Lipreading Practice

Article written for programme of Bach Choir concert

June 2019

This was written to go in the programme of a signed performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solmnis by the Bach Choir at the Royal Festival Hall. It was very well received. 28th June 2019. The signer was the motivational speaker and musician Paul Whittaker.

Let The Music Begin

Communication is so important to all of us. It enables us to enjoy each other’s company, experiences, exchange ideas and through music to enjoy the sounds and often have emotional experiences. I have always loved poetry, stories and music but in the 1980’s when I was in my early thirties catastrophe struck. I found I had a profound hearing loss. I loved my job as a primary school teacher and found so much pleasure seeing the development of the children and staff too, when I was appointed headteacher. My hearing loss impacted on all areas of my life especially school. I struggled on for 13 years but eventually I took early retirement.

I didn't realise how little hearing I had for many years and always felt that if I tried harder I would be able to hear better BUT it didn't work! I misheard what was said and missed so much of the conversation. Very embarrassing. I felt quite isolated in large groups and dreaded going to parties or large dinners but because of my life style this was very much a part of my life. For a while following my retirement I felt quite depressed and isolated. I was reluctant to join groups because what was the point in talking to people when you couldn’t hear what they were saying and didn’t know they were speaking to you! People with hearing loss can often seem aloof, rude, stupid or worse simply because we haven’t heard what has been said. Obviously following instructions is difficult if you haven’t heard them.

I realised I must help myself! I joined a lipreading class and that was one of the best things I have ever done! Being with others who understood was so important and we swapped ideas and strategies as well as developing our lipreading skills. It does wonders for your confidence! I still used my skills by working with children who had specific learning difficulties and then following the development of my own lipreading skills, in 2006 I began to teach lipreading. I still teach a voluntary lipreading support group. I have also produced a website: It is a free resource for anyone wishing to practise lipreading or to find useful addresses or tips and deaf awareness. It can be used to help people recovering from strokes or by those who, like me, have had cochlear implants, to practise speech sounds recognition and following speech.

There is so much more I could talk about. Hearing aids, loop systems and other developments have made a real impact, but most important is deaf awareness. If hearing people were more aware of hearing loss and knew how to help us in various situations, it would be so useful. In February this year, I hosted a Livery Company event to raise deaf awareness. I made a presentation and then two amazing young ladies told of their experiences and played individually and together. They are both professional musicians who happen to be deaf! Our guests were stunned! It was a wonderful afternoon and together we sent the message that those of us with hearing loss can do everything that hearing people can do except hear. Never give up there is always something we can do but we have to look for it.

Gloria McGregor



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