A couple of years ago I went to an excellent lip reading class. There is nothing quite like spending an hour or two every couple of weeks with a group of people who know EXACTLY what you mean about hearing loss to restore your sanity. As well as teaching lip reading the tutor, Susan, would lead various other discussions on hearing loss-related topics. One week we did an exercise that imagined going on a country walk and identifying all the things that affected our ability to understand the people we were walking with.
So imagine.….you are walking side by side along a wide track through a grassy field and chatting easily to someone – having a lovely time. Then…whoops….the path narrows and you have to walk in single file – lip reading over for a while. After a while, hurrah, back on the grassy track – no problems. Conversation resumes. A few hundred yards further on you have to pick your way carefully through a very muddy and churned up field, watching carefully where you put your feet. Uh-oh – no lip reading here.
The exercise went on, with the group getting excitedly carried away recalling all the things that hinder us chatting on a country walk – a very loud waterfall, getting near a busy road with a lot of traffic noise, walking on a crunchy gravel path, a strong wind gets up….. (you wouldn’t believe the noise that wind makes rushing over hearing aids – putting your hood up helps but then that hinders turning your head round to see someone’s face, and the hood can make your hearing aids whistle….oh well….). We had a lovely time sympathising with each other and laughing, but also remembering how difficult it must be for someone with good hearing to understand what on earth is going on with us – from chatty to silent to back again in moments for little apparent (to them) reason.
And that’s just on a country walk. We then got onto kitchens (noisy hard surfaces, kettles, dishwashers, extractor fans…….) as opposed to carpeted living rooms (much better for hearing in) and other scenarios too many to list.
No wonder there’s a catch phrase “she can hear when she wants to”. That’s what it must look like. But that’s not really what is going on.