Speechreading Tips & Hints
(also called Lipreading)
By Chelle Wyatt
I teach speechreading tips at work and it’s becoming a popular class. The classes become a support group of sorts and we all share any insights we might have about lip shapes. They teach me as much as much as I teach them. I enjoy leading this class and sometimes I talk about it on Facebook. I have lots of hard of hearing friends thanks to attending hearing loss conventions. A number of those friends reply to my posts saying they wished they could take the class so I thought maybe I’d start sharing some of what I do here.
You’re going to see me swap out the terms speechreading and lipreading. It’s the same thing but someone thought speechreading was better since it’s not lipreading alone. We rely on facial expressions, body language, gestures and situational cues as an aid to reading lips.
I an a good speechreader, but not an expert
First of all, the best speechreading tip I can share is that I am not the best lipreader. My students have witnessed me bomb…which I think actually helps them. It keeps it real, lowering expectations for themselves. It’s not something that just snaps in – it takes time, practice and patience, which is why I also try to make the class fun. Having a sense of humor is a great help. So I’m not the best and I’m not the worst either. I fall somewhere in between. The students see my confidence and they know I don’t fear social situations and maybe that’s enough to encourage them.
Without hearing aids or my eyes I have a 30% word discrimination. With hearing aids and no eyes I have a 60% word discrimination. With my eyes and hearing aids I catch about 90% of what’s said. Without hearing aids and my eyes I’d guess I’m somewhere around 70%. Lipreading fills in the gaps hearing aids miss. I still get stuck on words but I have ways around that now too. I use my remaining hearing to aid speechreading, they work together.
My speechreading ability depends on a few things:
~Advocating for my needs and making sure the other person knows I use lipreading. I often tell grocery store clerks, “I hear enough to know you are talking but I use lipreading to hear.”
~Whether or not I’m tired. My brain works lightning fast piecing together what I heard and saw all while using deduction to make sure it fits into a proper sentence/thought. If I’m tired, or sick, it’s hard penetrate the brain fog and I can’t keep up.
~How well I know the person. I have a harder time with new people but as I get used to people I do better and better.
~How long I’m lipreading. After a two hour meeting my brain is fried and then I go into shutdown mode for an hour or so afterward to recuperate.
~Am I relaxed or uptight? The more relaxed I am the better I do. The harder I try, the worse I get.
It also depends on the speaker, here are some examples….
~Do they talk too fast or too slow? Yes there’s such a thing as too slow and I call it monkey lips. That’s when people over exaggerate their words in slow motion.
~Do they have a mustache that covers their lips?
~Do they keep turning their head? Some people habitually turn away while giving me directions.
~Did they get my attention before speaking? If everyone did this, it would cut down on many a repeat.
~Do they have an accent? Accents shape words a little differently. After a while I can get used to that too but it takes more time.
Hints for extra practice
I think all hard of hearing people use lipreading to a degree but taking the class brings it up to the next level. During my first class I encourage the students to start focusing on lips and tell people they are reading lips, even if they are just starting. Get in the habit of it. For practice, watch the news with low volume and try reading reporters lips. Use captions (which are usually slightly behind) to figure it out. Some reporters are going to be easier to understand than others simply because they form their words better than others. You might surprise yourself with how much you catch. To prove that point in class, I’ll turn my back and read a paragraph. How much did they get? Very little. When I turn back around, they get a lot more. Go forth, and become aware of your speechreading habits. I’ll be back with more speechreading tips.
If you are interested in learning more about speechreading or lip reading, the SWC Hearing Loss Resources page has a few links that lead to cool websites where you can practice your skills online.