I pretended I belonged there.  Never again did I get bucked off that horse.

Black background. Two arching green stipes going from middle bottom to middle left. Black hearing loss live logo of 3 leaves in the lower stripe with @hearinglosslive above it.
Dark green text: is a quote by Maya Angelou: I can be changed by what happens to me but I refuse to be reduced by it.
Light green text: There are enough strategies, accommodations, technology and friends to keep us going full steam ahead.

Georgia O’Keeffe, an artist, once said, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” I first saw this quote in a book called “Why Do Winners Win?”  by Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby published in 1989.  It was given to me by my therapist at the time when I was accepted into graduate school because I was terrified to move thousands of miles away from home. I had just gone through a nasty divorce and I wanted more from my life than a divorcee mentality.  I wanted to assist people to have more in their lives than whatever trauma was happening at the moment. You do not have to be “fearless, have great self-confidence or a great attitude (Selby, 1989) to be resilient.  What you need is to have “chutzpah.”  Chutzpah is a Yiddish word. One definition: “the amount of courage, mettle or ardor that an individual has.” (Wikipedia)

Back in the Saddle Again

After falling off a horse, I was not happy or confident.  In fact, I was angry at my father, the horse and myself for falling and failing.  When I put my boot into the stirrup and threw my leg over the saddle and plopped my butt down, I was confident. I was back “in the saddle” without incident. Let’s not forget the old adage “try, try again and keep trying.”  And, “the little train that said, “I-think- I- can.” ( A folk tale that has appeared in many different children’s books.)

When the universe knocks on our door, we need to open the door.  We must listen for opportunities and accept the opportunity that may be disguised as a challenge.  Resilience helps us to do that. It opens the door to new experiences to help guide us through to the next stage in our life.

Perspective
Black background with 2 arching green stripes from bottom left to middle right. A black hearing loss live logo in the lower right. @hearinglosslive under the logo
Quote by Mary Anne Radmacher: Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."
Light green font: Hearing loss requires workarounds. If it didn't work on way, try it another way.

Julia: Every month we research our next topic. Every month I gain a new perspective about my lifetime of being a hearing partner with Hard of Hearing family and friends.  What does resilience look like for me as the hearing partner? Resilience is my healing spot. When the grieving is done, I find a better way to communicate with my HoH. Why? Because at the end of the day, I want a two way conversation in the best way possible. That means I want you to hear what I have to say too. Healing came for me when I learned more about hearing loss for myself. It was bouncing back from challenges with new ways to communicate. An example, helping my HoH research what types of aids- TV ears, Pocketalker, caption landline, new hearing aids- would do and how it would improve communication.

Resilience is knowing my spouse has a hearing loss and we must be in the same room facing each other to have true conversation. One day not long ago, I realized when we choose to use bad communication strategies, anger and blame was not a part of the solution. We messed up. We need to go to the same room to have our conversation. 

I am a lucky hearing partner because I surrounded myself with HoH’s who educate, sharing new coping strategies and their experiences with me. My relationship with my grandmother stayed strong, healthy and intact because I had a great group of folks around me to help me find better ways to communicate. As a CART/live captioner, working with this community contributed to my resiliency and my ability  to stay on top of communication. This works with everyone, not just people with hearing loss.

On Having A Learning Mindset

Chelle: I’m finding that what I learn through our topics at Hearing Loss LIVE!, can be applied to the rest of my life and vice versa. Resilience is vice versa. My family had the “it was a learning experience” mindset instead of it being a problem. When I ran across a situation, they asked what I could do differently next time. This allowed me to evaluate and research situations to make it different next time. By the time I was a teenager, I was pretty good at this! I learned my way around waking up my parents when I came in past my curfew. 

It took several years to apply this kind of flexibility to hearing loss because I was limited with tools and strategies. There were no books on loss at the libraries back then and there was no internet yet. I had hearing aids and no strategies. My curiosity kept me moving forward. Surely there had to be a better way through hearing loss! Thank goodness for the internet. In the late 90’s I met the SayWhatClub who had an online community via email. I gained strategies and knowledge of technology, with no real personal experience technology because I lived in a small town. 

