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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!

 

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.

Research about lipreading

There have been some important research reports about the value and provision of lipreading classes recently.

  • On Everybody’s Lips – report of the Scottish Lipreading Strategy Group (2015). A very comprehensive report about lipreading classes in Scotland – but applicable to the whole of the UK.  Download and read the report
  • Not Just Lip Service (2012) Action on Hearing Loss.  Why it’s time to recognise the value of lipreading and managing hearing loss classes. Download and read the report
  • Paying Lip Service (2010) RNID (now Action on Hearing  Loss). Looks at the availability of lipreading classes in different regions of England and Wales, and the threats to their provision. Download and read the report

You will need a PDF reader to read these reports.