Hearing Link

Hearing loss & shopping

Lipreaders know that numbers are tricky to lipread. ‘Fifteen’ looks like ‘fifty’ for example. As you do your shopping, estimate how much you think the total will be by rounding everything under 50p down to the nearest £ and everything over 50p up to the nearest £.  So £1.49p becomes £1.00 and £1.51p becomes £2.00. This enables you to find it easier to lipread the amount the shop assistant says and to have your money ready.

  • Cheat – look at the figures on the till
  • Ask the shop assistant to write it down
  • Ask a closed question e.g. ‘Did you say £5?’
  • Use the loop system, if there is one (look for the loop sign)
  • If there is one and it isn’t working – complain!

Use your hands to help you – e.g. ‘Did you say £5?’ and hold up five fingers as you ask. People copy body language. The assistant will probably reply by using her hands as well e.g. ‘No, I said £4’ and she holds up four fingers as she speaks.

What is a closed question?

An open question is one to which the answer could be more than one thing.  For example, if you ask, ‘Did you say £5 or £4?’ or worse ‘What did you say?’  The answer will probably be just as confusing as the speaker may well repeat what they have already said – which you have just been unable to hear or lipread.

A closed question is one where the answer is either “yes” or “no”.  For example, if you ask, ‘Did you say £4?’  The speaker will answer either ‘Yes, I said £4’ or ‘No, I said £5.’  If accompanied by a shake or nod of the head, the answer is even more helpful!

I really hate going to the supermarket

Jason says ‘I really hate going to the supermarket. Shopping is a chore that should only take me a few minutes – many people do their shopping on the way home from work, as if it’s something small and unimportant. I’m annoyed that  something so routine, so everyday, causes me such problems.

The minute you walk into the supermarket there’s the noise. Hearing aids just don’t cope with background noise very well even if they have a background noise programme – and mine do. There’s the sound of metal trolleys, women’s high-heeled shoes clacking away, people arguing about what to have for dinner, kids screaming and the tannoy over the top of all that – I mean I can’t tell if they’re announcing this week’s special offer or saying, ‘Leave immediately by the nearest exit because the building’s on fire.’

Sometimes they have music – well, it’s just a noise to me, a horrible noise. It’s hard to focus on what you’re doing with so much noise. I daren’t take the aids out in case someone speaks to me.

A mate of mine has Ménière’s Disease and he gets these balance problems as well as a hearing loss. He says he can’t go in a supermarket because all the bright lights, loud sounds and rows and rows of shelves set his balance off. Anything in parallel lines sets him off – wallpaper, railway lines, you name it.

And of course when you’re out shopping everyone’s a stranger. It’s easier at work than in the supermarket. Everyone knows me there. I’m used to them, I’ve worked with them for years and I can lipread most of them easily. The one person I can’t lipread well has a beard but he’s a good bloke and he trims it away from his mouth to make it easier for me and will write anything down for me if I can’t get it.

In the supermarket, the members of staff are all strangers. I’ve tried to get to know the people on the tills but they employ a lot of people and a have huge turnover of staff and I’m lucky if I see the same person twice – let alone get to know them well enough to lipread.

Then the money! Do you know how difficult it is to lipread an amount of money? Well try looking in the mirror. Say thirteen. Right. Now say thirty. See what I mean? Could you see the difference? No? Neither can I – and my lipreading is pretty good I can tell you. I’ve taken to wearing a badge when I go shopping. It says ‘Lipreader – please speak clearly’ on it so that the people on the tills won’t think I’m stupid when I make mistakes.’

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