Lipreading Practice

"I hope that through my example, such as my role on 'The West Wing,' I can help change attitudes on deafness and prove we can really do everything... except hear."

Marlee Matlin - Actress

An introduction to lipreading

I'd like to talk to you about lipreading.

Lipreading can be very, very useful and can help us to make better use of what we are hearing therefore we hear more effectively.
You know what I mean: "I hear better when I've got my glasses on."
This is because I'm lipreading and I think that we all do this naturally.
The aim is to use our hearing and lipreading to help us understand what we hear.

Those of us, who have a hearing problem, need to practise so that we become even better at lipreading.

Learning to lipread is very personal, just like learning any other skill.
We are all different and learn at different rates. Some of us find it more difficult than others.
Everybody is different and we all take from the skills and ideas those that are useful to us.
Only we can decide what is best for us.

1. ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION

Lipreading is not a magic wand but it can help us to make more sense of what we are hearing.
When we first start lipreading it can seem like mission impossible but do stick with it.
When you are lipreading, try to imagine the other person's voice and how it will sound. Many people find this helpful.
If you find that when you are lipreading you haven't wholly understood the first part of the sentence - don't give up!
Stick with it because sometimes something that you lipread at the end will make the whole sentence become crystal clear.
When that happens, it's a wonderful feeling, I can tell you. So do stick with it.
Alternatively, if it's really impossible to lipread, ask the person speaking to reword what they are saying. Sometimes this can help – you decide what works for you. You could even ask them to write it down.
Lipreading can be very tiring. One needs to concentrate and pay attention almost continuously. If you find yourself becoming tired, I have found it is a good idea to take a break and then come back to it refreshed. It's a good idea to find out how the conversation has developed. Topics change greatly in a very short space of time.

2. LOOKING AT LIP SHAPE AND MOVEMENT WHEN SOUNDS ARE FORMED.


Lipreading is like a puzzle and we need to use all the clues that we can, to help us solve the puzzle and to recognise what we are hearing.
Lipreading lessons can be quite challenging and strange at first.
Some of the work that we do is without voice. This is to help us recognise what people are saying by using only what we see.
In the following sessions we will look at the lip shapes and movements that the various sounds make when used in speaking.
We will need to be aware that some sounds are lookalikes. (Homophenes we call these.)
M, p and b all look very similar.
Some people can see a difference between them but many of us find it quite difficult.
We need to practise substitution.
We might see mares, we might see pears or we might see bears when we are lipreading.
It is the CONTEXT of the sentence that will help us to decide whether it is mares, pears or bears that we are lipreading.
For instance we might lipread "the mares were ripe and ready to eat." We might lipread "the bears were ripe and ready to eat." This doesn't make sense either.
So we need to try substitution. What else could it be?
Well, we know that m, p and b all look similar so let's try p - pears. "the pears were ripe and ready to eat." That's better that makes sense now.
That's what I mean by substitution.
It is very useful if we can practise this skill to help us in our lipreading.
If we knew that the context was fruit we would probably have seen the word pears the first time that we lipread the sentence.

3. CONTEXT (keeping track of what is being said).

If possible when we are lipreading we need to find out the CONTEXT because this will help us so much with our lipreading and our understanding of what is being said.
Don't be afraid to ask what the context is.
I know we don't like to draw attention to ourselves, but hearing people don't hear everything all the time.
Just say something like "What are we talking about now?"
"I'm sorry I've lost track what are we talking about?"
You know the kind of thing we can say.
Also it's very useful to have a buddy - someone who's with us; who can pinpoint what's happening; where the conversation is going and just keep us in touch so that we don't lose track of what is being said and get left behind.
So do have a buddy if you can. It's such a great help!

4. OTHER CLUES.

We need to look for other clues that can help us to lipread. Can you think of some?
Gestures - Pointing, shrugging shoulders, scratching one's head, etc.
Facial expressions - happy - sad - other body language.
Also remember we have a wealth of knowledge about how language works.
We know what word might follow another because we've been using it for years.
We can use this to help us too.
We can use anticipation.
There are lots of phrases that we use frequently and we can anticipate what might come next.
"Hello, how are you?"
We may not always get it right but often we do! And it can be very useful.
Another important thing for us to remember is rhythm.
When we speak we use rhythm.
We don't speak in a monotone.
We use different speeds, intonation, stress and emphasis - all sorts of things.
This helps us to follow what is being said too.
Just one word can be said very differently. No; No-o; No? NO!!!
So we need to keep rhythm and stress in mind too.
We need to keep in mind that our memory is very useful to us not only in lipreading but in all sorts of things. We can practise improving our memory by playing memory games and by writing lists, etc and trying to remember them.
We can also use finger spelling to help us identify sounds that we are finding difficult to hear/lipread. This is useful but not everybody knows how to finger spell so sometimes it is of limited use.