Stay Curious

Later, I received a personal FM without instruction so I didn’t know how to use it. I still had limited strategies. Curiosity kept me going as there had to be a better way to manage it all. After moving to a big city, I added public assistive listening, instruction on personal FM systems and discovered the magic of CART/live captioning to my personal experience. More strategies came from my HoH social circle and finally I had several ‘tools’ to choose from. These days I am flexible and even creative when it comes to gaining access to communication. 

Another quip from childhood; when leaving in the morning for high school, my dad would yell after me, “Learn things!” Duh, of course I was going to learn things. I was going to school, right? The learning never quits, I realized after finishing school. I have a continuous desire for the pursuit of knowledge and improvement of hearing loss. I learn things all the time and my curiosity keeps me moving forward. While teaching classes and attending workshops I learn things. If you attend our events, or see me at another, you’ll notice I’m taking notes all the time. There’s always room for improvement.  

Black background with 2 arching green stripes on the left from bottom to top.
Black hearing loss live logo in the lower left part of the green stripe. @hearinglosslive in the second green stripe
Green text: Resilience with hearing loss. Bulleted list underneath:
learning new communication strategies.
Using a variety of accommodations.
Being proactive for communication needs.
Connecting with the hearing loss community.
Practicing selfcare.
Light green text: Go easy on yourself. We all make mistakes. It's trial and error until you find what works best for you.
Perseverance

What do you think? Can you start applying resilience to your life? Learning resilience strategies lends us strength and determination to get through typical hearing loss challenges. Get in the know, learn things. Stay curious. Laugh. Humor is a huge part of resilience and we’ll talk more about that during our monthly workshop.

Learn more with Hearing Loss LIVE!
  • Get to know us! Join our Let’s Talk Tuesday workshop May 7th, online and LIVE! via Zoom at 6:00 PM Mountain time (adjust for your time zone). Gloria leads us in a discussion on resilience and hearing loss. We have a live stenographer providing captions. Subscribe to our newsletter for instant access to our monthly workshop.
  • Our Lipreading Concepts class offers several communication strategies. We encourage hearing partners to join their HoH with a “buy one get one free” registration deal. A recent hearing student who attended said; “Since I’ve attended your class, communication frustrations with my hard of hearing husband have been greatly reduced. I’m so glad I came.” Note: Her husband did not attend the class. She came because she was looking for ways to improve communication from her end. We have a 3 hour crash course for Lipreading Concepts on June 1st. Register with the class link above. 
  • Build confidence with hearing loss by joining the Audible Talkers Toastmasters group. This is an online twice a month meeting. Prior to meetings, they send out transcripts of the speeches, they use ASR captions during the meetings and have a few other accommodations. Build your confidence and resilience through participation with Audible Talkers.
Categories
Advocacy Cochlear Implants Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Hearing Technology Lipreading Mental Health & Hearing Loss Personal advocacy

Imposter Syndrome with Hearing Loss

Do people with hearing loss feel imposter syndrome? We do but before we get into that, let’s look at the definition for imposter syndrome. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says it is a condition characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments. It is accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success. 

Imposter syndrome fits in with our theme of the month, Hearing Loss & Identity Crisis. Though distinct issues, they often overlap. While we are figuring out who we are with hearing loss, we experience self doubt and seriously doubt what we can achieve. We feel like half the person we were because we can’t communicate like we used to. 

How does imposter syndrome manifest in the lives of people with hearing loss?

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Issues
Dark green and black background. 
White text: Am I hearing or hard of hearing? It's so confusing!
Being unsure of our position can create imposter syndrome.
Picture: white outline of an ear tilted to the lower left corner. Three lines coming out from behind the ear, then several swirled lines going out from there.
circular hearing loss live white logo of 3 leaves

Sensorineural hearing loss creates distorted hearing. We hear certain things well and other things not so well. We hear a lot of noise so how does that equal hearing loss? Hearing the garbage truck rolling down the street is no problem, however, hearing birds and crickets chirping are out. No problem, right? 

Except this affects certain sounds in speech. With a mild high frequency hearing loss, we start having troubles hearing the speech sounds for F, S and TH.  (Take a look at our Sensorineural Visuals HERE to understand this better.) There’s gaps in certain words, especially with higher pitched voices like those of children. 

Are we hearing or hard of hearing? We can say “hearing” because we heard that voice from the other room. Saying we are Hard of Hearing doesn’t fit when we can hear that airplane flying overhead, does it? But, understanding is a whole different thing. Where does that leave us? 

