When I attended the Hearing Loss Association of America national convention two years ago, I thought I was the only Lipreading Mom in the world. Then I met Tina, a mom of three from Georgia. Like me, she developed a hearing loss after the birth of one of her children. Like me, she was afraid to come forward with her hearing loss for years. Living hundreds of miles apart, we found each other at this convention and realized we were not alone.
Minda moved in next door to me several years ago. I was a mom struggling with a newly diagnosed hearing loss. Minda was born with hearing loss and had fully embraced this part of herself. We connected because of our hearing aids. That was the first thing I said to her as she unloaded boxes from her moving van.
“You have them.” I pointed to the hearing aids behind her ears.
“Hi.” Minda walked over to get a better look at me. When I pulled back my hair, which I wore long to conceal my hearing aids, she added, “So do you!”
Minda attended the same convention with me where I met Tina. The three of us are close friends to this day.
After looking around, not only at the HLAA convention, but at the moms in my carpool line at school, I see a common thing. When people don’t know me at first, they have little idea that I am a Lipreading Mom. It could be because my hearing aids aren’t obvious and I don’t wear a sign that says, “I’m Hard of Hearing and Proud of It!”
By the second or third conversation, they begin to realize that I communicate a little differently. I tend to talk with my hands, using sign language here and there. I over-enunciate my words. When my head is turned and someone asks me a question, I either say “Huh?” or don’t respond. My kids talk loud when they are with me.
The more open I’ve become about my hearing loss, the more moms have come to me and shared, “You know, I don’t hear that well myself.” Moms like Jennifer and Abbie, two inspiring ladies I met at the HLAA convention…
Other moms either read my blog or I meet them at a school or community event. Just this week, I met two moms with hearing loss. Jill attended a parenting seminar I co-presented last week. She sat on the front row and watched my face intently as I spoke. After chatting with her, I learned that Jill, a mom of two, was being evaluated for cochlear implant surgery the next morning.
This afternoon at a local HLAA holiday luncheon, I visited with two fellow Lipreading Moms: Terri and Melany. Both wear cochlear implants and lead very active lives with their school-age children.
Lipreading Moms are everywhere. If I stop and take the time to show my hearing aids, tell my story, and listen to others share, I learn that the world of hard-of-hearing moms is a vast one.
We are not alone.