Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Stop staring at me !

A recent angry response when I was attempting to lip-read someone at a meeting.  I explained I wasn't trying to be rude, but trying to follow him by lip-reading, but he turned his back on me, end of conversation !

It got me thinking as to how we as lip-readers manage in situations that are never ideal, or even understanding what others feel about being the sole object of concentration by you, and, they don't even know you. By nature HI/HoH feel uncomfortable staring at others. An issue Deaf are not usually concerned about.  

They won't follow otherwise, it is an easy issue for them to understand.  Our confusion stem from the infinite varieties of hearing loss where we WILL hear some things, it matters not to what degree we actually do.  One word we hear in 20, or 10% of a whole conversation,  will convince many we are still 'in it and pitching'.  Either that or we run to the hills.

How deaf signers cope is by using interpreters who are accustomed to being watched closely all the time, and with peers for whom its a norm, they have had this since day one, so the pressure is not really on them, not even with total deaf strangers, as the communication is the thing, but we don't like it as ex or Hard of hearing people, we are still bound by that hearing etiquette still.  Deaf-Blind you have to touch others and allow them to touch you, that too can make others uncomfortable.    

I suppose it is the Brit way of things, we prefer the impersonal, 'keep your distance' approach, or not brought up 'touchy feely'.. Anyone attempting 'high fives' etc with me or 'bump fists' whatever, get short shrift,  I don't see the point of it, or you have a good day etc, what business is it of theirs ?  

I don't know who you are etc... it becomes meaningless by repetition, (And as we saw with that Canadian whom yer royal child wasn't impressed by, it's not done old boy... even Obama wasn't impressive enough to this lad... 

Obama's mistake was invading the child's 'space', and it is this very important thing that affects HoH interactions with others too.  Even now I get embarrassed if virtual strangers I meet for the first time attempt to cuddle me or kiss me on the cheek, hold on to my hand just that little bit too long etc, DON'T DO IT.   You may do this with your friends and relations but not assume I will like you doing it with me.  At  least until I know you well enough.

It's a proven fact, there is a time limit of milli-seconds on handshakes that suggest if a person is comfortable with you or not, or even HOW you shake a hand, that milli-second can decide if further contact is desired at all. What the mind perceives as acceptable or not, and is based on reflex honed by centuries as a defence mechanism.  One hand as a greeting, the other ready to respond with if necessary.

I suppose this generation is more used to seeing other people in other countries, for whom human contact isn't an alien but a very natural thing, Italians are very demonstrative e.g. and are emulating them as some extension of '90s' man, but still are not 'natural' in the way they do it, so it looks obligatory and a norm but NOT a genuine feeling response, the body tells you otherwise.  I believe these issues do affect how we establish effective communications for HI and HoH too.

It is the male who most likely recoils at such close scrutiny, and any metro-sexual man who can cry at the drop of a hat gets ridicule from peers not respect.  That 'stiff upper lip' can still prevail, and the male can still tend to see this as a weakness of character.  I would suggest men suffer more greatly with hearing loss than women do, because women would respond much easier to the emotion of loss and talk, and try to get it addressed, men would bluff it out in isolation.  They do tend to see too much talk about their loss problems, as identifying them as weak too.  I think only when you are a lot older do you accept the situation a lot better and admit you cannot follow, but that still might not mean getting it addressed properly.

The problem as I see it with lip-reading is it requires such concentration and skill, and that isn't met anywhere on the street via good speech or by ideal situations needed to make the most effective use of it.  But, what is an 'ideal' situation ?  it's in-house with people who understand you and will make allowances ?  That is narrowing your options not widening them. In that respect I haven't utilised lip-reading effectively at all because yer man or woman in the street is not going to accommodate me 90% of the time.  

Our kids don't mind being familiar with total strangers or partial acquaintances, but we do.  With the deaf there is an etiquette to follow, with HoH or deafened there isn't a clear one, as we aren't using a single means as a prime medium to follow, and social-cultural issues are different too.  On the street it isn't there anyway, so you fall back on what was the norm for you as a hearing person and your age and upbringing, but without that hearing as back up !

Would you ask a total stranger to stand in the correct light and speak clearly so you can follow them ? and, do you think they would comply ? We aren't taught the etiquette of 'first contact' are we ?  

We know as HoH or HI/Deafened, we would simply adopt an aversion tactic, and a different tack or avoid instead, if we are honest. How often have we blubbered out 'Sorry I have to go meet kids from school.. see a relative, have a bus to catch." whatever, as an excuse ?   We have the monopoly on viable excuses and can be very inventive, or we just leave the situation entirely.  Being labelled rude is quite acceptable to being totally stressed out.  However this can suggest to others it is not worth effort getting to know you.

In trying to emulate non-HoH cultural mirrors to the Deaf community, these fail because of language issues anyway, what is the real answer to embarrassment to communicate, that is ingrained in us, because its 'not how hearing do it...' ? Confidence ?  that demands you have a fail safe we don't have.