How Families Deal With Hearing Loss

by Chelle George-Wyatt

My family accommodates my hearing loss and I don’t acknowledge that enough because it’s my normal. So I want to say right now to my family, thank you for helping so much over the years. You are all wonderful people and I appreciate you. At work and in person, I hear from others how families deal with hearing loss  they don’t get accommodations from their family. It makes me feel sad and then I wonder what I’ve done to make it possible in my family.

For instance; My now 3 adult kids and I played Cards Against Humanity a week or so ago. (Cards Against Humanity is the adult version of the Apples to Apples card game we played when they were little. You can look it up on Amazon and read the reviews which are funny themselves.) Each person takes turns being the ‘card czar’ which means they read out loud a black card with one, two or three blanks and the rest of the players fill in the blanks with the cards in their hands. Each kid as card czar automatically handed me the card to read when they finished reading it out loud. I didn’t make that a rule. Maybe I asked to read the card myself enough times it became a habit???

Am I just lucky? After talking to my mom it’s not luck, it’s a combination of things. She refreshed my memory which triggered other memories.

Anger . . .

once helped get my point across. Years ago we were out camping one night, sitting around the fire. It was my family, my sister’s family and our parents. We had a big fire so faces were lit.  I probably only had a mild/moderate hearing loss back then, so I could follow conversation filling in the gaps most of the time.  Except sometimes I couldn’t. I asked for a repeat, and someone said the dreaded “Never mind.” My mom said I became really angry, and told everyone how unfair that was. I was trying to hear and that’s why I asked for a repeat. Don’t ignore me! My mom never said ‘never mind’ again.  I don’t remember the rest of the family saying those words much either.

Anger is not the recommended way to get accommodations. It is recommended that we be nice, when asking for help.  Most of the time I am. However, now and then, anger makes an impression. We can tell others how we feel, but sometimes we’re not taken seriously until we blow up. That’s what happened while we were camping, and it had a lasting affect.

Tears . . .

drove another point home. About ten years or so ago we had a family reunion in Colorado, which required a full day of driving. At some point I took my turn at the wheel, while my dad sat in the backseat directly behind me. He asked me to back off the car in front of me because a rope was flying loose on the trailer.  He was afraid the load might come loose. I didn’t hear him after a few times.  So to get my attention, he reached out and smacked the back of my head, yelling out what he’d been saying. I felt my face flush, and tried to keep the tears back.

Here I was 30- something years old, and getting smacked in the head for something that wasn’t my fault. My mom who was sitting in the front passenger seat yelled at my dad that I couldn’t hear and that he needed to speak up. I could not wait to get out of the car and get out of the drivers seat. When reminiscing about it, she said, “It wasn’t the best way to get your attention, but he was worried about an accident.”

Every since I was teenager I’ve had trouble hearing front to back or vice versa in the car. To top it off my dad doesn’t project his voice at all while he’s talking having learned as a kid, “kids are meant to be seen and not heard.” He grew up with that and still abides by it. As my hearing got worse, it was harder and harder to hear my dad anyway, never mind being in the car. I can’t remember him losing patience with my hearing since that incident.

Help . . .

from hearing people in my life made an impression on my kids. As typical kids, they tried getting away with things by staying just under my hearing threshhold. The older two kids tortured their little brother in the car making sure I couldn’t hear until he yelled thus making me yell at him. They loved pushing his buttons and knew how to do it quietly.

The other adult passengers would tell me what really happened so I started keeping an eye on the kids with the rear view mirror. Another time my sister was with me and one of my kids started talking smack about me and of course I didn’t hear. My sister turned around and laid into them all telling them I was their mother and they had better respect me. It happened another time with my mom in pretty much the same fashion. That’s when the kids learned that not all adults had hearing loss.

Education . . .

has been the biggest key to getting other people to understand my hearing loss; what I can and can’t hear and why I hear the way I do. For 15 years I didn’t understand my own high frequency hearing loss.  No doctor or audiologist took the time to explain it to me. All I knew was I couldn’t hear birds, bugs, children’s voices and some women.

About 7 years ago I ran across the book Missing Words .  It made a huge impact on me. Now I understood my hearing loss and why I could hear but not understand, and why words had missing holes.

After that, I could tell others how I heard and why. I shared the news with my family.  When they understood where I was coming from they were better about facing me when talking with more patience than before. I also went on a writing spree opening this blog to try to share with others what hearing loss is like. Maybe there were other hard of hearing people who had never been told either so I wanted them to understand their hearing loss too. We aren’t alone and we can keep on sharing with each other. I haven’t stopped learning.

Persistence . . .

plays another role (within reason). Hearing people have hearing habits so it takes some time to break those habits to replace them with new ones. Most of the time it takes gentle reminders but occasionally it takes hitting the roof over a pet peeve that happens repeatedly. I hate to say it but it can take years to get those close to you to adapt totally but when it happens, it’s worth it.