5. OTHER PEOPLE'S SPEECH

We need to look at how other people speak.
How is it best for people to speak to us as lipreaders?
Well if people speak a little slower than usual - not too slowly so that we lose the natural rhythm, but just a little bit slower - it helps.
When people speak at normal speed or quicker it can sometimes sound like gobbledygook.
For some of us it takes us longer to process what we hear so if people slow their speech down a little bit it helps.
I expect we've all said "Sorry?" "Pardon?" and while the other person is repeating what they said – we've worked it out!
Also we need people to speak as clearly as possible but not over enunciating.
If words are over enunciated we can lipread extra sounds e.g. Pop – popper.
It's important for us to tell people how they can help us. Most people really do want to help.

6. POSITIONING

We need to keep in mind that there are lots of ways that we can help ourselves by thinking about where we are in the room.
We need to remember that positioning and lighting are all important to us when we are trying to lipread in different situations.
What position would be best for us to sit in any set of circumstances? It will be different for different situations.
Where would we prefer to sit at a dinner party?
Where would we prefer to sit in a restaurant?
Where is it best for us to sit in a hall when we're listening to a speaker? We need to take all these things into account.
It will depend on our hearing aid and we need to experiment to find what works for us. Some of us prefer to sit with our backs to the wall others don't. If we sit in the middle of the group we may be able to see the rest of the group more clearly.
We need to be in a well lit place, if possible, and to have the speaker facing us and preferably with light on their face. If we face the light then the other speakers' faces will be in darkness which makes lipreading difficult. Again we need to experiment and see what works for us.
Also if you are able to choose where you are going to be lipreading/hearing the conversation, bear in mind that carpets, curtains, wallpaper and fabric covered armchairs can make it more comfortable for you. This environment will help to absorb some of the background noise. Rooms that have painted walls and a wood or tiled floor can be more uncomfortable for the hard of hearing person. Try comparing the two environments and see what adjustments you can make to help you hear and lipread more effectively.
I expect that you've thought about these already, BUT have you thought how it is best to lipread a person's face?
Some of us find it easier if we are looking straight at the person and see the whole mouth.
Some of us find lipreading easier if we lipread the profile of a speaker's mouth – from the side. Only you will know what is best for you.
We need to practise and find out what is the best way for us to lipread.

7. ASSISTIVE DEVICES

Loop systems can be very useful and often there is a "best" place to sit to make use of these systems. It is worth spending some time finding out about the loop system when we are going to a public place (theatre, meeting etc.)
It is also a good idea to check that the system is working. It can be so frustrating getting yourself all set up only to find that it is not switched on!!
Personal amplifiers can help and again it is worth trying them out to see which one will be best for us, before buying them. Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the RNID) , local hospitals, local hearing charities and lipreading tutors can give advice on assitive devices.
The new generation of smart hearing aids, are just becoming available. These hearing aids will link with your Iphone to enable you hear better on the mobile phone and your Iphone can be used to set your hearing aids to suit different situations and to link up with loop systems. Check these aids out on the internet - type in smart hearing aids. There are also other devices e.g. personal amplifiers to help with different situations and with the television.

Next generation text is now available. How do you prefer to communicate?

  • Type & Read - Can't hear and don't use your voice
  • Speak & Read - Can't hear but use your voice
  • Type & Hear - Can hear but don't use your voice
  • Speak & Hear - Have some hearing and do use your voice

For more information go to NGT Lite - Next Generation Text Service (www.ngts.org.uk)

8. LAST WORD

When we use all these skills and of course our hearing clues together we are able to do much better in the various situations.
It is good to laugh and see the funny side of things. If we relax we may be able to lipread better and therefore make more sense of what we are hearing. We need to use our lipreading skills to help us hear more effectively.
Lastly we can help each other by sharing our experiences, giving each other ideas, encouragement and sharing new technology that we have come across and found useful. The best way to do this is to join a lipreading class or support group. It makes such a difference to be in a group of likeminded people and to have the benefit of a lipreading tutor.
Remember only you can decide what is useful to you.
I hope you find these sessions useful and interesting.



How to make life difficult for Lipreaders