So, being the technological fiend that I am, I was hanging out on twitter yesterday before the fourth of July festivities. I was just casually scrolling down my newsfeed, looking at all the fabulous things my friends and the famous people I follow are doing. Then I came across one quote I found interesting. It said: “When other people yawn, do deaf people think they are screaming?”
Good question, but no. And here’s why.
Hearing is one of the senses. When one of the five senses for survival (hearing, smell, touch, taste, and visual) is diminished, the other senses’ abilities get elevated. So even though I am hearing impaired, I can smell a fire many blocks away, I have perfect 20/20 vision in a family with less than perfect vision, and I have super sensitive taste buds and touch.
So in this case of yawning, my eyes would register that the person is opening their mouth in a scream like shape, but I don’t panic because I also register the person’s body language. When a person yawns, their body language is relaxed and tired. If they were screaming, their posture would be tense and rigid, and perhaps their mouth wouldn’t be open as much.
So basically, just because we deaf people can’t hear a person yawning or screaming, or even talking actually, doesn’t mean we can’t communicate! There are so many other bodily cues that we can use to help us get a handle on the world around us. Have you ever heard of “lip-reading”? Many hard of hearing patients are able to do this. Lip reading is pretty simple, at least for me anyway. I just watch the way a person’s mouth moves and I can figure out what he or she is trying to say! Part of it is auditory memory—I have to remember the certain sounds that come out of the mouth when it is put in a certain position, but the other part of it is just using my eyes to my advantage. Call it a survival mechanism if you will!
This is how I communicate with my family every night before I go to bed (because I take out my hearing devices and put them in a machine so they can get cleaned every night). Lip reading also comes in handy if I am in the pool without my hearing devices and want to communicate with friends. It is actually pretty funny—some people over-enunciate their words because they think I will be able to see the words more clearly, but don’t be fooled! Lip reading is most successful if you continue to talk naturally. But don’t even get my started on braces and accents….
Lip reading definitely isn’t the answer to deafness and hearing impairments, but it is one of the modes of communication that prevents us from being helpless when our hearing devices aren’t around to help us!