Lip Reader

lip reader

Who is Shanna Groves?

Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss at the age of 27 after the birth of her first child. She has written about her hearing journey in Hearing Loss Magazine, The Kansas City Star, MOMSense, and the book A CUP OF COMFORT FOR NURSES(Adams Media). LIP READER is her second book and her first novel. A member of the Hearing Loss Association of America and the National Association of Memoir Writers, Shanna lives in the Midwest with her family. (from her blog at:

Shanna_Lip Reader6You know? I can’t remember when I “met” Shanna Groves. I do know that it was online, and if I know my habits as well as I think I do, it was likely in a hearing loss forum or message board for those with hearing loss. Shanna’s story plucked my heart’s strings, in part because I was 27-years-old and had just had my son when I began losing my hearing as well. I think the biggest reason Shanna’s story resonates with me, is that she is like so many young adults who were born with normal hearing and discover they are slipping into a silent world. Her articles, testimony and writing are superb, and I feel like I can easily identify with her when I read her thoughts.

Shanna has written her first novel, Lip Reader. I read the book in two days. It is not simply because the characters in the story have lively personalities. The way they talk and interact are so “real”, so much like “home” that you find yourself wrapped up in the story of this family in Oklahoma. The way that Shanna writes about hearing loss, makes it abundantly clear that she lives with it herself. Only someone who has experienced it firsthand, could write about the frustrations, humor, loneliness and love of those who live with hearing loss.

I recommend buying a copy for those in your life who may not understand what it means to live with hearing loss day in and day out. Shanna poignantly identifies in her characters what it means to live with hearing loss, or to love someone who does.

What is the book about?

When Rea Traylor flees with her children to see her estranged parents in 1980’s Oklahoma, surprises follow. It is up to Rea’s young daughter, Sapphie, to solve the mystery of her mother’s secret life.

Lip Reader features a colorful cast of characters-an unkempt uncle living in a school bus; a grandfather who preaches in a rundown church; a grandmother born deaf; an aunt fluent in sign language but lacking in social graces; and Sapphie, who finds courage and hope despite mother Rea’s unthinkable act of betrayal.

Lip Reader is now available through Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or Shanna’s website. I’ve listed the links below. This is a small investment in a BIG book.

Amazon: Click here

Barnes and Noble: Click here

Order through Shanna’s website: Click here

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Nightmare Trip


Trip home:  Chloe kept making sure Mom was ok…

Kyersten Portis often writes for Hearing Elmo. She has only known “Mom” (Denise) as a late-deafened adult. Hearing loss affects the entire family unit, and my disability has made it possible that all members of my family are incredibly “ABLE”.

The scene was already something from a horror movie. It was late at night on HWY 501, and we didn’t know where we were going.  The road was out in the middle of nowhere. The mountains loomed around us and the road showed little sign of life apart from a few abandoned looking buildings. Off in the darkness one could see the dark emptiness of a valley. The road was winding, narrow, and the top speed limit was 20 mph in most places.  Your mind could conjure up pictures of Ax Murderers wandering along the road to murder and terrify… and umm – AX people.

We didn’t run into any Ax Murderers. Still, it was quite a scary trip.

We were traveling to visit a college I’m interested in transferring too in Virginia. It was up in the mountains. As the road became increasingly curvy, Mom became increasingly car sick.

“Why are we here? I have a balance disorder! I feel sick! I hate you, Terry,” she moaned from the backseat where she sat with Chloe. Dad at first defended himself, but then meekly apologized as she continued to pipe up at rather random moments that she “hated him”. (He said later she said the same thing when she was giving birth to me, so he figured she was just in pain and didn’t mean it).

Poor Mom. I offered to switch seats with her as I was in the front, but she refused. She finally started crying. After a couple of minutes, her crying stopped. I was relieved and glad she was feeling braver. I glanced into the backseat…

“Oh my gosh! She passed out!” I gasped. Dad flinched but kept driving. What could we do? We couldn’t stop, no civilization was in sight. (Besides, the Ax Murderers are out there!) Mom came back to consciousness finally.

She moaned, and asked if we were there yet (to which we lied and said, “almost”).  She asked Dad to turn out the headlights. When he said he couldn’t, she told him she hated him, and asked for me to help her find her cochlear implant (which was actually attached to her head) and passed out again. This time she hit the window. I yelped for Dad to pull over. I crawled to the back to where she was at poked her gently. Chloe came up to bark at shadows (perhaps Ax Murderers) and it seemed to bring Mom back to consciousness.  She asked why Chloe was barking and then basically repeated what she had said the first time she passed out. So… I sat in the back and held Mom up as she passed out another few times. I tell you what… there is nothing quite as scary as seeing your mom pass in and out of consciousness. I held my hand up to feel her breathing in and out, worried about how still she was.

