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Author Archive | Fran Walker

Sound: Stories of hearing lost and found

A fascinating book about one woman’s experience of losing and regaining her hearing. It’s currently (May 22-26) being read on Radio 4 as Book of the Week. (NOT the ideal medium! ATLA will contact the BBC.)

In 1997, Bella Bathurst began to go deaf. Within a few months, she had lost half her hearing, and the rest was slipping away. She wasn’t just missing punchlines, she was missing most of the conversation – and all of the jokes.  (ATLA says, ‘If only Bella had known about lipreading classes!’) For the next twelve years deafness shaped her life, until, in 2009, everything changed again.

Sound draws on this extraordinary experience, exploring what it is like to lose your hearing and – as Bella eventually did – to get it back, and what that teaches you about listening and silence, music and noise. She investigates the science behind deafness, hearing loss among musicians, soldiers and factory workers, sign language, and what the deaf know about these subjects that the hearing don’t.

If sight gives us the world, then hearing – or our ability to listen – gives us each other. But, as this engaging and intelligent examination reveals, our relationship with sound is both personal and far, far more complex than we might expect.

Available from libraries and bookshops,  Sound by Bella Bathurst is published by the Wellcome Collection, and the reading is available on iPlayer here until 26th June 2017

 

Stories for lipreaders – new website launched

A group of Hampshire lipreading tutors, lipreaders and techno-wizards has joined forces with local writers to develop an exciting new website, which uses short stories to help people with hearing loss.

Stories for Lipreading‘ is a new, free website for people with hearing loss, which offers the chance to practise lipreading skills and enjoy some good writing at the same time. Lipreading is a vital method of communication for people with hearing loss: it is a way of recognising lip shapes and patterns – as well as facial expressions and context – to help make sense of conversations.

Stories for Lipreading’ provides films of short stories being read aloud by trained lipreading tutors. There are printable sheets to accompany each film, so lipreaders can choose how much support they want in reading each story.

Stories for Lipreading’ is ideal for more experienced lipreaders, says Meg Finlayson, one of the lipreading tutors who helped to set up the project. ‘It can give them the chance to practise lipreading longer phrases – with the big advantage that you can pause and rewind the film if you lose the thread.  If only life was like that!’

 

Hearing Loss Awareness Event in Bletchley, 21 July

Community Learning Milton Keynes are hosting a free event to raise awareness of hearing loss, at

Rivers Centre,  Humber Way, West Bletchley MK3 7PH

Friday 21st July, 9am to 1pm

Free entrance

Participants will be able to attend taster sessions in lipreading and British Sign Language, and access information about services available to those with hearing loss.

If you or someone you know is experiencing hearing loss and would benefit  from support, advice  and guidance, you are welcome to attend this event

Service providers and support groups wil be present to answer questions and offer help and information.

For more information, please contact Philip Allsop or phone 01908 556705

Chair of ATLA on Breakfast TV

Molly Berry, Chair of ATLA, appeared on Breakfast TV on March 17. Speaking about the development of a machine to lipread by a team of researchers from Oxford University, Molly managed to broaden the topic to cover the day-to-day lipreading that we as deaf and hard of hearing people have to do. She explained some of the problems we as lipreaders face, and provided the practical tips that we teach in lipreading classes.

Your questions answered

What is lipreading?

Lipreading can help deaf and hard of hearing people to follow speech better. Lipreading is using your eyes to help your ears. Sometimes it is called speechreading (especially in the USA).

We look at how the lips, tongue and jaw move, as well as facial expressions. When someone speaks, their facial movements, gestures and body language help us follow what they are saying.

Lipreading is a combination of looking, listening and thinking. Many hard of hearing people find lipreading helps them to understand more of a conversation. And it can be essential for people who are profoundly deaf.

Will learning lipreading help me?

Learning to lipread can improve how much you understand, especially when used with a hearing aid.

Lipreading can help fill in the gaps in social situations with friends and family. It can give you more confidence at work, in education, or when using services, like doctors or banks.

Lipreading skills can also increase your independence and feelings of self-esteem.

