As hearing fades, they learn to sign Senior center offers classes ANNE ARUNDEL SENIORS

February 24, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

Carie Colbert and her grandmother are best friends who shop together, travel together and share their problems with each other. But they fear that some of that could stop because Mary Seaton, the grandmother, is losing her hearing.

That's why Carie, 14, and Mrs. Seaton, 67, sit side by side at the South County Senior Center each week, learning sign language.

"I realize my grandmother is losing her hearing," said Carie, who lives in Edgewater. "I want to continue communicating with her because we do a lot together."

Mrs. Seaton, who also lives in Edgewater, said her hearing loss is in its early stages. "I want to be prepared in the future if I lose all of my ability to hear," she said. "Right now, I'm having trouble hearing the phone. This is just the beginning."

Carie and her grandmother have been with the program for about a year and Carie says she can already communicate with the hearing-impaired.

"I know a very nice senior who's deaf," she said proudly. "We talk with our hands and I can pretty much understand everything she says."

Jeannette and William LaViolette, 72, also visit the center each Monday to learn sign language.

Mrs. LaViolette, who lives in Davidsonville, said she wants to learn to sign because her husband has lost nearly all of his hearing.

"It's very frustrating trying to talk to him," she said. "I have to stand right in front of him so he can see me. Often I have to tell him he's talking too loud or the television's too loud."

Mr. LaViolette, retired from the Air Force, has been battling hearing loss since he was 40. He's spent many years learning how to deal with it, first by getting a hearing aid, then by learning better communication skills.

"My problem can be very difficult at times," he said. "When we went to a show at the Naval Academy in Annapolis the other day, I couldn't understand the accents and I couldn't hear the women's voices. It was upsetting."

Mrs. LaViolette said she trieds to be tolerant of her husband's hearing loss because "you realize it's more frustrating" for him.

"I often think, 'What if it were me?' " she said.

The couple said they've already learned a lot from the signing class and that they practice at home. Mr. LaViolette said the hardest part for him is trying to read lips and read hands at the same time.

Jan Moury, who teaches at the center, said learning to sign helps to relieve a lot of frustration for seniors who are losing their hearing.

"We should all make an attempt to cross over to them and learn a language they know, too," she said.

Next month, Carie, her grandmother and the LaViolettes plan to visit Gallaudet University in Washington, the country's only liberal arts college for the deaf.

"These people are serious about learning the language," Ms. Moury said.

For more information on the signing program at South County, call 222-1927.

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