We finally made it to our hotel. And Mom? Mom didn’t recall any of the events and felt bad about telling her husband she hated him a 100 times.

I was definitely thanking God she was okay and amused more than anything. She felt dizzy the rest of the night. I listened worriedly at the bathroom door when she took a shower, waiting for a “thunk” if she passed out. But she seemed to sleep it off and felt better the next day and was good on the way home.(We took a different route, and it was DAYLIGHT!)

Actually, the whole car trip could be seen as life with someone with a disability. As life became twisted and dark, Mom felt isolated from the world. But even in her isolation, her family was there. She was isolated from civilization, but we were there in the space (aka, car) with her. She may not have wanted to accept our help, but we were there for her. We held her up, encouraged her, and traveled to the end of the road with her. With God’s help, we brought her out of the depression and darkness and into contentment. Dad didn’t let her push him away, even when she said she hated him. He tried to fix it and carry her to safety. Chloe, didn’t know was going on honestly, but barked at the shadows that crept upon Mom. She stood over her in the dark, worried and trying to help. Many times Chloe helps chase away any gloom that Mom feels just because of her unconditional doggie love. I helped support her, and Chris prayed from home after getting a hysterical text from ME. Mom endured. And we arrived at the end of the road, to peace. We knew there would be other trips and roads, but we enjoyed the oasis of peace and look forward with the knowledge we’ll be okay. God is always there with us. And we always have each other =)

Kyersten Portis

(10 days shy of 19-years-old)    kyersten-brown-0021

Denise Portis

©2009 Hearing Loss Journal

A Disability May Keep You From WANTING to Come… but I NEED YOU TO COME!

Kyersten (18-years-old) is a contributor to Hearing Elmo. She has only known her mother as a person with hearing loss. Recognizing, supporting, and loving a parent with hearing loss and balance problems, does not mean that sometimes it is acknowledged that the disability GETS IN THE WAY.


On October 25th, 2008, my Dad, Mom, and I woke up at “4 something” in the morning. The horror! The earli-ness! With bleary eyes and a lot of yawns, we stumbled to the car in order to drive about three hours to visit Waynesburg University.  Waynesburg is the first on my list of colleges to visit. I am currently trying to decide where to transfer, and my parents are supporting me in my quest for the Perfect Fit.


The trip was uneventful, but rainy and foggy. We were rather glad to finally arrive.

We arrived a bit later than we had hoped, so Dad dropped mom and I off and went to park. Mom and I stood patiently (okay… impatiently) urging Chloe to “hurry up” (go to the bathroom). It was very wet and she was stubborn, so we went inside.  We were greeted by a very sweet “student ambassador” and I was given a packet of information.

Mom and I then went to “hurry up” ourselves.  Next, we walked into the main room, with Dad, who had arrived rather “wet”. A lady gestured us toward some seats and we sat down, only to stand up ten minutes later (having missed most of the introduction remarks).

Mom went outside to encourage Chloe to “hurry up”, as she still had not yet gone. She went ahead of us, so Dad and I lost track of where she was. I told Dad to go look for her, and continued on with the group. I felt a little awkward being the only student in the tour group without parents, but, I told myself I was learning to be independent.

Dad texted me and soon found me with the group. He was by himself. Mom had stayed in the van with Chloe.

So, Dad and I continued on the tour. I got a text from my mom. Her texts always make me smile; they are full of the shortened words associated with someone wanting to get a message to someone in as little time as possible, “Do not worry about me. chloe and me r hangn at van. tell dad 2 stay with u. am dizzy nyway!” I didn’t know until later that she had cried for a good twenty minutes as she texted that.

Dad and I continued the tour, which was very interesting. I really loved the small, yet beautiful, friendly college. Despite the rain, you could see the beauty of the architecture of the buildings, as well as the small-town charm of the city surrounding it.

After the tour, my Dad and I walked quickly back to the van to fetch Mom. She was surprised to see us and a little hesitant, but she “dressed” Chloe in her vest and accompanied us as the rain had stopped. We went to find the classroom where our meeting with a psychology professor was being held.  (My chosen major is psychology). The building was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Mom wasn’t sure she could make it, and hesitated. A helpful woman saw us and showed us to another floor, from where we took the elevator down to the floor where our meeting was located. After that meeting, we made our way to the bookstore.