How easy is lipreading to learn?

Many of us have been lipreading a bit for years without knowing it. The tutor in a lipreading class will help you build on this.

Patience and regular practice are important:  improvements can be gradual, so many students come to classes for years, and lipreading classes are fun and enjoyable.

Most sessions last 1.5 or 2 hours, and courses run for about 30 weeks.

You can find details of your local classes here. All classes listed on this website are taught by ATLA qualified tutors.

Tips to help you to lipread

Communication is a two-way process. We need people to meet us half way to give us the best chance of joining in. Encourage your family and friends to read and follow the advice below. Hearing loss is not visible, so we need to to explain to people how to make conversation easier for us.

Find the best place

•  You need to be able to see the speaker’s face clearly to lipread, so good lighting is a must. We can’t lipread in poor light or if a face is in shadow.
• Try to find a quiet place away from distractions. Background noise is a real problem for us.
• Get the speaker to sit or stand at the same eye level as you.

Relax

Lipreading takes concentration and you will find it easier if you are relaxed. Don’t be surprised if you get tired.  Give yourself frequent breaks and rest your eyes.

Two way communication

• Make eye contact – this is the single most effective way to improve communication.
• Attract our attention before you start to speak to us.
• Tell us the subject of the conversation, so we can put difficult words into context.
• One speaker at a time – we can only watch one person!

Make it easy for us

• Use everyday language – and get to the point.
• Break up complex messages into shorter sentences.
• Pause more often – it gives us a chance to catch up.
• Keep the rhythm of the language flowing – but ask a fast speaker to slow down a bit.
• Speak clearly – and perhaps slightly louder. Please don’t shout  – it distorts your face, and can be painful for us.
• Be expressive – gestures, body language and facial expressions give extra clues to what’s being said.

What makes lipreading harder?

  • Some letters have the same shape on the lips on the lips – for example: park, mark, bark.  That’s why knowing the context is so important to us. In our lipreading classes we learn which letters can easily be confused.
  • Some letters are practically invisible on the lips – s, t, k for example. But with practice we can get the gist of what is being said without following every syllable or word.

And these make it even harder

• Not getting to the point is tiring and frustrating – so we switch off.
• Using long sentences – we lose track.
• If you look down or away, we can’t see your face.
• Don’t talk from behind a newspaper or with your hand in front of your face. Untrimmed beards and moustaches can be tricky too!
• Names can be particularly difficult to lipread – get people to write them down, or in formal situations, use name badges.

If I can’t lipread someone, should I persevere?

• If you’re having problems lipreading someone, don’t worry. They are probably not aware that that you are hard of hearing, or what they need to do to make it easier for you. Some speakers hardly move their mouths.
• Most people will be happy to speak more slowly and clearly to you, if they know that it will help you. Try to be confident about explaining your hearing loss and what makes it easier for you.
• It’s easier to lipread a whole sentence than a single word, so don’t be afraid to ask for a sentence to be repeated or re-worded. If you miss something ask the speaker to repeat, rephrase or write it down (in that order)
• Try not to get discouraged – it’s not your fault.

Remember, nobody hears everything all the time!

 

Do you struggle to communicate with your GP?

GP and hospital appointments can be difficult for us.  To make communication easier, the NHS (in England only) has introduced a clear process to make sure people who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate well when they need NHS care or publicly funded adult social care.

To help you explain what support you need, Action on Hearing Loss have produced a template letter for you to send to your GP practice manager, or a card which you can fill in and give to the receptionist the next time you’re at the surgery.

MPs debate deafness and hearing loss

Despite having perhaps weightier issues on their minds, Parliament  debated the NHS England Action Plan on Hearing Loss and the new adult hearing service commissioning framework,  on Thursday 30 June. You can read a report of the debate here.

There are eloquent contributions by MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Lilian Greenwood, both involved in the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness. Key issues were the rationing of hearing aids by some CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) over which the Health Secretary Alistair Burt seemed  reluctant to issue a central directive, and a decision against the introduction of an adult screening programme. Other issues were the delays in getting people with early signs of hearing loss diagnosed.