Over the years I ran across hearing people who never understood hearing loss and didn’t want to learn about it either. The doors in the mind slammed shut. One of those was an ex-husband of mine who liked to use my hearing loss against me like asking me about getting a golf membership from across the house and when I didn’t answer that meant it was okay! Why bang my head against a brick wall my entire life? We had other issues as well so it was time to move on.

There was a lady I worked with who acted like hearing loss was contagious and it pained her to talk to me within 25 feet. I worked around her as much as possible doing us both a favor. There was another co-worker who thought I could hear because I did so well one on one that she insisted I answer the phone which was pure torture for me (before CaptionCall phones were available). I wound up quitting that job because I couldn’t make her understand and trying to manage the phone was stressing me out. That’s 3 bad people I’ve encountered in about 20 years. I don’t dwell on them nor do I let them color my world. Most people are good people and want to help.

That’s what has worked for me. After some personal memory mining with the help of my mom, it wasn’t the smoothest ride but it wasn’t the roughest either. It helps that I have such an open minded family who are willing to help.

How’s your family life? What’s helped you?

Robert Kennedy quote
Getting accommodations from your family will cause a ripple effect.

Hearing Loss and Interdependence


I’m always reading and have at least two books going at the same time. Right now, one of those books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I’ve read it once already but started again last week because I could always use a little more ‘effective’ in my life. While reading it this time around, my mind applied his talk of interdependence to hearing loss.

Wikipedia defines interdependence as, “a relationship in which each member is mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a dependence relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. co-op). Some people advocate freedom or independence as the ultimate good; others do the same with devotion to one’s family, community or society. Interdependence can be a common ground between these aspirations.”

When I first lost my hearing, my ego went to work trying to maintain independence by faking my way through conversations or bluffing so I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone else to get through my day. Pretending to be hearing equaled being normal which equaled being independent. The idea was to be liberated, self-contained, self-reliant and self-ruling. I operated in this mode far too long missing some great connections, many conversations and agreeing to things I never would have if I heard it right. Other synonyms to independence are loner, nonconformist and contrarian. So what did I achieve through this method? Being independently lost.

Then I swung the other way. My then husband kicked me out of the closet telling me right up front I was hard of hearing. It wasn’t the end of the world and it felt better being honest. He helped me to hear making life a little easier by making difficult phone calls, translating the people I couldn’t understand. He made sure people looked at me when talking, he ordered for me in restaurants and encouraged me to accept my handicap. About this time, I also started looking to my kids, 10 years old and younger, to help me out in public. I didn’t depend on them solely but I used their ears as well.

After getting comfy with the routine, the husband and I wound up getting a divorce. It wasn’t a nice divorce and we had words. One of his parting shots at me was, “You’ll never find a job with your hearing loss!” There’s nothing to motivate me like a challenge, though he didn’t mean it that way. Less than a week later, I started working.

This is when I started taking all that I learned and using it. Instead of waiting for the issue to come up, I told people right away I couldn’t hear well, starting at that job interview. Once they hired me, I became braver about it all to get people to work with me, using interdependence even though I didn’t know I was doing it. (Most people are willing to help but every once in a while I run into someone who won’t. I try not to let them dominate my opinion of the majority.)

Captions keep me independent but captions fail sometimes. It’s okay to ask whoever I’m with what was said. Being dependent would be asking them to narrate the whole movie.

If I’m going to a banquet or workshop without the benefit of CART, I go early with my FM system and explain it the presenters who have never turned down using it. Both of us working together create a sort of win-win situation. Being dependent would be insisting my boyfriend narrate the entire evening.

Using the phone is not easy but my bluetooth device which connects my hearing aids to my phone keeps me independent. I still need cooperation from the person on the other end, getting them to slow down and repeat when necessary. Captioned telephone services also help me a great deal but that often requires an operator typing the call for me. I need captions, this gives him/her a job. We are helping each other out.

On the same Wikipedia web page mentioned above, I found this quote from Mahatma Gandhi; “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.”

Reading that blew my mind because he wasn’t referring to hearing loss but it does apply. We are social beings, though our hearing loss makes that aspect of life a little harder. We can get around it with the right coping strategies and frame of mind (not always easy to keep I admit). My ego used bluffing and faking it keeping me seemingly ‘independent’ but it also placed a barrier between me and others. Dependence put a wall of another kind around me. The middle ground of interdependence is the path of least resistance but it takes a while to recognize it. I’m still learning that path.

Oneness in the universe doesn’t mean we are all the same. We have our various burdens but we can help each other out with unique talents we have to offer and then begins the feeling of oneness. We all need a little help from friends, family and those we run across. I’m not embarrassed by hearing loss anymore. It’s a fact in my life and I get around fairly well in spite of it. Looking back and having a name for it now, interdependence made a difference in my life.

An Interview With Lip Reading Mom

lip reading mom with her book

The SayWhatClub conducted an interview with lip reading mom, Shanna Groves, author of two books on hearing loss. She was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child at 27 years old. In the years since, she and her husband added two more children who provide creative fodder for writing. Her books include Lip Reader and the just-released Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. The philosophy, “One person can make a difference; it takes many people to make the difference permanent,” inspired her blog,, which advocates for hearing loss awareness. Her pet projects are: The Lipreading Mom Captions Campaign, Show Me Your Ears, and Stop Hearing Loss Bullying. She speaks and teaches classes on hearing health, lip reading, and creative writing to people of all ages.

