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CLASS FOR HEARING-IMPAIRED OFFERS MORE THAN LIP SERVICE.

Byline: - Nicole Sunkes

Blaring music, the clang of dinner plates and chattering crowds can make for a noisy evening. For most, these jarring sounds can be tuned out, but for those wearing hearing aids, it's often impossible to understand what the person across the table - not to mention the waiter - is saying.

That's just one time when lip reading is a useful skill for the deaf and hearing-impaired who might otherwise have trouble communicating.

A weekly lip-reading class at Reseda's Jewish Home for the Aging not only offers valuable knowledge but also provides a haven where students can discuss hearing issues with others who face the same challenges.

``Hearing loss is an invisible disease,'' said Jeannine Bass, 34, who teaches lip reading and sign language for the Los Angeles Unified School District division of Adults With Disabilities. ``When you're walking down the street, no one guesses you're deaf.''

Bass knows the subject well. Deaf since birth, she wears hearing aids in both ears and is fluent in lip reading and sign language. The class, which draws around 15 people a week, also covers hearing-aid issues and methods for co-existing in a world of sound.

``I can teach people ways to adapt,'' Bass said, adding that one trick is to go to a restaurant during down time, around 3 p.m. after lunch crowds have vanished.

Van Nuys retiree Beverley Gaines, 74, launched the lip-reading class two years ago when she realized she needed help. It can take between five and seven years to master the skill.

``I am learning lip reading because I don't want to feel that I isolate myself from people,'' said Gaines, president of the San Fernando Valley chapter of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH).

Gaines is deaf in her right ear and has some hearing in her left, a result of a tumor that also affected her balance. Until she began taking the class, her husband, Gene, would have to repeat words for her in public. Thanks to the class, she now has a basic understanding of what someone is saying by studying their lip movements.

The free class is offered jointly by SHHH and the school district. The group meets at 9:30 a.m. Mondays at the Reseda facility. For more information, call Gaines at (818) 785-8858.

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Jeannine Bass teaches lip reading and sign language at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 21, 2003
Words:412
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