Lipreading Practice

Article written for Dispensing Optics Magazine

ABDO: Association of British Dispensing Opticians

August 2015

I see what you say

This article appeared in the August 2015 issue of Dispensing Optics, and is reproduced with permission from the Association of British Dispensing Opticians’

Talking with others is one of the most fundamental of human interactions and is used in so many different ways. The sense of isolation and often confusion felt by those of us with hearing loss, as a result of not being able to fully take part, affects every aspect of our lives. Most of us with a hearing loss rely on what we can see to make sense of communication interactions. The care of our eyesight is therefore very important and it is vital that we understand what we are required to do and that we fully understand the results of the tests. Sometimes this is difficult as with our poor hearing we may miss or mishear important information.

Any kind of interview or going for an appointment can be stressful because of the worry associated with not hearing correctly. This starts with hearing one’s name called, when in the waiting room. I have a profound hearing loss and rely on my hearing aids and on my lipreading skills. Some years ago I had a very thorough eye test, the optometrist did not respond when I said that I could not hear what was being said. No attempt was made to look at me when speaking or to ensure that I had heard the instructions correctly. When I undertook the peripheral vision test I knew that I had to press the button when I saw dots of light – what I did not know was that I should press the button to record the number of dots of light that I saw. The next time I had this test I was able to lipread the instructions more clearly and did it correctly but I have often wondered about the result of the first test and the possible implications of my completing it incorrectly!

Obviously the degree of hearing loss will vary from person to person and so will the communication needs. People with no hearing are known as Deaf and will probably require the services of a lip speaker or a sign interpreter whilst those with varying degrees of hearing loss (deaf) will mainly need conscious action on the speaker’s part. Both will benefit from the speaker, speaking clearly and using other strategies when speaking to them. Loop systems are very useful and can be portable enabling them to be taken where they are needed.

It is important to remember that the lipreader needs to see the mouth at all times. One of the most important aspects of speaking to someone who is hard of hearing is to make sure that they can see your face in good light. Positioning is important. If the speaker has their back to the window then it is difficult to lipread because their face is in darkness and the lipreader has the light in their eyes. When having an eye test it will be difficult because some of the tests take place in a darkened room so it is necessary to ensure the instructions are given and understood when the speaker’s face can be seen. It is also important to tell the lipreader what you are talking about and to check that the information has been followed and understood. Lipreaders are very good at appearing to have understood when in fact they haven’t a clue what has been said. None of us like to look silly! Sensitively, check and check again throughout the appointment.

Published figures show that as many as one in six has a hearing loss in the UK. This is represents a high proportion of patients and it is predicted to rise. There will be many different needs within this group. Last year saw the publication of the final report of the International Longevity Centre – UK, Commission on Hearing loss. It was a very interesting report and recommended many actions for both the detection and treatment of hearing loss and for the way in which those with hearing loss will be supported in the future. This year sees the introduction of "accessible information standards" to NHS services. It will be mandatory by July 2016. It covers not only hearing loss but any sensory loss so that all will be supported no matter what kind of sensory loss they have. It is the duty of the NHS service provider to ask and provide the mode of communication the client requires. This good practice would be very valuable in the private sector too. Other clients, such as those with learning difficulties or those for whom English is a second language, could also benefit from this heightened awareness.

The care taken by optometrists, opticians and other staff to ensure that they are deaf aware could make such a difference to the hard of hearing person both in enabling them to better understand what is required in the tests, the implication of the test results for their vision and spectacle/lens provision and most of all to the quality of their experience in your consulting room.

Gloria McGregor


NHS Accessible information standard -

Hearing Loss Commission - Commission on Hearing Loss: Final Report - International ...

See tips when speaking to a Hard of Hearing person & Deaf Awareness –


This article appeared in the August 2015 issue of Dispensing Optics, and is reproduced with permission from the Association of British Dispensing Opticians


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