Feeling confused. Doubting ourselves which reduces our confidence. We are caught between hearing and understanding, another topic we explored earlier this year, read HERE. Saying that we have hearing loss makes us feel like an imposter because the typical understanding of hearing loss means a reduction of hearing on all frequencies, a common misconception. Saying we are hearing doesn’t fit either because we are obviously missing certain cues in life. Either way, we feel fake.

Hearing Devices

When hearing loss hits a certain point, we look into hearing devices. This will fix all the issues, we think. The general population tends to believe that our hearing devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants, restore our hearing. This is another huge misconception, even with those closest to us.

Most of the time we don’t learn the limits of hearing devices when we get them. Because of this, we can’t correct unrealistic expectations. When we get our hearing devices, we run into aspects of ableism. We hear things like, “You have selective hearing.” Hearing aids cost somewhere between $3,000 and  $7,000 dollars and we still have trouble understanding what people are saying. “What is wrong with me,” we might ask ourselves again, feeling like an imposter while wearing hearing aids/cochlear implants. 

Dark green and black background.
White text: Hearing aids and cochlear implants do NOT (word NOT in yellow) fix hearing loss. They help but they are not called "hearing miracles" for a reason.
These unrealistic expectations affect confidence and increase self doubt. This contributes to imposter syndrome.
Picture: An outlined figure scratching his head. A dialog bubble that says, "What's wrong with me?"

There can be years of this before we realize it isn’t our fault as hearing devices have limits. Hearing Loss LIVE! talks about these limits all the time. If you’re new, here’s a few quick tips:

  1. Hearing aids and cochlear implants work best within 6 feet.
  2. Though better at filtering out background noise than ever before, it is still an issue. Background noise still overrides speech.
  3. Acoustics affect hearing devices. Mechanical hearing has a hard time processing out reverberation. The harsher the environment (hard surfaces vs soft), the harder it will be to hear.

At some point, we learn from a peer, a support group or an article like this, that hearing devices help but they don’t restore natural hearing abilities.

Lipreading

Lipreading has several misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. The name ‘lipreading’ in and of itself is misleading. Lipreading is not all about the lip shapes, it’s only one of the tools we use for communication. It needs a whole new name. The term ‘speechreading’ doesn’t get it right either because we use logic, body language and more.

We all use lipreading strategies to some degree, unconsciously and out of necessity. If they face us and are within 6 feet, we all hear better. Yet, we are afraid to say we “lipread” because of unrealistic expectations that surround it. There are a few excellent lipreaders out there but most of us hit the average mark of 30% of what is seen. 

Saying, “I lipread” can give us a huge amount of imposter syndrome! Especially when people shut off their voice and use utter nonsense (ableism again). Or when they turn off their voice and use their mouth with exaggerated movements. (Come on people, that’s not natural!)

One way to combat this and restore confidence (achievement) is to say, “I use lipreading strategies with my remaining hearing.” Just so you know, here’s a realistic look at lipreading:

  • It’s not catching every word, it’s catching every 3rd or 4th word. 
  • We tend to recognize common word shapes/patterns that we see all the time. 
  • We fill in holes, within words and often whole words, with context, logic and guesswork. 

There are several more strategies we use. To learn more about realistic lipreading, you can take our classes. We have four classes and each class builds on the other. Strategies are reinforced throughout each class. Two classes in video format to watch as often as you want, when you want. 

Dark green and black background.
White text: Kick imposter syndrome to the curb by learning more about hearing loss, technology and accommodations.
White circular hearing loss live logo of 3 leaves.
@hearinglosslive

Our classes give you the information you need to help combat imposter syndrome and  ableism. Find out who you are with hearing loss by attending our free monthly workshops, reading our blogs and listening to our podcasts. Educate yourself. Build your hearing loss confidence and kick imposter syndrome to the curb by educating others.

