Full Facial Eclipse: Why I Gave Up Sports for Speechreading

November is a month of events that inspire emotions – Remembrance Day (grief), American Thanksgiving (gratitude), the falling of the leaves (awe), and the release of the new Beaujolais (love).

It’s also Movember, the innovative fundraising and awareness event about men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer.  During Movember-in-November, men show their support by sprouting facial hair all over their upper lips and often fanning across their once-loved faces.    For one long month, Movember men put aside their pride and try to grow moustaches – the bigger, the droopier, the better.

The emotion that Movember inspires in me is frustration. In psychological terms, according to Wikipedia, frustration is ‘a common emotional response to opposition. Related to anger and disappointment, it arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of individual will.

What this means in my terms:  during Movember, I am frustrated because moustached men are putting up barriers that make it difficult for me to fulfill my individual goal of understanding what they are saying! And at this very moment, my husband, son and stepson are all growing moustaches, with varying degrees of success.

This isn’t supposed to happen to me.  I married my husband because he was clean-shaven and big (6’6″), with large and easy-to-read lips. I even wrote a poem about his lips! Yet here he is, 20-odd years later, growing a moustache – a MOUSTACHE!!!  And this is probably just the first step; soon he’ll be inspired by his sons to add other speechreading impediments such as wearing baseball caps low over their eyes, and sunglasses – maybe both at the same time!  Then, before I know it, the Hearing Husband will have a full facial eclipse, making speechreading impossible, and leading to the ultimate doom of our marriage.

People with hearing loss need to see faces that are clean-shaven and turned towards the sun (or at least well-lit). We love faces that are transparent in their emotions; we adore lips and eyes that can clearly articulate their thoughts.

And THIS is why I have chosen to give up SPORTS, apart from jogging and family ping-pong.

Athletes and sports enthusiasts embrace full facial eclipses – they spend small fortunes on equipment to protect themselves, especially their faces – not only from the elements, but also from other athletes who want to know what they’re thinking.  OK, I know that deaf and hard of hearing people can participate in any sport we want, because for every barrier, there’s a communication solution. But the thought of dealing with all those eclipsed faces makes me feel faint.

Sad but true: communication difficulty is the only reason – beyond ineptitude and disinterest – that I do not play hockey, or ski, or scuba dive, or go fishing. Instead, I have chosen to dedicate myself to communication barrier-free hobbies such as travel and writing blogs and daylight pole-walking.

I support the spirit of Movember, but look forward to December 1st, when lips shall once again become hairless and speech-readable.

I support sports, but leave the masked activities to others.

But above all, as a person with hearing loss, I celebrate good communication – the glue that connects us to other people and the world around us.


The Tough Sports for Speechreaders


Stepson Scott Hannan in NHL action. How to speechread this?



Scott’s non-NHL Movember look.


This is Mark Crapo, Idaho fisherman extraordinaire. Mark looks like a fun guy, but he and I would have some communication challenges. But apparently the fish like beards.
My kind of pole walking – sunny and barrier-free. Note the lack of masks.







North Pole Walking

Really, how easy would it be for me to communicate in full North Pole gear, even if my hearing aids didn’t freeze up and become in-the-ear icecubes? How do people even move their lips in 50 below weather?


Again, the masks.  I guess there’s no need for talk – as long as everyone knows the sign for “big fish with pointy teeth heading this way!”


Note:  I’m proud of my Movember guys and my marriage is safe.  I know this because the Hearing Husband’s moustache is coming off the night of November 30th.  And I know that because I have a special shaver waiting…..

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


  1. Heavy mustaches can certainlyt impose a tremendous disadvantage on us. When I was a graduate student in social welfare at UCLA, I had a shy supervisor with a soft voice who refused to do anything about his overhanging mustache, which completely covered his lips when he talked. I couldn’t understand what he was saying at all. I had an upset stomach for most of the time that I worked with him. Despite having a Ph.D in psychology, it seemed he wasn’t able to deal with his own insecurity about being seen and heard.

    Other men, however, have trimmed their mustaches so that their mustaches didn’t cover up their lips, which helped greatly. My boyfriend has a mustache that doesn’t interfere with lipreading him at all.

    Have you considered getting and applying mustache wax on your sleeping spouse? (grin)

    1. LOL! love that thought …mustache wax ; ) unfortunately for me, it’s too late to apply! Instead of caring enough to realize how much communication mattered to his deaf and HOH wife, he opted for a divorce after 3 yrs of marriage : ( So here I am a single parent, Lonely yes, but better off in the long run .

  2. Hi Gael,
    My four year old son was diagnosed in September with bi-lateral, partial hearing loss. My hearing husband and I are hungry for information about this “new world”. I am finding your posts fascinating – the challenges of hockey helmets and moustaches covering lips has simply never crossed my mind – astonishing, revealing, amazing! Thanks for the insight. Heather

  3. Hi Gael
    Thank you for all of yourmessages. I have two son’s Bob(MLA) wears a neat beard & a moustache. When he speaks in the Ledgislative Assembly, he is very eloquent,speaks loudly, when I watch him on TV I can really understand everything he says (m0re 0r less-dependingon the subject.But when he comes over fo a visit, & a cuppa tea, I can hardly understand his muttering, the other son just has a moustache, but he faces me and speaks clearly, but he is again a Movember moustache person.I’m working on Bob to trim his moustache & beard which he has worn for 40 of his 60 years!!!. Thanks again for all your “Communications”

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