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I’m a Lipreader

By Chelle Wyatt

I’m a lipreader and I say that to people thinking it’s straight forward.  I haven’t said hard of hearing in a few years because people think it’s talk louder, not look at me.  I want them to look at me so I have a better chance of hearing and see speech too.

A few weekends ago I attended a little get together.  The lights were dimmed to create atmosphere so I asked the host if he could turn up the lights.  “So I could hear better.” He laughed, “So you can hear better?”  I meant to deliver it in a humorous way to keep the request light and before I could say anything, my husband told him, “It’s so she can see your lips better.”  The host is a sweetheart and he turned up the lights and I did okay!

Most hearing people get it when I say I lipread.  (It’s politically correct to use speechreading these days but most people understand the term lipreading better.)  I use my remaining hearing in this way, like pieces to a puzzle.  “I lipread” works well. In facing me, sound is delivered right at me and I can use my lipreading ability too.  Between the two, I get along great in many situations.  Until I don’t.

Being a Burning Man person since 2002, I attend regional burns and this last weekend was one of them.  I went to run around the fire like the old days but a ranger stopped me with arms out.  I hear enough to know she was talking but understood nothing of what she said so I told her I lipread.  She immediately started using American Sign Language (ASL) with me and it was hard not to roll my eyes.  Or maybe I did.

I told her “I lipread, I don’t sign.”  She stopped but she didn’t know how to talk to me. She kept looking down and away so I told her to keep her face toward the fire so I could use the light too.  After all that, she was pretty good and explained the new rules of the burn.  I eventually admitted to her I am learning sign but I’m not fluent enough to have conversations yet.  She told me she’s an interpreter at the local college.

Today I was talking to another lipreading friend and she said she often has problems lipreading interpreters.  I thought that was odd at first because at work the interpreters will voice interpret for me when necessary….but wait.  I work at the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center.  They know me and other hard of hearing people so they know more about our needs.

I started thinking about it. I have a neighbor across the street who is also an ASL interpreter at the local community college.  She’s painfully shy and doesn’t use any body language when talking to me nor facial expressions.  (Hard to imagine her interpreting.) She talks super low too and I barely register her voice most of the time.  I think my friend is right, most ASL interpreters don’t know how to talk to the hard of hearing.  What an odd world.  The Deaf and the Hard of Hearing have troubles with hearing communication so you’d think our needs would cross over but they generally don’t.

Want to learn more about lipreading?  Here’s a few sites for you.

Here’s a great visual of what lipreading really is:

What is
From this website:

Rachel Kolb.  She’s deaf and she signs and she lipreads.  She made a great video describing how hard it can be to lipread.

Here’s a site for practicing lipreading although it’s from the United Kingdom.  The accent makes it harder to see the words however I was surprised at how many I understood.

Here’s the American version which is easier but after a few lessons they charge a fee.

For a lot of fun and to see how lipreading can go wrong, watch the bad lipreading series on YouTube.  Here’s a football one to get you started:   There are all kinds of bad lipreading clips, including politics, Star Wars and much more.  Be sure to click the CC button. Sometimes it’s YouTube craptions but mostly they have true captions.

Here’s my favorite speechreading book:  It’s full of all kinds of practical hearing loss life strategies.  I just love it.

There are DVD lessons to buy out there too but I’m not seeing the one I use at work.  When I go in tomorrow, I’ll post in the comments what it is.

There are lipreading classes available.  I know because we teach them here in Utah.  I teach the class myself and it’s my favorite one.  Look up your state Deaf and Hard of Hearing center for resources.  Try a web search too.  The bigger the city, the more likely there will be one in your area.

3 thoughts on “I’m a Lipreader”

  1. The lipreading program we use for part of the speechreading class at work is Audrey Greenwald’s Lipreading Made Easy. We have it on a DVD. I see a VHS set for sale and her books on Amazon and EBay. I don’t see exactly what we have though.

  2. Chelle,

    I enjoyed your article about lipreading. I have not taken classes in lipreading, but I find that lipreading can help me (hear) what people are saying, but it I still miss a lot. I have been trying to learn asl, but I don’t think I will ever learn it well enough to try to use it. Also, I don’t know anyone who uses asl to practice with.
    I want to thank you for writing this article, I find it very informative and it may help me learn to lipread better.


  3. Having someone to practice with makes a big difference. I don’t have anyone to practice with on a day to basis either. I have a friend who’s whole family has learned sign and they can communicate together in sign. Most of us aren’t that lucky. No one wants to learn a new language this late in life. Today I hung out with a Deaf crowd for work and I noticed myself using signs more afterward, now that I’m home, it’s out the window again.

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