Lipreading Mom Wants to Stop Hearing Loss Bullying

An Interview with Shanna Groves

An excerpt from the Stop Hearing Loss Bullying campaign video by Shanna Groves.
Shanna Groves, also known as Lipreading Mom, is at the forefront of a national campaign to stop hearing loss bullying. First diagnosed with hearing loss at age 27, she now wears hearing aids in both ears for a profound high-frequency loss. In early 2013, she interviewed 12 people across the United States about their experiences suffering from bullying as a result of hearing loss. The result of this partnership is the Stop Hearing Loss Bullying video—an exclusive excerpt is shown above.

Shanna joined me to talk about the progress she has realized with the Stop Hearing Loss Bullying campaign, as well as the inspiring combination of choral music and signing in her life.

You mentioned that music has always been a big part of your life.

I can’t imagine not having music in my life. In high school and college, when my hearing was normal, I participated in musicals in both the orchestra on clarinet and in the chorus. These days, I prefer to sing with a group so that my voice blends with the other voices. The only time I sing solo is with my kids when we are playing games or just hanging around the house. Mostly, I stick to tunes with more of an alto (not soprano) range. As an adult with hearing loss, music inspires me even when I can’t hear the lyrics or melody clearly. At church, I sing and use sign language with the worship songs every week.

Tell me more about the signing at church. That sounds neat.

While singing and signing at church, I must be close to the stage and speakers so that I can lipread the other singers and feel the music vibration and tempo. When on stage, I perform with another signer. I stand at an angle so I can see her moving hands out of the corner of my eye. This helps me know I am matching her movements and the music’s tempo. In 2012, she and I performed songs in sign language in front of 1,000 people at a worship gathering called What If the Church?, which featured nationally known evangelist Dr. Tony Evans.

Shanna_Groves_Lipreading_Mom
How wonderful! Congratulations.

Thank you.

And you also teach lipreading classes?

Yes. I teach lipreading/speech-reading each week to people all over the Kansas City metro, most recently at the Deaf Cultural Center in Olathe, Kansas. In one class, students shared the lyrics to their favorite songs, and we practiced lipreading them. I also offer online lipreading/speech-reading classes to anyone in the U.S. via Skype.

I rely on speech-reading quite often, so I imagine those classes are very helpful. Let’s talk about Stop Hearing Loss Bullying. What kind of reaction have you gotten to the video?

I’m happy to say the campaign has gathered international support, including from Phonak, Deaf Insight, Deaf in Prison, and Miss Jr. Teen Oklahoma Paige Fredericks, who has adopted anti-bullying as part of her platform. Bullying is a problem that affects people of all ages—children, teens, adults. People with hearing loss or who are deaf also have been exposed to bullying in schools, the workplace, and in communities.

I remember in junior high school, a girl asked me not to eat with her group of friends any more because I couldn’t hear secrets. I was devastated. It seems as though you have found that everyone with hearing loss has their own experience of bullying.

It’s true. When people come together with a common cause and passion, word will spread. Stop Hearing Loss Bullying has helped me stop and think about what I say to others and to strive for kindness in my actions and words.

What are your next steps?

Plans are being discussed to promote Stop Hearing Loss Bullying in mainstream schools and schools for the Deaf. I also hope the campaign will inspire parents to talk to their children at home about being respectful and kind to others, regardless of their hearing ability. It takes courage to stand for what is right, and I have encountered many courageous people through the campaign. My philosophy: “It takes one person to make a difference. It takes many others to make that difference permanent.”

To help stop hearing loss bullying, join Shanna Groves in the campaign at LipreadingMom.com.

Shanna Groves is the author of the memoir, Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom, and the novel, Lip Reader. She also blogs about her adventurous life as a mom with hearing loss raising three spunky children at LipreadingMom.com. Shanna Groves’s business, Lipreading Mom Communications, is located in the Kansas City area. For more information on her lipreading/speech-reading classes, contact her at www.ShannaGroves.com.

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