Living with profound hearing loss is an enormous challenge, but it is one Shanna Groves has learned to confront and tackle with admirable strength and courage ever since she was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss at 27.
Her soon-to-be-released novel, Lip Reader, will undoubtedly inspire and encourage an estimated 31 million Americans of all ages who struggle with various degrees of hearing loss, and will debunk many popular myths about this impairment.
“One of the myths I’ve found with hearing loss is that it’s only common among the elderly,” Groves, a Kansas City-based writer and a mom of three tells Healthy Hearing. “But hearing loss affects all ages, and Lip Reader offers a multi-generational look at hearing loss and deafness. The grandmother is deaf, the grandpa is hard of hearing; three young characters have inherited hearing loss.”
|Author, Shanna Groves|
Groves adds that the novel “not only paints a picture of how one family is impacted by hearing loss, but it offers a ray of hope—that losing one’s hearing isn’t a tragedy, but can, in fact, teach important life values. Compassion and humility are just two of the things I have learned from my own experience.”
Although Lip Reader is a work of fiction, it is inspired by Groves’ own life, as well as by her family members who had a history of hearing loss.
“This is a story that not only tells about their experiences with being hard of hearing in a hearing world, but also some of the reactions that other people have had with their deafness,” she says.
Groves’ own “hearing journey” - as she calls her progressive hearing loss - started when she was pregnant with her first child eight years ago, and has gotten worse over time. Today, she has high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, as well as tinnitus.
“There was a lot of grieving involved—the initial fear of not being able to hear well, followed by the anger of not being able to control the loss,” she recalls. “I also struggled with depression. For a while, I isolated myself from the friends and social connections.”
Eventually, through her faith and encouragement of friends, Groves made an important discovery: that life goes on, even with hearing loss.
Before accepting her impairment and learning to live a full and happy life, Groves had another hurdle to overcome – accepting that she needed help. “I was in denial and instead of getting hearing aids, like the audiologist recommended, I decided to ‘grin and bear it,’” she says, adding that two years went by before she finally bought hearing aids, and it took even longer to let other people see her behind-the-ear devices.
Hearing loss taught Groves to be sensitive and tolerant of others living with impairments. She recalls that before being diagnosed in 2001, she had little patience for people with special needs, including members of her own family who had profound hearing loss.
“I became annoyed when they couldn’t understand what I was saying to them. I didn’t understand that if my back was turned to them, they couldn’t read my lips,” she says. “I think that now, if my grandfather were still alive, I would make more time for conversations with him and would be more patient with repeating things to him. Through hearing loss, I have learned the value of patience. I hope to teach this value to my three young children.”
She also urges people not to be afraid to tell others they have a hearing loss. “Ask people to accommodate you—to face you when they speak, pick a quiet room in which to converse, or urge them to e-mail or text message you if traditional phones don’t work well,” she says.
Words of encouragement
Groves is hoping that Lip Reader – as well as her own story of living with hearing loss - will inspire and encourage others to look for helpful resources. This is the message she wants to share:
“You are not alone because hearing loss is more common than any of us realize,” she points out. “I urge you to research via the Internet or your local library organizations and support groups for those with hearing loss. One of the organizations that has most helped me is the Hearing Loss Association of America , which has chapters all over the United States that support those with hearing loss, as well as their families.”
For families of hearing impaired people, Groves suggests participating in the same type of organizations and support groups. “Go online, and research the most effective communication strategies for the hard of hearing and deaf,” she urges. “If this means taking a sign language class or going to hearing loss support group meetings with your loved one, do it. It will reassure that person that he or she is not alone in their journey. What a powerful gesture of love!”
Book Available in Late Spring
|Lip Reader cover|
Scheduled for a May/June release, Lip Reader will be available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and OutskirtsPress.com. She will also feature limited quantities of autographed copies via her Web site, shannagroves.blogspot.com. Shanna also writes about hearing loss issues, and features excerpts from Lip Reader, on her site.