Mom and I had a small argument about colleges on our way to the bookstore. Frustrated, I went to search for a sweatshirt. Mom came into the store.

“Hey, want to help me find a good color?” I asked.

“I’m really dizzy, I am going to stand here,” she answered. I clenched my teeth and continued shopping. I felt selfish for being aggravated at mom for not coming to help me.

We then made our way to the cafeteria, everyone’s tempers now on edge. A woman stopped us as we tried to go into the cafeteria.

“Is that a seeing eye dog?” she asked suspiciously.

Mom looked surprised and offended, “I am not blind,” she said quickly. She then launched into her speech about what Chloe did and the law that allows Chloe to accompany Mom anywhere. Mom then offered to give the lady literature. The woman refused, saying she”just hadn’t seen something like Chloe before”.

We went to find a table. Dad went to go get his and mom’s food as it was a buffet-type of cafeteria.  Handling an assistance dog at a buffet is NOT easy business!

“Do you think I should give the lady literature about assistance dogs on our way out?” Mom asked.

“No, she said she didn’t want it,” I answered.

Mom and I are A LOT alike in many areas, but when it comes to conflict, we handle it differently. Admittedly, mine is probably a worse way to handle it. I withdraw and avoid conflict. Mom isn’t scared of it, and wanted to make sure the woman didn’t bother other assistance teams in the future.

She said as much.

“I just shouldn’t have come; I’m obviously not doing any good. I wish to God y’all had left me in the car,” Mom said.

I started crying.

Now ANYONE who knows me knows that… a) I am not a crier  b) I dislike crying, and c) I never, EVER cry in public.

The meal went downhill from there. I refused to eat, so Mom refused to eat. Dad had a concerned look on his face, but it didn’t stop him from eating his plate of food and Mom’s. Such a man.

I went to the car to get away from everything, Mom following behind, Dad finishing the meal and then coming after us.

We worked it out. That’s what a family does after all; you HAVE to live with each other, so HAVE to resolve issues.

Mom was upset because she felt like I was purposefully disagreeing with everything she said.

I was upset because I felt like she didn’t want to be involved anymore.

I know my mom has a disability, two actually, if you count her balance. I know that there are some things she can’t do. Dad and I mentioned a couple of times on the tour that it was good she didn’t come. With the slippery sidewalks, lots of stairs, and a tour guide he and I couldn’t even hear sometimes, she would not have enjoyed it. However, I want her to be as involved in my hunt for the Perfect Fit as much as she can. She’s my mom.

She and I are a lot alike. And she knows me better than anyone. Dad’s advice I greatly appreciate and value. However, he has more of a Type A, competitive personality, whereas I have a quieter personality. His idea of the Perfect Fit would probably not be the same as mine.

To me, this is one of the last things in my life that I will need my parent’s involvement. It’s a huge step into the world of adulthood and responsibility.

I don’t want Mom to let her disability keep her from being my Mom. I realize she may not be able to do everything or may have to have special accommodations to be able to do some things. But the extra work to allow her to come along is worth it, because she is my mom. I need her… just the way she is.

Kyersten Portis


Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

A Night in the Life of Our Family

Kyersten is a guest writer on Hearing Elmo and does a fantastic job (in THIS mom’s opinion) of relating what it is like being a CODA (child of deaf adult) or as she prefers it: KODA (Kid of deaf adult).  I think it’s important that readers “hear” the OTHER opinions and thoughts about how deafness affects a family.  Sometimes those thoughts are sad.  Sometimes those thoughts are angry.  And sometimes?  Sometimes it’s just really funny…

It was very impressive.

We watched as mom sailed over the gate. She flew gracefully in the air and landed rather ungracefully on the ground.

It’s not the fall that hurts, it’s the landing.

There was silence.

This is what she looked like:

Chloe, half asleep, sat up on the couch and peered down at Mom. This is what Chloe looked like:

(… well what she’d look like if she were a cat)

Mom said “ow”.

Chris stifled a laugh, quickly changing his face to the look of a concerned son.

I expressed casual worry, “You okay, Mom?”

Dad asked what happened, unfortunately having missed the dramatic gliding over the gate.

While worried about her, we were starting to get used to her lying on the floor, embarrassed and dazed.

Dad went to help her up. They looked for serious injuries. He helped her back to the couch.

And so we resumed our evening.

Kyersten is eighteen years old and lives with her dad, late-deafened mom, and 6’3″ “baby” brother in Maryland.  To leave out mention of the menagerie of animals living there as well would be… wise – as she wanted this short.

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Does Hearing Loss Change or Affect Your Personality?

Dr. Terry Portis a counseling psychologist with 20 years of experience as an educator, education and non-profit executive, speaker and writer. His interests include history, leadership, technology, disabilities, family and faith. His wife Denise has a profound hearing loss and has a cochlear implant. They have two teenage children and have lived in Maryland for six years. They moved to Maryland from North Carolina, and Terry is still a huge UNC basketball fan, even when they are having a bad year (which almost never happens). He is a co-writes for Hearing Elmo, but has his own blog as well.

Terry with our ancient Pom, Ebony at Harpers Ferry 10/19/08

Does Hearing Loss Affect or Change Your Personality?

There are many ways to describe personality and to use the study of personality to help us understand people’s tendencies when faced with opportunities and challenges. Each person is a unique individual, and we must be cautious not to put people into neat little boxes. However, understanding how people tend to operate in comfort zones will help us understand ourselves and the people around us. In fact, personality assessment and skills assessment are the two primary ways businesses and organizations are organizing work teams and project leaders. So, personality theory is again on the cutting edge of management and human resources.

One of the most basic and easy to understand models of personality identifies 4 major personality types. Almost everyone has a “primary” personality type, but most people are a “blend.” If a person has questions about their own personality type, a short survey of family and friends usually provides the needed information.

The Choleric personality is an extrovert, “the doer”, and optimistic. They feel like they must correct wrongs and injustices, and also have a compulsive need for change. Their strengths include: goal oriented, sees the whole picture, organizes well (in a big picture sense, not details), thrives on opposition, excels in emergencies, and focuses on productivity. Their potential problem areas: can be compulsive workers who can’t relax, has an inner need to be in control, may run over people to get the job done, frequently pressures other people who are not moving at a “full-steam ahead” pace, and sometimes look down on others who are not choleric or who have different leadership styles.

When hearing loss occurs, the Choleric will “attack” the problem and will go to get help right away. However, once fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, they may never interact with other hard of hearing people again. To them, the challenge has been addressed, and the various tasks of this “project” have been completed. Those who DO get involved with hearing loss issues, usually become major advocates and leaders. Hearing loss does not usually affect the choleric unless it negatively affects their job. This will damage their ego and self-esteem, and they may retreat and give up. For most Cholerics, their “job” and vocation is WHO they are. If hearing loss affects their ability to do their job, they can be extremely traumatized.

The Phlegmatic personality is an introvert, “the watcher”, and pessimistic. They want peace at any price. They love stability, and people have trouble finding something bad to say about them. Why? They hate conflict and rarely “cross swords” with anyone else! Their strengths are: competent and steady, peaceable and agreeable, mediates problems, avoids conflicts, good under pressure, and finds the easy way. Their potential problem areas: can be resistant to change, may have a problem with procrastination, do not like to communicate their feelings, often have difficulty making decisions, and may appear lazy or unmotivated.

When a Phlegmatic has a hearing loss, they may “bluff” for some time. “I don’t have a hearing loss”, they may say. When the hearing loss gets to where they cannot “bluff” any longer, then well-meaning family members or friends can finally talk them into going to get help. They may attend meetings and advocacy groups, but usually because family members with a different personality type want them too! To avoid conflict, they get involved in these groups to keep the peace. They will eventually be involved in many “behind the scenes” activities. They will more quickly recognize another phlegmatic with hearing difficulties. A phlegmatic without support during their hearing loss crisis, may be the most prone to isolate themselves. They may quit their jobs, church, social groups and LIFE.

The Sanguine personality is an extrovert, “the talker”, and optimistic. Their relationships are more important than any of the other personalities. Even at work, their co-workers are more important than the work itself. They are usually curious and expressive. Their strengths include: ready to volunteer, love to think up new activities, look great on the surface, creative and colorful, energetic and enthusiastic, can inspire others to join in, and they can be very charming. The potential problem areas: can talk too much, are sometimes good at starting things, but weak in finishing them, avoid negative situations even if they should work through it, can barge ahead without counting the costs, and are quick to give simplistic answers to every question.

When hearing loss occurs in a Sanguine personality, they will usually get help right away because they cannot communicate well with people. Communication and relationship are everything to them! They many times will be involved with hearing loss issues and groups because they love to interact. They can be negatively affected by hearing loss if it seems to hurt their relationships… divorce or loss of a partner who cannot accept the hearing loss, or children and/or parents who give negative feedback about their new communication “issues”. This can devastate a Sanguine and send them into depression, which rarely happens to this personality type.

The Melancholic personality is an introvert, “the thinker”, and pessimistic. They are content to stay in the background, love orderliness and organization, and are analytical. Their strengths are: detail conscious, schedule oriented, persistent and thorough, economical, likes charts, graphs and lists. Their potential problem areas are: can spend too much time planning, expect perfection from themselves and others, often have low self-esteem, can be gloomy, and may be prone to look for trouble.

When a Melancholic experiences hearing loss they are the most likely to be depressed and extremely emotional about it. If friends and family members can “rally” them out of their “blues”, they will usually seek help and then become very compassionate advocates for hearing loss issues. They also enjoy behind the scenes work and are great “listeners” to someone new to hearing loss.

Hearing loss does affect all personalities differently. Although equally traumatic, different personalities may adjust more quickly and readily to coping mechanisms and technology. Personalities do not change, but strengths that may not have been utilized before hearing loss may manifest themselves. Also, weaknesses that may not have been as apparent and more in control before hearing loss, may become real problem areas for the person after hearing loss. It was also noted that adjustments can be made, but then additional hearing loss might occur. Some personality types might simply adjust AGAIN, while others may have a much tougher time “rallying”.

Dr. Terry D. Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Are you too sensitive?

For curiosities sake, I went to my favorite hearing loss forums and discussion boards and counted the number of topics that had to do with “hurt feelings” and being “too sensitive”.  I knew the subject had come up in one form or another on every site I’ve been too, yet I was surprised to finally give up counting after 75 “finds”!

Just like people with “normal” hearing, people with hearing loss can be too sensitive.  This subject has been discussed a great deal in my household lately, and you’ll note my daughter recently posted on this topic.  What does being “sensitive” even mean?

According to one source, (as it pertains to feelings and people), it can mean:

Of a person, easily offended, upset or hurt.

This is different that being sensitive to the burdens, worries, and problems of others.  That type of sensitivity stems from an empathy that leads you to step in and make a difference.  (Something ALL of us should learn to do better!) When you have this kind of sensitivity, you are in high demand as a friend.  Your sensitivity is towards OTHERS, not self.

But people with hearing loss can be too sensitive to the comments made by others, or even facial expression and body language.  I know this because I AM a person with hearing loss, and I can BE this way sometimes!  In the beginning especially, I found it very hard not to react in a really defensive way towards others.  Through observing the examples of those who modeled genuine acceptance for who they are, I too, have learned to appreciate the good and bad of hearing loss.

How can you know if you are highly sensitive?

Psychologist Kyra Mesich asks the following questions:

Do you feel emotions often and deeply?

Are you keenly aware of other people’s feelings?

Are you easily hurt or upset by insults or unkind remarks?

Do you avoids conflicts and confrontations?

Can you not easily release sad or upset feelings?

Do you feel deeply for others’ suffering and pain?

Are you prone to recurrent depression?

Are you keenly aware of and affected by beauty (art, music, nature)?

Do you feel overwhelmed or depleted by too much stimuli (large crowds, loud noises, hectic environments)?

Were you sensitive as a child?

If you answer “yes” to some or many of these questions, chances are you are very sensitive.  You’ll note that some of things things are POSITIVE!  Some of these are considered to be a strength and add to your character.  Some types of sensitivity create problems, however.  This negative type of sensitivity can alienate the people who love you, and hurt your character.

I believe that many times an acquired disability creates new feelings of sensitivity that perhaps were not there before. Some people feel like their entire world has changed, and nothing is as it was! They become “hyper” sensitive as they re-learn how to interact with their world now that one of their major senses is missing.

What are some things that can help you become less sensitive? (When I say this I do not mean that we should become “hardened” towards the needs of others!  I mean that we become less defensive, and overreact “less”!)

I’d love to hear from some of you!  Feel free to email me your own ideas, or post a comment of some tips of your own! (Check/click “comments” as needed as some will likely post their own ideas in this section instead of emailing.  Emailed comments will be cut/pasted at the end in RED. )  Some things I have thought of…

1.  Learn to give the benefit of the doubt.

This is not easy to adopt, yet we really can change our way of thinking and learn to give the benefit of the doubt to others.  We should start with those close to us, and trust their hearts that they meant no harm in what they said.  Don’t try to tell me that you can’t ignore what your heart and “feeler” is experiencing!  Take it from someone who use to wear their feelings on their sleeves!  You really CAN change the way you think!  Deliberately choose to “believe the best”, time after time.  Eventually it will become a habit, and you will find that you assume the best in a natural way.  At first, however, you may have to consciously CHOOSE to think in a positive manner.  (Phil. 4:8)

2.  If unsure, immediately ask for clarification.

Especially in the beginning, you may need to do a lot of this!  After all, you are trying to break a bad habit of over-reacting to people’s comments or expression! If you are left puzzling (or “smarting”) over something someone said, hold up your hand and ask!  Something as simple as… “Whoa!  Wait a minute!  You ARE teasing, aren’t you?”  Don’t sit around stewing about it if you aren’t sure!

3.  Learn to notice the “silliness” too… and notice it FIRST!

What a revelation it was to me to learn that the tension in a situation could be easily diffused by being the first to notice how silly it was!  If I mishear something, I have learned to stop and parrot what I thought I heard.  Sometimes it is hysterical! I believe this helps others in two very important ways.

1) Others learn HOW you sometimes hear something.  It may cause them to choose their words more carefully in the future.

2) They learn that you are a “safe” person.  You can see the “funny” in life and look at things in a positive light.  If you are comfortable with your disability, chance are they will be too.

4.  Recognize that being “sensitive” is not a positive trait.

I’m always amazed when people brag like it’s a GOOD thing to be a really sensitive person!  Certainly if we are sensitive to the needs of others, we can really be used to make a difference!  But if your sensitivity is in how you respond to others, then it has become all about “SELF”.  We become so intent on how WE feel or were made to feel, we totally miss looking to others.  By realizing what a negative trait it is to be highly sensitive, we can better change a behavior we have developed or inherited.  If you don’t first see how this is hurting who you are and what you can be, it is unlikely you will be stimulated to change!  “Own” that you have a problem and need to change.

5.  Determine if the real issue is SELF-esteem.

It was very liberating for me to realize that one of the reasons I over-reacted to everything was my own poor self-esteem.  A phrase often used to describe me was that she “makes mountains out of mole-hills!”  (I still have my mole-moments!  Smile!)  It may be that you need to work on YOU, before you can get past being overly sensitive to others.  Find some good books or devotionals on self-esteem.  One CAN improve their self-esteem.  If we have a poor opinion of ourselves now that we are deaf, chances are we think everyone else feels the same way.

In the end, what helped me the most was that I wanted to be surprised when someone WAS deliberately trying to hurt me.  I had been living as though people meant something in a mean way, and was surprised to discover they did not.  I desperately wanted to change that around.  I wanted to live and respond in such a way that it was normal for people to mean well.  The only surprise I wanted to experience was when someone WAS intentionally trying to hurt me.  I’ve found that I’m rarely surprised.

Denise Portis

© Hearing Loss Journal

(From LB) I was once told “We only tease those we love”. After I became super sensitive about things, people quit teasing me. I looked around and noticed that there were very few people who loved me enough to trust me with good-natured teasing. That told me a lot. I vowed to change my ways!

(From TTU) Your quote about being a “safe” person reminded me of a great book entitled: “Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. People who are overly sensitive are not “safe”. I didn’t want to become one of those people after my hearing loss!

(From Vicki) I know that I am sensitive. I am learning in ways how to deal with it. This does not always have anything to do with my hearing loss. Some people tease me in a friendly way and at first I did not take it that way until one person pulled me aside and said that others were just trying to lighten the mood around me as I can be too serious at times. When I started commenting in a friendly teasing way back to them, they were pleased that I was coming around and included me in more things. I am now learning to listen to how the comments are said and who is saying it. This can make a difference into who is stating it. I am also learning to take things one day at a time. I am also learning to be more positive in the way I handle things as the more I do this, the more people has been responsive and truly trying to help me out. This is a step by step process and I was fortunate enough to have a friend who took the time to work with me. I still have a long ways to go.

Thanks for sharing this with us Denise and enlightening us with such a wonderful way of opening us up to how we need to learn to face all this.


I was told this week by someone I was close to that my teasing had been hurting their feelings. I was so surprised and felt very badly about it. It had never occurred to me, that I was being insensitive or mean. I was very hurt.

Part of it I think, is because of the families we grow up in. Maybe this person’s family didn’t tease often or in the same way that mine does.  In my family, we are always gently poking fun at each other and teasing. If it ever did hurt, we let the other know right away, and they wouldn’t do it again. But I don’t remember that ever being a problem.

The boys, Dad and Chris, are especially big on teasing and even good-natured name calling when in competition with each other. They love jeering and laughing…all in fun. For example “My grandma could do that better in her sleep!!!” All silly…all teasing…all in fun.

Mom is one of the best sports I know. She pokes fun at herself all the time…including her hearing loss and balance problems. She doesn’t cry or become embarrassed when she doesn’t hear something or stumbles because of her balance. She’ll laugh at herself, which makes us feel like we can laugh WITH her. I have always admired this about my mom. When she mishears something, (and sometimes she can be really OFF on what she hears), she is always the one to lead the laughing. She lets herself kindly and lovingly be teased. And I consider her a sensitive person…but not in a defensive way.

Everyone in my family has learned there is a time to tease. For instance, if mom is treated like she is a lesser person because of her hearing loss at some meeting or errand, we don’t laugh. We try to comfort and are righteously angry on her behalf. If I mess up in front of people while giving some sort of small speech, they won’t laugh. They will comfort and hug.

But we’ve all learned to laugh at the small mistakes and to tease each other. This situation with this person has taught me to be careful with who I tease or how I do it. (For example, teasing over instant messaging may not be the best, since there is no facial expression or voice). I can’t expect everyone to be like my family, and they know me better than anyone.  They know the way I tease and how I mean it. It has also made me appreciate my Mom, who can laugh at the things that happen with her hearing loss and balance, and in doing so, she creates an atmosphere of cheerfulness… not depression. She is amazing and I really admire her.

Kyersten Portis

Taken By Surprise!

Discovering a large dog CAN be a lap dog! My 18-year-old with Chloe

My daughter, Kyersten, has developed an interest in hiking. Perhaps it is because her boyfriend is a “super hiker”, and she is learning to enjoy some of the things he does. Irregardless, on Memorial Day she took advantage of the fact that she had “mom and dad” all to herself, and drug us to Harper’s Ferry.

Harper’s Ferry is one of our favorite family “hang outs” and it takes less than 30 minutes to get there from our house. Kyersten recently went on a hike with Mark and his mother, discovering a trail we’ve never taken before as a family. She was anxious to show us the view, and so we were “game” to let her drag us up there.

Taken by surprise #1: As females are wise and practical, Kyersten and I took turns going to the bathroom so that we could watch each other’s dogs. She had her show dog, Pegasus, along for the hike and although Chloe can go to public bathrooms with ME, Peg cannot go to public bathrooms with Kyersten. (Besides, he’s a BOY dog – smile) Peg attracts a lot of attention. He’s umm… UNUSUAL looking.

Left alone as hubby was parking the van, Chloe, Peg and I made ourselves comfortable at a picnic table.  It didn’t take long for a family to make a bee-line for me and started asking questions about Peg. (Chloe is quite use to this and normally rolls her eyes and lays down to wait while all the questions like “was he born that way?” are answered). The “mom” of the family was standing on my left, and pointed to my head and said, “Amy, come look at this!”

I was taken by surprise by the delight and attention that was now directed at ME. “Mom” explained that Amy was waiting to get her first hearing aid. She was born with a bi-lateral hearing loss and was waiting for the “pink swirly” ear mold to come in before going to her audiologist for her last fitting. Amy looked to be about 6 or 7 years old. They were very interested in my cochlear implant and “bling”, and I also showed her my orange/red ear mold on the hearing aid in my right ear. Amy seemed excited about the prospect of putting “bling” on her own hearing aid when she began wearing it.

I get a lot of “looks” in public, but rarely have the opportunity to discuss hearing loss as much as I did with Amy and her family. When they walked away, the mother mouthed, “thank you“. I was under the impression Amy hadn’t met a lot of people with hearing loss. I was glad to be an impromptu role model.

Taken by surprise #2:

Finally ready for the hike, my daughter led us across the road and up the path to the railroad bridge. It’s a good thing my 17-year-old son, Chris was NOT along. He has “acrophobia” and would have never made it across! Chloe was not in vest as it was a hot day, and our goal was the top of a mountain! She stayed in a proper heel all the way across the bridge. When we got to the other side, we were to take a metal, spiral-staircase down to the path next to the Potomac River. I stepped down and made it down 3 steps and realized something with sudden clarity. Chloe wasn’t moving and I was on the verge of losing my balance. I think I may have screeched! Terry took my bag for me, and I turned to look at Chloe while holding the staircase railing with a “death grip”.

She was quivering from head to tail, and although she made it to the 2nd stair, her toes were curled around the rungs on the iron steps and her eyes were as wide as saucers. She was scared “drool-less”. (Chloe, being a hound does not have “spit”, she has “drool”… one kiss from her and you’ll agree fairly quickly!)

Hubby said, “Uh… Denise! I don’t think we are going to be able to do this!”

Kyersten and I both swung our heads to look at him with consternation… “Honey! A working dog doesn’t “not” do something new just because they are scared! I can do this! SHE can do this!”

I began talking to Chloe non-stop and used her name over and over again. Kyersten told me later that people coming UP the stairs were murmuring, “Poor Chloe!” “You can do it, Chloe!”, etc. Slowly but surely, Chloe came down the stairs. I’m sure seeing the ground underneath her from THAT high up, totally rattled her. But with shaking paw after shaking paw, she made it all the way to the bottom. We all praised her like crazy, and her tail gave one or two VERY small wags! Peg, who was CARRIED DOWN, looked at her like “what did she do to deserve so much praise?”

All of us needed a “breather” after that scare, and I had to admit to my family that I was totally taken by surprise that those stairs scared her. I’m so accustomed to her being in public with confidence and just being happy to be by my side, I was not ready for her to be frightened by something! I learned a valuable lesson… new things should be approached with caution.

Taken by surprise #3: My third surprise was that my daughter’s idea of a flat, wide path with compact mulch through a shady forest, is REALLY a 6.3 mile hike that is labeled by the park service as “difficult”. She did get the “shady” forest part right. She was also right about the view at least!

Chloe? Well today, she seems to have recovered…

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

I Left the Assistance Dog in the Van

My family and I went to Harper’s Ferry Saturday afternoon. It’s one of our favorite hangouts. I was having a really good “balance day” too as we had clear blue skies. I felt SO good, we even hiked up to Jefferson Rock.

I left my assistance dog in the van though. I decided that “today… Chloe gets to be a dog!” She had a great time, and I brought her longer leash so that she could “just be a dog” if she wanted. I was kinda of tickled that she refused to go very far from me, and was plastered to my side on the steep stairs. I can’t explain to her that I’m “having a good day”.


The great thing about having a canine partner, is that sometimes they are “just a dog”. I love dogs… so that’s a good thing. She works really hard, so she deserved the “day off”!

Denise Portis

Deaf/Blind for a Day?

usakeller2.jpg Helen Keller with President Dwight D. Eisenhower

A friend of mine named Bob MacPherson (owner and moderator bhNews, a listserve to which I belong) posted the following article: Helen Keller

I have no idea where he found this, but he’s always been incredibly gifted at digging up interesting tidbits that no one else seems to know about. Even people without disabilities or physical challenges appreciate Helen Keller and her life. I remember reading books about Ms. Keller when I was in grade school back in the 70’s.

In the last couple of weeks, one of my classes was “Deaf for a Day“. Due to a few very negative reactions from students and their families, as well the counter reactions from my family and online friends who were looking forward to the assignment’s conclusion, I decided to not discuss the assignment in class this year. I chose to have them write about it instead, and I really look forward to reading what they “learned”. (Hey! I’m wise enough to note my own emotional limitations by which to handle topics that are painful for me!)

I suppose since this is still on my mind a great deal due to everything that happened, Bob’s article on Helen Keller got me to thinkin’…

“Hey! I should remove my cochlear implant and hearing aid… wear a blindfold… and be Deaf/Blind for the day! After all I have several very dear friends who have this combination of challenges!”

Well my husband put a quick stop to this idea. He has numerous emergency room bills from falls I take when I have full use of my sight. He wasn’t about to allow me to take away yet another sense. stick-in-mud.jpg(He can be a real stick in the mud! Kidding) It didn’t seem to matter that it’s been a full 6 months since I’ve been to the ER for an accident due to my poor balance!

I did find myself longing to experience a deaf/blind day as two of my dear friends live this every day. (I posted about them recently here). It is my opinion that the best way to understand how another lives, is to “walk in their shoes”.

As I often do, I digress. Wasn’t it incredible that being deaf AND blind, Helen Keller still learned to speak so well that her enunciation was perfect? Not even someone talking with her on the telephone could tell she was deaf/blind by listening to her voice! Helen Keller learned to SING? It’s an incredible skill and testimony of hours of practice and work to speak well when deaf/blind. But to sing as well? (Honestly, my jaw dropped open when I read this!) I am only “late-deafened”, and was a member of different choirs in high school and college. Think you’ll ever hear me sing now? Think again. When I sing I use my hands now, not daring to trust that I may possibly actually sing in tune with my voice. I do sing around the house sometimes, but it’s usually when I’m hooked up to my Sennheiser TR 820 listening to iTunes. I’m fairly confident that I’m not singing in tune, judging by the winces from my family and Chloe!

Helen Keller is a great example… I suppose in many ways a hero to me. She is the author of several books. I think it’s time I re-read them.

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary