Friday, May 3, 2013

CAN. YOU. READ. MY. LIPS?

When I am in off and about in my personal life, I do not have an interpreter by my side. This is the real life. Securing an interpreter is often for appointments, and certain entertainment events such as plays, and shows. Once in every great while, I am without an interpreter for those situations, and it sucks. Fortunately, I have years of experience, and am able to adapt to the situation pretty quickly. 

This post is mainly about me going off and around in my personal life where it does not require me to have an interpreter with me, and also this may give you an insight how, and why it is difficult not to have an interpreter with me for medical appointments, and entertainment events.

The minute I gesture to a hearing person, Deaf I am, I get this response about 95% of the time, and it is:

Can. You. Read. My. Lips? 



I smile, and shake my head No. The hearing person goes Oh.......and waits for me to come up with a solution for this damning communication barrier that has appeared between us. I pull out a little notebook with a pen, and start writing. The most ironic part? It has never occurred to the hearing person that I just read his/her lips. Is not this a teeny bit funny? 


No. Really. It is easier to say no instead of nodding my head yes, and try to fake that I understand everything for the entire conversation. It saves us both embarrassment when I say no. I am able to read lips more effectively when it is someone I am very familiar with. Even with someone I have known for so long, I still find that I can't understand the entire conversation with relying JUST on lip-reading. It is so impossible. Let me show you why.


As you can see in the picture up above: SH, CH, J are all shaped the same then oh, P, B, M are shaped the same too.....and there you go, F and V are shaped the same. 

Throw in someone with bigger-shaped lips, thin-shaped lips, facial hair especially mustaches covering the upper lip, piercing sticking out in the bottom of the lip, old wrinkled mouth, snaggly and crooked teeth, bright lipstick, too much spit shooting everywhere, lisping, mumbling, slurring, singing, exaggerating lip shapes, and speaking too fast or too slow. As much as I love kids, I can't understand them! Old people? Forget it. Or it is a new information, heavy loaded information, big words especially medical terms, or sentences blending in together without any pauses in the between. Not speaking English. Yeah, I've had someone who tried to speak Spanish to me after he realized that I am Deaf. How does speaking Spanish helps me to understand what he is saying especially after I can't understand him in English? Oh god. It is enough to just have my eye balls fall out from sheer exhaustion. 

If it is someone I've known for years, then I find it easier to read lips. My aunt Rosalie, for some reason, is so easy to understand. I'm used to her mannerism, method of speaking, and choice of words. I almost can see what is coming half of the time. This goes to people I know well. Regardless, I still can't rely on lip-reading as a sole method to keep up with a conversation, and I must have either paper with a pen or signing. 

OR, the context that will be said is something I'm very familiar with. For example, when I go into restaurant; I can expect the waiter/waitress to ask how I am doing, what I would like to order, what kind of drink I want, and specials that are being served that day. I can recognize greetings, simple sentences, and general questions. It is from years, and years, and years of exposure, and repetition. 



My emotions influence how effective I am at picking up words from the lips. I find that the more confident I feel about coming into a new place, I am able to grasp conversations quicker compared to when I am feeling less confident. When I come to a new place with people I don't know very well, I tend to be more nervous, and the less likely I am going to be able to process what I am seeing. When there is a large crowd, I don't even bother trying to lip-read because first of all, it is a sensory overload to see so many lips moving at one time, bodies moving around especially people who gesture wildly, and secondly, to keep up with a conversation is hard in a group setting. This is why I often prefer only a few people at one time. 

Environment plays a big role. If the room is dark then forget it. Don't expect me to respond! A side note: this is why many Deaf people flock to the kitchen! There's better lights in the kitchen, and everybody can see everybody. When you go to a house party with Deaf people, then you can guarantee that most of them will be milling in and out of the kitchen! Back to the point, if I am outside, and the wind is whipping my hair around my face then don't expect me to strain at your lips to understand what you are talking about. Oh, don't attempt to talk to me while I am driving. It is beyond me that some people expect me to have one eye on the road, and other eye on their lip. Unless if you want me to crash us into a tree, then go ahead and have me attempt this. 

I. CAN'T. READ. YOUR. LIPS even if I do catch some things you say. Do not assume that Deaf people are masters of reading lips. We are not even though some of us are better at this than others. It is not a bulletproof method of communication. We are better off pulling out a piece of a paper and pen if the situation calls for it.

On a side note, I really want to share this awesome picture that fits PERFECTLY from my last Deaf Thing post.