Lipreading Mom

I can’t remember when I first “happened” upon Shanna. I do know I “bumped into” her online through her blog when she was writing “Lip Reader: A Novel by Shanna Groves“. I was excited that a hard-of-hearing woman was writing a book that had characters that were late-deafened.

Since that time, Shanna has become very active in the Hearing Loss Association of America and has worked hard to bring captioning to theaters in her area and to raise awareness in her community. I encourage you to check out Shanna’s website HERE. An active blogger, Shanna writes from her heart.

Shanna can also be found on Facebook HERE, and Lipreading Mom has their own page HERE. Below is some information about Shanna! Enjoy!

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

I am Shanna Groves, but you can call me Lipreading Mom.

Ten years ago, give or take a few months, I had my first child. While cuddling, burping and kissing on my baby, my ears rang like crazy.

No problem, the doctor told me while I strained to hear him. You’re just going deaf. You need hearing aids.

That’s not exactly what he told me. The doctor used the term progressive hearing loss. Same thing as going deaf.

I walked out of that medical office with my head spinning. No way in heck I was going to wear hearing aids.

Me. 27 years old (at the time). Fresh off of maternity leave. A new job. My hair cut as short as singer Chynna Phillips from her Wilson Phillips’ days. Not a flattering haircut with behind-the-ear hearing aids that plugged into my visible ears like electrical cords.

My first confession as a lipreading mom:


Hearing aid wearing mom? Not me, no way. Back then, I’d rather have dyed my hair purple with pink polka dot highlights than worn chunky electronics in my ears.

I blew that doctor off.

Two years later, my son was old enough to talk. A lot. I had every reason to hide my ears from him. I couldn’t understand a word he said unless it was at piercing scream-level pitch. No more cooing and cuddling for us. It was Hard of Hearing Mom versus Screaming Child.

I went back to the doctor.

You still have those hearing aids, I asked him. ‘Cause I need them more than ever now.

That day, I finally accepted my hearing loss.

Now that I have three children ages 3, 7 and 10, communication depends on my acceptance. I must remind my kids to look at me so I can lipread them, speak up and repeat their words slowly.

I am a Lipreading Mom, not just Mom or a Lipreader. Both aspects must find a way to live together.

Come along on the ride with me.

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, there was a young woman from a small farming community in the mid-West. She was healthy and strong. She loved music, “listening” (but mostly TALKING), and books. She went away to college and met a Southern boy. She had so many dreams! She met a “circle of 8” culturally Deaf friends in college and was welcomed into their small sub-culture on this tiny college campus. She learned sign language.

To her sorrow, she couldn’t have children, so she made big plans to go right into graduate school and eventually be in a place where she could help people. She told her husband, “Someday? I want to adopt some Deaf children”. He knew she had a heart for this culture with hearing loss and also knew she longed to be a mother. He supported her dreams.

Don’t you love “Once Upon a Time…” beginnings? My favorite books begin by transporting the reader back in time. “Time” may be a real time period, oozing with history and descriptions of bygone days. The setting may be in a make-believe time and place. Somehow, it still manages to wrap my mind and heart around the characters and story, despite the make-believe.

When I think of my own “once upon a time…”, I have to smile at my naivety and immaturity. NOT that I continue to be gullible and naive at times – even immature!  However, I find that I am forced to hide my “knowing smile” when I hear my 21-year-old daughter “dream aloud”, or my 20-year-old son outline his “life’s blueprint” for me. Life has a way of taking a person down paths that are only visible through the benefit of hindsight. Our story unfolds one day at a time. Decisions are made – some irreversible. We learn to live with consequences – both good and bad ones. We may “roll with the punches” and work hard to be refined like gold. Unplanned detours have a way of changing our direction in life. Our goals may change in order to accommodate our changed lives.


At the current age of 45, I look back upon my own “once upon a time…” story. I am late-deafened and have a balance disorder. I “hear again” with bionics and navigate life with a service dog. I have two children. I’m a teacher. I am still married to my college sweetheart. It has been over ten years since I have been able to visit my hometown in that small farming community. I am “mostly” shunned by the Deaf community as I chose a different life path. I am integrated and immersed in a new community of people with hearing loss and other disabilities that I did not know even existed. I actually love technology and even my books are now in an electronic library. I don’t listen to music – but I do listen. Better than most, in fact…

Chances are I have many chapters left in my story. Regardless of the number of pages, my heart’s desire is that I may make a difference – in even just one life. Occasionally, I hear from disgruntled readers who are exasperated at my viewpoint. “You don’t know what I live. You can’t understand how few opportunities I have now”. I gently remind them that whether they are using JAWS or Dragon software or are dictating to another, they have reached across miles to touch base with me. They have shared their ideas, frustrations, and heartaches. Others respond at times in frustration that they lack the support I have around me and cannot build a foundation for happiness in their own lives. I share with them some things I am unable to share in this venue – the people who have abandoned me and have turned their backs on my family and I. I remind them that every obstacle helps me to peel back layers of who I really am to reveal strengths that are hidden when “everything is perfect”.

No. Our lives are not the same. Where is the fun in that?

Hearing Elmo is actively soliciting other writers to contribute their own stories. In other words… I’m begging. GRIN! I prefer that 50% of the posts sheltered here be from people other than Linda Denise Portis. You can have a different viewpoint! Won’t you consider sharing your own “Once Upon A Time…”? You may not consider yourself a “good writer”. I’m not… and that hasn’t stopped me sharing my own thoughts and stories. I ask because I’m astonished at what kinds of things make a difference to another. We cannot know what others are going through and whether or not their own invisible disability or chronic illness forces them to reach out for help. Some are “pointed” to Hearing Elmo by others. However, most chance upon this “once upon a time…” venue. Won’t you consider sharing your story? It can be serious or fun. You can relay facts or express dreams. If you or someone you love lives with disability, chronic illness, or mitigates personal obstacles/disabilities with a service dog… Hearing Elmo would love to be your sounding board. Are you a trainer or health professional? I hope you will consider writing!

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal