Posted by: sueread67 | November 19, 2010

Hearing for Leisure?

I just feel so compelled to write about this subject – I mean why on earth should anyone want to hear simply for leisure.

The idea of wanting to hear for leisure is quite simply ludicrous.  Lipreading is an essential skill for many hard of hearing and deaf people but lipreading classes are classified as ‘leisure learning’.  However the UK Skills Minister, John Hayes, has pledged to consider reclassifying lipreading as an essential skill.

In Suffolk we are privileged to have free lipreading classes for up to three years, I am a second year student.  The reason for my attendance is due to my hearing loss – moderate loss across the range in my left ear, moderate low frequency and severe to profound high frequency loss in my right ear.  The severity of my high frequency loss makes it very difficult to hear speech – as for television, radio and other amplified sounds, well that is a no-no for me.  If there is any background noise then it is virtually impossible for me to hear the speech of someone in front of me, this is where my lipreading skills are essential.  Some people’s speech is so mumbled in my ears that I need to lipread them even in a quiet environment.

So how easy is it to lipread?

Only 30% of the English language is lipreadable, so it takes a minimum of 1 year to learn lipreading – some people still struggle after 3 years of classes.  Imagine the despair of some people in England in having to find £300/year to pay for this essential skill.

The classes in Suffolk are brilliant and I feel privileged to have a wonderful teacher.  She is hard of hearing herself and therefore understands how we feel.  The lessons mostly consist of being taught to lipread but there is much more to the course than that.  We are taught deaf awareness – tips on how to make it easier for us to listen and also tips for hearing people on how to communicate with us.  Some of these tips are in my previous blog ‘Hearing Frustration’.  We are also taught about assistive equipment, how the ear works, tinnitus and many other things too.  My particular class has a lovely bunch of people in it and we had some lovely people last year who, unfortunately, have come to the end of their 3 years’ quota.  However, we meet once a month in town for coffee and to give each other moral support.

Over the last 4 months I have had the additional problem of recurring ear infections meaning that I cannot use my hearing aids.  This has made life VERY DIFFICULT for me and I now rely even more on lipreading.  I have found it extremely tiring when I am out and need to lipread for any length of time, especially when I have an earache too.  Lipreading takes an enormous amount of concentration – can you imagine having to focus on someone’s mouth for any length of time?  I would most definitely consider lipreading to be an essential skill in order that I may hear people.

I now return to the beginning – do you hear for leisure?  Do you think lipreading classes should be classified as ‘leisure learning’?  To put it simply – if I had to pay£300/year for lipreading classes then I quite simply would not be able to hear conversation, the lady at the checkout, the man in the post office, the Minister on Sunday mornings, my husband or son, etc etc.

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