Categories
Advocacy Communication Access Hearing Loss Lipreading Lipreading Concepts Misconceptions Personal advocacy Self Advocacy

When Lipreading Doesn’t Work

Learning lipreading strategies and the visible lip shapes adds to our communication skills but it doesn’t always work. We’ll be honest; lipreading is not foolproof. There are conditions that go against lipreading which is why we lead the Hearing Loss LIVE! classes with Lipreading Concepts

In the Concepts class, we share the strategies that go with lipreading. Then, we teach people to evaluate the problems around communication and find the workaround. For those with hearing loss, these classes are a great way to level up for better communication outcomes. For those that have someone in their life who has a hearing loss, this class will help you too, giving you an understanding of the process. It teaches you how to set the stage for better communication, including how to become an advocate with your hearing loss partner. 

We all use lipreading to some degree.

We tend to forget how much visual information there is in communication; body language, facial expressions and gestures. Even hearing people will stare at mouths and faces more intently to find visual clues in noisy situations. We all recognize common words by the lip shape pattern (not the individual lip shapes so much). “Good morning” is a daily routine for many of us and something we can expect to see. We don’t have to hear “good morning” to recognize it. People with hearing loss navigate these simple routines like this on a daily basis. 

Lipreading Doesn’t Work on Bad “Hearing” Days
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Text: Lipreading doesn't work when we are too tired to put it all together.
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Text: @hearinglosslive.com

What if we had a bad night? Good lipreading depends on how tired we are. Lipreading has many working parts happening all at once. When we are tired, it’s harder to put two and two together. Brain power slows down. This is a good time to warn others, “This is going to be a bad hearing day.” Let them know your mind is mush and you need a quiet day, if possible.  

It also depends on if we are distracted. Does the other person have gum in their mouth? Are you following the blue piece of gum as it dances across their tongue and around their teeth? Yes, it’s that distracting. Noisy backgrounds can distract us from concentrating on lipreading/hearing/understanding. Is there a football game on TV while you’re chatting with someone else? That might pull away our attention too, especially if it’s our team. We can only do one thing at a time with hearing loss. Will it be football or listening/lipreading?

People Problems

Besides people chewing gum, lipreading varies person to person. Lipreading doesn’t work well if they don’t move their mouth. There are many mumblers out there! If they don’t move their mouth and articulate, it’s hard for us to find visible lip shapes and the pattern for common words. Some people might hold the corner of their mouth tight, like they have an imaginary cigarette there. Or a toothpick. Some people hold their hands over their mouth out of habit and others will bump the ends of their pens against their lips as they are thinking and talking. This makes it hard to lipread. (Hint: We can be proactive in our communication with them and ask them to lower their hands or their pen.)

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Text: Lipreading doesn't work with a mustache. Are there lips under that thing?
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Sorry guys, we know you love your mustache but it limits lipreading.

It’s also not our fault we can’t lipread when the person has a bushy mustache covering their upper lip and half their mouth. Lipreading includes tongue movement on and around the teeth. If all that is covered up by a lot of hair, bye-bye lipreading!

Another problem, people who minimize their facial expressions and body language. They are really hard to hear! If you don’t think so, ask another person with hearing loss for validation. Communication is visual and the less animated people are, the more we have to work. 

Lipreading Doesn’t Work When It’s Too Dark to Hear

Lighting makes a huge difference for lipreading/hearing. Some bars and restaurants like to dim the lighting to enhance the atmosphere. They think this is inviting but it can chase people with hearing loss off.  When it’s dark, there’s less visibility for facial microexpressions and lips/tongue/teeth placement. For better understanding, make sure the other person’s face is well lit.  

It’s Not Our Just ‘Our’ Hearing Loss

It takes two to communicate properly and it’s not always our fault we can’t ‘hear’. If the other person doesn’t do their part:

  • Move their hands
  • Spit out their gum
  • Articulate
  • Turn on the light

We can’t do our part. Our part involves a lot of focus with lipreading, watching body language and using our remaining hearing. Keep in mind, many people don’t know what they don’t know. We might have to educate others. (Do that in the nicest way possible.) Let them know what doesn’t work for you.

Do you want to double check what we are saying? Check out the WikiHow steps on lipreading HERE. Would you like to see Chelle & Julia in action? Watch this recorded video by the Peninsula HLAA Chapter in California. Chelle & Julia presented lipreading for them last November. 

Join one of our classes in April 2024. Two of our classes are also available in video format, if that suits your needs better. Here’s the LINK to learn more about our classes.

Learn More with Hearing Loss LIVE!

Here are a few other posts about lipreading: