Lip reading classes rule OK

Copyright: krasimiranevenova / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: krasimiranevenova / 123RF Stock Photo

Since I’ve starting reading more blogs, websites and Facebook pages about hearing loss I’ve become aware of a wide range of attitudes towards, and experience of, lip reading and lip reading classes.

Some people seem to think lip reading is a miraculous “cure” for deafness.  One organisation selling lip reading tuition online markets itself with the words “learn to hear with your eyes and never miss a word again”.  Put politely, this is nonsense.  Be assured, you can be an excellent lip reader and miss an awful lot.

Other people find the whole lip-reading-class-thing hopeless, and give up.

Still others are clearly very good lip readers but they have never been to a formal class.  Into this category goes the popular American hearing loss blogger, Shari Eberts, who sometimes talks in her blog about playing lip reading games with her children.  She is thinking about attending a class to develop her skills further, but she already sounds pretty adept to me.

I think we start to lip read instinctively when we lose our hearing.  It’s why people will sometimes say they can’t hear in the dark, or hear without their glasses on, long before they identify themselves as “deaf”. It’s why I reached my sixties with quite reasonable lip reading skills despite not having been to classes for thirty-odd years.  (I briefly joined a group when I was first diagnosed in my twenties).  So if we don’t absolutely need to be “taught” to lip read, why bother?

I love lip reading classes for four main reasons.

  1. The camaraderie. Lots of people have hearing loss but we don’t talk about it very much in normal conversation.  We don’t want to bore people with it.  There are more interesting things to discuss.  But it can be a great stress-reliever to sit down with other similarly challenged people, once in a while, and laugh at our misunderstandings, share our horror stories and have a good vent.  Call it therapy, if you like.
  2. You get tips on how to cope with comprehension quandaries. Remembering that “fourteen” looks identical to “forty” can help you avoid making a numerical faux pas. You learn to ask “do you mean fourteen as in one four” and wait for a yes or a no.  Don’t whatever you do say “is that fourteen or forty?” because that just takes you back in a circle to the word you aren’t sure about in the first place.
  3. My lip reading is better for understanding something of how it all works. When I know which shapes look the same it helps me guess what the word might be.
  4. Understanding how difficult lip reading can be helps me see the funny side of things. Knowing that it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell X from Y on the lips makes me feel better when I guess Y and it is X.  It’s not my fault.  I’m not foolish. It’s just not possible.

The other day I found on the Hearing Link website a link to a video produced by a US Company, ProCare.  It’s a video quiz with seven lip reading scenarios, designed to raise awareness of the challenges that people with hearing loss face.  You can find it here.

Have a go.  Warning – it’s not easy.  It took me three attempts and a lot of concentration to eventually get seven out of seven correct.

It was fun, though, and as it’s from the USA I assume the speakers have American accents, which makes things much tougher for us Brits.  Different accents can make a huge difference to how easy it is to understand someone, because some sounds will make a different shape on the lips to the one we are accustomed to.

Of course, in real life people don’t repeat everything they say several times to help you get the right answer (well, at least, not unless you ask them to) and a pop up screen giving three possible options doesn’t display underneath their faces!  (I wish, huh?)



15 thoughts on “Lip reading classes rule OK

  1. Vera. I am a Teacher of an Aural Rehabilitation Class – Lip Reading in Canberra Australia.
    I certainly agree with all your comments. We have to get it across to people that hearing aids are indeed only Aids. They do not restore our normal hearing, so we need to use other strategies, communication tips and lip reading. I am not a good Lip Reader, but am considered a good teacher.
    Our class is for 2 hours, but we have a break after one hour, with a chat and cup of tea/coffee. Then another final half hour. I try to make the classes enjoyable, as there should be no stress attached to coming to Group. We have discussions on any issue that may be worrying one of the group. We do puzzles, quizzes etc, just to keep brain active, so hopefully a lot of fun is had by all who attend. I admire the fact that you alert people to the fact that Lip Reading is not easy for some people, but confidence and friendship help us to gain coping skills. Being tired after a day or some time lip reading is normal, as you are concentrating more than the normal hearing person needs to do. I have had great support from people in UK, USA and Canada with whom I am in contact. We all share the same issues with our hearing loss. Regards. Carol

    1. Hello Carol. How great to hear from Australia! I think the best things about lip reading classes are the camaraderie and the laughter. No matter how sympathetic friends with good hearing are, they don’t live life in our shoes. Sometimes we need to be among people who do, to keep us sane and and keep us going forward. The other day I found a quote I’d never heard before. Apparently Winston Churchill once said “if you are going through hell, keep going”. Whilst I wouldn’t say my hearing loss was hell the quote made me laugh out loud and chimes with my general philosophy of “keeping going” at all costs!
      Keep in touch.

  2. i go to a lipreading class in Greenwich in south East London England ,i look forward to it every week ,we have a great tutor and she makes it very interesting and fun ,after 6 years i can lipread quite well but no one can lipread everyone ,even me .one problem is over the country there is a shortest of teachers and the government does not seem to help the hard of hearing and the deaf with all the cuts ,i know of 2 classes in my area which have closed this year

    1. Hello Jay, good to hear from you. It seems to be a postcode lottery whether you have local classes or not, which can’t be right. It’s astonishing that some areas treat it as a “leisure” activity, as if we were doing it for fun.

      1. The lip reading course I recently started is run by the Borough of Richmond Adult classes and last term I was the only one from the borough going to it, everyone else was from surrounding boroughs. Again shows how few and far between the classes are.

  3. As always Vera your description of lip reading is spot on. I have just completed a one term introductory lip reading course. It was informative but unfortunately in the real world people don’t enounce their words very clearly so lip reading is very difficult. I empathise with Ivan re the length of a class, my classes were 11/2 hrs long and I got very tired after an hour. I was also the person with the biggest hearing loss in the class and despite there only being between four or six of us was not able to always understand if there was a discussion about lip reading. I am as yet undecided whether to continue to more classes.

    1. Hi Pat. I think I’ve been lucky in that both the teachers I’ve experienced have been very good at breaking up the bits where you have to concentrate with lots of fun/more relaxing things. Basically, I keep going because we have a really good laugh and it has taught me to be less critical of myself when I don’t understand something (because of some words just being IMPOSSIBLE to lip read). That’s worth quite a lot, I think.

  4. I went to a lip-reading class for a couple of years and found it very useful. The teacher was good fun and made it as enjoyable as she could. The worst feature for me was that it went on too long, and after about an hour I simply wanted it to end so that I could go home. But that was my fault, not the teacher’s. But I did learn quite a lot, and found that on airplanes, for example,I could “see” what the stewards were saying to other passengers quite a long way up the cabin. Mind you, it was hardly very sparkling stuff!. What I could with is being able to lipread the captain or some of the stewards when they gabble into the PA system. I hardly ever get a single word. Not that is seems to matter very much most of the time, but I would be in a mess if there were ever a real emergency.

    1. Hi Ivan. Oh yes, aeroplanes…
      What they should introduce, I think, is the ability to type the announcements onto the information screens – that would work. I’ve sometimes asked my husband what the announcement was and he hasn’t been able to work it out either (he has very good hearing) so it wouldn’t just be us deafies who would gain.

  5. It would be lovely if there were more classes, and especially one near me in West Yorkshire. I’ve searched the lipreading teachers web-site but sadly there are none in the vicinity.

    So, if by pure chance you read Vera’s blog and live in Keighley or it’s surrounding area and are hard of hearing and want to learn to lip read then leave a response to this comment.

      1. Hello Molly. Many thanks for getting in touch and thanks for the link – I should have remembered to put it in my post. I find it puzzling that the coverage of classes is so patchy. Virtually nothing in Cumbria, very limited in North Yorkshire and around Leeds/West Yorkshire (where Ian lives) but plenty of choice in Lancashire and Co Durham. (I’m a northerner so forgive me for not looking further afield!) Why is that? I’m assuming it’s to do with the approach taken by each local authority but why does it vary so much??

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