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Stop hearing loss bullying and raise awareness

Today, social movements are much different than they were in the past. With the widespread use of technology, social campaigns can reach more people than ever before and form an online community around an issue through the use of blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.

Two such campaigns that have gained traction are "Stop Hearing Loss Bullying" and "Show Me Your Ears." The campaigns were started by Shanna Groves who writes the popular "Lipreading Mom" blog. Groves writes candidly on her blog about navigating life as a mother to three children while living with progressive hearing loss, which she was diagnosed with at the age of 27, shortly after having her first child. She confesses that she spent much of her childhood lipreading, but her hearing loss somehow went undiagnosed until adulthood, and, as a child, others told her she had a lack of focus and lived in her own world, when she really was living with undiagnosed hearing loss.

Shanna Groves hosts two campaignsAs a well-known blogger and public figure in the hearing loss community, Groves is well-equipped to be a speaker for those living with hearing loss, and that's exactly what she did with her two campaigns. However, she notes that her work is for her children as well:

"I hope my three children, ages 12, 9, and 5, realize that I'm not just typing away at a computer when I blog. I write what I want them to learn: respect for themselves and others."

Stop Hearing Loss Bullying

This campaign is on both Twitter and Facebook, where it has nearly 500 followers. The campaign is a year old but is currently gaining traction again as October is National Bullying Prevention month in the U.S. In an email interview, Groves wrote that the #StopHearingLossCampaign grew from her own experiences as well as the desire to educate others:

"#StopHearingLossBullying aims to educate about hearing loss and deafness, as well as giving everyone a fair chance in life, regardless of hearing ability," she wrote. "It is from my own childhood experiences with undiagnosed hearing loss that I wanted to instill in others - particularly my three children - the importance of choosing words and actions carefully."

As part of the Stop Hearing Loss Bullying campaign, Groves created a video of reader-submitted photos of them wearing their hearing aids and cochlear implants and the narration details people's experiences growing up with hearing loss and the bullying they experienced. It gives people who don't have hearing loss a way to empathize with others who have grown up being bullied because of it.

Groves said that while things have improved in schools in some ways because there is more awareness, focus on inclusion and access to technology that make it easier for schoolchildren who are deaf and heard of hearing to participate in the classroom, in other ways, things have not improved. She noted that text messaging and social media sites make anonymous bullying easier to do as children are not face-to-face with their victims. However, Shana notes that there are things that can be done in a school environment to prevent bullying prompted by hearing loss and make things easier for students with hearing loss:

"We must work hard to create safe opportunities for students and staff to address bullying. Hold anti-bullying rallies in mainstream schools and schools for the deaf. Nominate peer models to take bullied students under their wing as advocates. Train school staff to look for signs of hearing loss bullying, such as spreading of rumors, name calling, student-imposed isolation and physical abuse. Take Internet and texting bullying seriously by swiftly and firmly addressing it."

Groves said that aside from bullying in schools, it unfortunately happens in the workplace as well, as people with hearing loss get passed over for employment and employers deny workers the use of assistive listening devices, interpreters and captioned phones because they believe the services aren't necessary. She notes that there is still much work to be done but it all begins with one person taking a stand.

Show Me Your Ears

This campaign began with a request by Groves for readers to submit photos of themselves with their hearing aids on in clear view. For her, it was a way to inspire others to not be ashamed that they have to wear hearing aids:

"#ShowMeYourEars evolved from an initial hesitance to reveal my hearing aids," Groves wrote. "Would people think differently of me? Would they be afraid to communicate with me? Finally, I began to show friends and family my hearing aids. The more I showed them off, the more comfortable I became with wearing them. I wanted anyone with hearing aids and cochlear implants to have an opportunity to show off their unique ears through this photo campaign."

Grove noted that this campaign has gained worldwide traction, as there are photos from North and South America, Asia, Europe and Australia in her gallery. To join the movement, find ways to promote #ShowMeYourEars and #StopHearingLossBullying at Lipreading Mom.

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