Unexpected benefits of wearing a badge

Gladys Russell
Copyright 2002

The task of getting people to face me when they speak has been a challenge I have dealt with all of my hearing impaired life. Most of my “comprehension” (I don’t even call it hearing any more) comes from lip-reading, and in order for this to work the person I am talking to cannot be looking away, turning their back, etc. This isn’t difficult to accomplish with people I am around all the time. It is, however, an awkward, time-consuming process to impart this request to every person I meet and speak to for a few minutes. People react to my request in very different ways. Some people accept it graciously, and carefully face me as we speak. Others become defensive or walk away as soon as possible, unwilling to extend the extra effort to face me when they speak.

On a whim yesterday, I pinned to my blouse the round badge I had received a few days before at a trade booth at the Self Help for Hard of Hearing convention in Seattle. It simply stated “Please face me I lip read”. The first test of the badge was at a Red Robin restaurant. The hostess and I exchanged a few pleasantries, then her eyes lit on my badge. She said, “You must be kidding—aren’t you”?. Like many other people, she was astounded that a person with a severe hearing loss could speak clearly. We went on to talk quite a while about lip-reading and hearing loss. It was a very positive conversation, during which she carefully faced me so I could read her lips.

Trial two came at the Humane Society, usually a place of near-bedlam with people coming and going, many conversations going on at once, and multiple office machines running. The result of this much background noise reduces my hearing aids to little more than ear plugs, and lip reading is my only hope for communication. I was there for a serious discussion of the particulars of a dog attack on my Churro sheep that had resulted in over $2,000 in damages, and was on its way to court.

The supervisor I had asked to see came out of the back to talk to me, and as we were shaking hands, I saw his eyes land on my lip reading badge. He ushered me into the back, rather than having me sit down with him at an open desk in the front, and located an office with walls. All the time I was talking to him he faced me. When we were walking out, he was very careful to walk beside me as he talked, not in front or in back of me. What was significant to me in this exchange was the fact that at no time was it necessary for me to go into my spiel about my hearing loss, facing me when he spoke, or the necessity of lip reading in our conversation. The little badge had done all of that for me.

I do believe I will continue to wear that little badge!


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