SWC: Can you give us a little background and how you became interested in writing?

My first foray into writing was in middle school when I joined the yearbook staff. One day while laying out a yearbook page, I learned that I had won the Outstanding English Student Award for my school. A gigantic trophy and tons of writing confidence followed. I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and developed quite a memory for people I had met and places seen. All those memories came in handy years later when I put a magazine editing career on hold to become an aspiring novelist. It was a good thing I knew how to write because it helped channel my feelings about living with progressive hearing loss into words for others to read.

SWC: What lead you to write Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom?

Biographies and memoirs are my favorite genre of books, and I wanted to write one for years. A writing instructor once asked what was so special about my life that it warranted a book. It took eight years for my life story to materialize into Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom. I had to live life, not just write about it, in order to have a story worth telling. My book is about living with hearing loss while taking care of children, living with depression, and trying to make sense out of a progressive health issue. Writing this book was my therapy. Each chapter invites the reader on roller-coaster experiences that may surprise, educate, and inspire them.


SWC: Tell us about getting your mind in a creative mode. How do you begin your writing process?

The library is my writing muse. I go there once a week to browse the shelves for new and old books, and I check out a stack of them to read almost simultaneously until one grabs my interest—then I read that one to completion. That is how I discovered Maya Angelou’s work and the life-changing power of her creative nonfiction and memoirs. I journal and blog about what I’ve read, and other writers’ stories inspire my own words to flow onto the page. My goal when writing a book is to park myself in front of the computer to write a minimum of 20 minutes a day, five days a week. I don’t edit what I write, nor do I read the previous day’s writing, until the entire book is complete.

SWC: Many writers utilize a writing group. Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback?

When writing my first book, Lip Reader, I posted each chapter to a private blog read by a small group of writers who offered feedback and helpful suggestions. For Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom, I worked with another writer, who helped me polish each chapter before submitting to the publisher. Mostly, I’ve found writing a book to be a solitary experience.

SWC: What is Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom about?

In 2001, I became a new mom to a healthy seven-pound boy. While on maternity leave, I noticed a persistent ringing sound inside my ears and went to a doctor. The diagnosis: progressive hearing loss in both ears; cause unknown. My book spans the first six years of my life as a hard of hearing mom. How could I take care of my babies if I couldn’t hear their cries from the other room? Would I become completely deaf and, if so, how would I communicate with my children? The doorbell’s chime, the phone ringing, and my toddler’s first words were silent to my ears.

After two years of denial, I began wearing hearing aids—but I didn’t like them at first. They magnified the sounds I didn’t want to hear—temper tantrums! Eventually, I learned to navigate the uncertain waters of hearing loss with my sanity and humor barely intact. I became an online hearing loss community advocate, known as Lipreading Mom. This wasn’t my lifelong plan in the beginning, but it is something I have come to embrace now. Besides being a wife and mom, I believe my purpose on earth is to tell this story.

SWC: What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

While writing, I had to make sure that the book didn’t take up too much of my time or concentration. My children and husband needed me. Oftentimes, I had to force myself away from the computer to do the afternoon school carpool or start dinner. I experienced guilt if I wasn’t writing and guilt when I wasn’t there for my family. As moms, I’ve learned we are tougher on ourselves than anyone—and I’m still working on this whole mom guilt thing.

SWC: Now that Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom is out in bookstores, do you have any projects you’re currently working on?

I am developing a series of lesson plans on lip reading for people with hearing loss. My goal is to combine the book and blog writing with creating meaningful teaching materials to help others with hearing loss. Eventually, I would like to also develop video lesson plans to teach lip reading online and by DVD.

SWC: When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

My older kids and I are antique and flea market store enthusiasts. We like to find treasures at bargain prices. My oldest boy and I have chatted about opening our own antique store booth some day, but that’s a far-off dream!

SWC: Where can readers find your book?

Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle, as well as at

SWC: Anything else you would like to add?

Three hearing loss awareness projects I am excited about are:


  • Show Me Your Ears: This is my online photo gallery of people who wear cochlear implants and hearing aids, children with hearing loss, and even a few animal ears! The goal is to make hearing loss awareness a fun and visual experience. To date, there are more than 200 ‘ears’ on display at


Lip reading Mom Captions Campaign:

  • I have partnered with the Collaboration for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC) to develop an email campaign to encourage networks and websites to caption 100-percent of their online videos so that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have full access to them. Visit the campaign page at


Stop Hearing Loss Bullying:

  • As a person with hearing loss, I have experienced teasing, name calling, and outright bullying—and I am not alone. In schools, communities, and the workplace, people with hearing loss may experience ridiculing and prejudice because of their hearing ability. This campaign has an online petition and is working on a series of videos to heighten awareness that people who can’t hear deserve respect and that hearing loss bullying is wrong. Learn more at



AUTHOR: Shanna Groves

BOOK TITLE: Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom