Yesterday, I watched the first episode of Switched at Birth, This Is Not A Pipe, and the latest episode, Protect Me From What I Want. I watched both episodes because I wanted to see if any similarities have remained consistent throughout the two seasons.
While it’s obvious the storyline has remained consistent, I want to make note of one issue that I have with the show as a person with hearing loss: the notion that lip-reading has been made out to be something that can be done very easily on a very regular basis with varying episodes.
I think back to my own personal experiences growing up, and most particularly to what I experienced last week while at a conference in Las Vegas where I found myself sometimes alone and without an interpreter.
While I have minimal gripes with the organization hosting the event (they ensured I had two interpreters for every presentation during the conference), I was left without an interpreter during one of the evening events.
I usually rely on my residual hearing and lip-reading abilities to understand hearing people when they talk to me. While this doesn’t always work, I’ve been generally successful in environments that were quiet with minimal background noises and sufficient lighting.
However, I was in a situation where it was loud and dark.
Essentially, I had two factors working against me: I couldn’t hear AND couldn’t lip-read.
This begs the question of how Daphne can understand just about everything that is being said on the show.
People often have the misconception that deaf people can lip-read efficiently. However, research reminds me that hearing people are better lip-readers than deaf people, partially because the mouth movement is innate to them as they need to know particular movements of the mouth to be able to enunciate words.
With this in mind, my concern is that with each showing of Switched at Birth, the show is actually perpetuating the myth that lip-reading can be done in a wide range of settings when in actuality it cannot always be done.
Research shows approximately 30 to 35% of words in the English language can be lip-read. The rest of the words are up to the lip-reader to try and put together. That’s a lot of work for a lip-reader when they often already have multiple factors working together against them.
Back to my quick story about my conference in Las Vegas – I attended the evening event for two reasons: food and a free drawing for some cool door prizes.
While I was hoping there would be sufficient lighting, I knew that because the event was in Las Vegas, there would probably be ambient lighting and music. My gut was right, and I spent most of the party checking e-mails and chatting with friends on my phone.
I didn’t want to “work” to understand my hearing counterparts, especially after watching an interpreter all day during the conference. My eyes were already tired enough.
With all of this said, not being singled out for my hearing loss is one of the main reasons I enjoy working for Purple Communications. I’m considered as being the norm, and by the norm, I’m talking about being an employee.
Purple has a wonderful mix of people – we have deaf and hearing, as well as people of multiple backgrounds and ethnicities. It’s a working environment in which we embrace cultural differences.
Like my coworkers at Purple, I hope as Switched at Birth progresses, the characters will embrace these differences, respecting and learning from each other along the way.
Purple Digital Media Coordinator Corey Axelrod is a regular contributor to the Purple Blog. Watch for more reviews as Switched at Birth season two continues! Corey’s views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Purple Communications. Follow Corey on Twitter @coreyaxelrod.