We all lip read. If you wear glasses, take them off and find out how well you can hear without being able to lip read. Your ability to understand will be hampered by your inability to see. Even though I have way more hearing now because of my cochlear implant I still need to lip read to catch a lot of what is being said.
When I am introduced to someone, the polite little voice inside my head tells me to face the person to whom I am being introduced. But then I often miss hearing the name because I need to lip read the person who is doing the introductions.
So here is my dilemma – be polite or hear the name. What I generally do is a quick head swivel dance back and forth between the introducer and the person being introduced. It can make for some rather strange sights, made even stranger if there is more than one person to meet and I still may not get the name. And if I don’t get the name it can be awkward especially if I see the person again. If there is time I will say “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name”. Then as soon as I think it appropriate, I let the person know that I’m deaf and use lip reading to help me hear, so need to be face-to-face. It’s not perfect and I’d like to hear your ideas.
I am lucky that the people I am with most often understand that I need to see in order to hear. When I am in meetings around a rectangular table, it’s fine if I sit at the head or foot so I can see all the faces. Well, at least it’s fine most of the time. I remember attending a meeting with members of a community group, several of whom had not met me before. The chair of this meeting knew me and invited me to sit at the foot of the table, a space normally reserved for one of the regular members. I don’t need to tell you about the habit we humans have of always sitting in the same place at every meeting. This caused some ruffled feathers, even after I did my usual shtick and explained why I needed to see everyone. Those of us with hearing impairments need to have thick skins at times!
Sometimes when I tell people that I lip read, they immediately start speaking much more slowly. This happened to me yesterday at the hair salon. I had a new person washing my hair and I need to take off my hearing aid and external processor for my implant while my hair is wet. She knew I couldn’t hear but could lip read. She wanted to wish me a good weekend and said it v…e….r….y s…l…o…w…l…y. I wished her one back and we both smiled. It’s really okay to speak as you normally do and much easier for me.
One of the big challenges for lip readers is that words often look the same. If I can’t understand something you said, rather than repeat the word again, it helps if you use another word. I am doing some telephone work now with my cochlear implant and find the same thing, only with sounds. Not that the words sound the same but that I can’t understand the sound. Finding another word often helps. My sister and I were having a telephone conversation last week and she said something about the Smart Phone. I didn’t get it and likely would not have understood if we were speaking face-to-face either. She changed the word and said “intelligent”. “Ahh” I said, “Smart Phone!”