Marks and Spencer turns down the music

M&S is turning  off background music in its stores after ten years, to give its customers a chance to browse in silence.

The new music-free policy will be put into practice over the next few weeks at 300 clothing and home branches across the UK. Food stores were already silent!

The move follows extensive feedback from customers and staff.

Customers want to enjoy restaurants’ taste in food, not music

Turning off the music and up the lights may not seem conducive to creating the right ambience for diners seeking an enjoyable night out. But there are many people – namely the 10 million deaf and hard of hearing – who would welcome this more considerate approach, says ATLA.

As part of Lipreading Awareness Week – 12-19 September 2016 – we will be is asking restaurants to choose a day to invite their customers to ‘come and enjoy their taste in food, not their taste in music’.

In return ATLA will give participating restaurants some basic deaf awareness training for their staff, a poster to display of their local lipreading class and a press release template to send to the local media.

It’s a way that restaurants can show to their community that they are thinking about potential customers’ needs and it could help to generate new business, says ATLA’s vice-chair Molly Berry.

“The silver pound is very important to restaurateurs and Lipreading Awareness Week is a good time to ask yourself if your restaurant is welcoming this business. Getting this right could earn your business a lot of money, with nearly half of people aged 65-plus having some form of hearing loss,” says Molly.

The problem that people with hearing aids have is that their devices amplify sound, including all the background noise, and the sound gets distorted by echo. For this reason ATLA is asking restaurants to reduce this echo or bouncing of sound on hard surfaces by using tablecloths, the wipe clean variety is fine and preferably with under cloths, to cushion the effect.

Longer term, ATLA would like restaurants to introduce more soft furnishings: curtains, cushions and carpet, or where this is impractical, easy to clean rubber flooring. Alcoves, booths and room dividers also help shut out unwanted noise, even if it’s just to head height. And acoustic ceiling tiles, supplied by specialist companies, are effective in making it easier to hear, for customers whether they have a problem or not.

Also, good lighting is important so lipreaders can see the face of the person speaking. And personal loop systems, which enable hearing aid users to hear just what is said within the range of the device, are available for a very reasonable cost. It is worth having one or two hearing loops available for anyone who requests them, says Molly, ensuring customers know they are on site.

“Many hard of hearing people avoid going to restaurants because it’s just too difficult for them to follow conversations and pick out the sounds they want to hear,” says Molly. “But minimum investment can fix this and make a restaurant a much more pleasant environment for everyone to hear each other and hold conversations in, not just the hard of hearing.”

 

ATLA leaflets

The following leaflets are available to download.

  • Lipreading: an aid to communication. Covers: What is lipreading? Will lipreading help me? How easy is lipreading to learn? What can you learn in your lipreading class? Plus 10 tips to help you lipread.
    Download Lipreading: an aid to communication

You will need a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat or Foxit to open the files.

What it’s like to lipread

People with no hearing difficulties rarely give any thought to what it would be like to have to rely on lipreading to communicate with others. But a new video makes people stop and think about it.

Many of the 11 million people (according to Action on Hearing Loss) in the UK who have some form of hearing loss depend on lipreading to communicate with family, friends and colleagues.

A powerful video from National Geographic, made by the Little Moving Pictures production company, shows what life can be like for those who use lipreading — and it’s definitely not easy.  But if you attend a lipreading class, you will find help and support!

The video begins with people speaking clearly, as subtitles flash up on the screen. Gradually their words become quieter and the subtitles blurred.

The footage also shows how different situations, such as nightclubs, which pose no problem for those who can hear, make things even harder for lipreaders, .

The video is based on the essay “Seeing at the Speed of Sound” by Rachel Kolb, who also narrates and stars in the piece.

At the end of the video Kolb tells viewers how frustrating lipreading can be.

“There have been times when I’ve questioned why I even try to lipread, to wade through this swamp, when I could just use sign language,” she says. “Some deaf people choose to do just that. It’s like a different world — a world filled with rich expression and culture. When people sign they come alive. But I know I want both worlds.”

Go to Learn to lipread to find a lipreading class near you.