Lipreading Practice

British Acoustic Neuroma Association: BANA

BANA British Acoustic Neuroma Association

April 2016



BANA is a small national charity, which provides support and information for people affected by acoustic neuroma brain tumours; for which single-sided hearing loss and deafness is a primary symptom.

I want to feature an article in our members’ magazine on the potential benefits of lip reading and I found your site, which looks a fabulous resource. I wonder if you might consider either writing a small article about lip reading for SSD and the benefits, and/or allowing me to use content from your website. I would be pleased to feature the site in the piece too, and if possible include it as a link on our website (links page coming soon)

I see what you say

For those of us with hearing loss seeing is very important to help us make more effective use of what we hear. Most of us lipread to some extent: "I hear better when I have glasses on". You know what I mean.

Think for a moment of all the things that hearing people will have listened to today. Did they hear their alarm clock this morning? the telephone and the doorbell ring? Their children or grandchildren speaking or singing or did they listen to the radio? For many people, including me, who have a hearing loss it may have been a long time since we heard these sounds.

Deafness and being hard of hearing is one of the hidden disabilities. It cannot easily be seen and not hearing what has been said is sometimes attributed to the listener being stuck up, stupid or rude. I’m not sure which is worse. One of the results of this is that hard of hearing people can become isolated, lose their self-esteem and lose their willingness to speak for fear of making themselves look silly.

Hearing aids help but for those with a severe hearing loss they are not the complete answer. People ask why don’t you learn to sign. – adults will learn to sign using British Sign Language. Makaton, which is easier to learn, is usually used for children and a wonderful example can be seen on Ceebies TV with Mr Tumble. It’s an example of teaching at its best and is great fun. The show also features children who have severe disabilities. This is exceptional.

However, the fact is that many deafened people belong in the hearing world and do not know many, if any, others who sign. For them learning to lipread can be a lifeline that helps them to cope in everyday life. Learning to lipread was the best thing that I have ever done!!!
Lipreading is not a magic wand because it is not precise. There are many pitfalls that can cause a few problems with interpreting what is being lipread. Many sounds look similar on the lips causing confusion and a few laughs at our expense and some scrapes. "One Access for all" document states that "lipreading is an art not a science" and relies heavily on

  • knowledge of language
  • an understanding of the context
  • good lighting
  • good acoustic and a quiet environment
  • an awareness of lipreading ambiguities
  • clear speech delivered at a natural if slightly slower pace.

I would agree with all of these and I think that by studying the sound formation on the mouth and by practising substitution lipreading can be really useful.

  • Substitution is practising the ability to put other words in place of what you have lipread to make better sense. For instance pear, bear and mare all look similar on the lips but if you know the person is speaking about fruit - pear can be substituted for bear or mare.
  • Knowing the context is so important to help the lipreader make better sense of what is lipread.
  • It is also important to read visual clues, facial expression, gestures and other body language and where necessary writing.
  • It is important to tell people that you are lipreading and tell them how to help you,
  • Lipreaders use a combination of all the above points and make an informed assessment of what is being said.
  • When lipreading one should bear in mind that only about 30 – 40per cent of speech can be lipread so give yourself a pat on the back for everything that you get right!

There is still a possibility of lipreading incorrectly but there is also a good chance of taking a more active part in conversations especially if the general public become more deaf aware and more able and willing to help.

My background is primary education but since 2006 I have taught lipreading and in ten years I have seen the provision of lipreading classes shrink. Provision is not the same nationwide – some counties have many classes and others have very few. As lipreading is not recognised as a basic skill for the hard of hearing, not all classes are free. It depends where you live. There has been a campaign by Action on Hearing Loss and the Government have expressed sympathy but there has been no standard provision to date.

I have created which is a free resource for anyone who wishes to practise lipreading. I hope the videos are helpful and that the useful addresses can help viewers to find other resources that will help them. I hope that all will be encouraged to practise lipreading skills and that will find that they are helpful in the hearing world.



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