People with hearing loss need a variety of tools and strategies to communicate. Hearing Associates of Las Vegas can evaluate hearing loss and help find the ones necessary to optimize your hearing.
When a person is first diagnosed with hearing loss, they may immediately think of assistive devices like hearing aids or surgery, such as cochlear implants. While both can be important in helping a person with hearing loss, lip reading can increase their effectiveness.
What is lip reading?
Lip reading, also known as speech reading, is a technique that uses facial clues to help decipher language.
Myths about lip reading
Numerous myths surround the process and purpose of lip reading, sometimes reinforced by the media. Let’s look at a few of these.
- Only deaf people use lip reading. Lip reading is used by both deaf and hard of hearing people. Lip reading can improve the ability to understand speech when used with hearing assistive devices. One study found that when hearing aids were used in conjunction with lip reading, language comprehension improved in over 90% of study participants.
- Lip reading only focuses on the mouth. While lip reading does involve learning to understand the movements of the speaker’s mouth, teeth, and tongue, a person who is proficient in lip reading also uses facial expressions, gestures, and body language to make sense of what is being said. In addition, they can use their prior knowledge and the context of the conversation to help them form a complete picture of what is being communicated.
- Lip reading is a stand-alone solution to speech comprehension for those with hearing loss or deafness. In a well-lit room, less than 40% of sounds in the English language can be discerned by lip reading. Those with hearing loss can develop other skills through auditory training and cued speech to increase their comprehension.
Why should I learn lip reading?
For deaf or hard of hearing people, lip reading can help you connect to people with normal hearing. Hearing loss often leads to social isolation because of difficulties in following conversations where words are misunderstood or missed entirely.
Lip reading can help overcome the problem of hearing in a room with a noisy background. It improves communication by encouraging those with hearing loss to be involved in conversations, and it decreases the need to ask people to repeat themselves.
For those who are deaf, lip-reading provides a way to naturally participate in the hearing world. Lip reading creates smoother social interactions.
For people with normal hearing, lip reading can help you become aware of the needs of friends and family with hearing impairments. Learning how to read lips can teach you to improve pronunciation, allowing people who use lip reading to understand you better.
How can I help someone who lip-reads?
Lip reading is a skill, but it requires both knowledge and concentration. You can help ease the burden of lip reading by doing a few simple things.
- Make sure that the room is well-lit. People who read lips need to be able to see their conversation partners.
- Always face the person you are talking with, so they do not miss sounds or words.
- Speak clearly, with your normal speech rhythm. Don’t increase your volume. It exaggerates expressions and makes lip reading more difficult.
- Use complete thoughts and sentences to give context to information. This helps with interpretation in case they miss words.
I have hearing loss, and I want to learn lip reading. What do I need to know?
- Be prepared to be observant. You will need to focus simultaneously on the mouth, teeth, and tongue positions, facial expressions, and body gestures of the person you are conversing with.
- Don’t expect to be perfect. You won’t be able to catch every word that is said. Instead, concentrate on whole sentences.
- Choose your location, if you can. Places with good lighting and fewer audio distractions can improve your ability to follow a conversation.
- Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you better read their lips. If you need them to turn more fully towards you or to speak at a slower rate, let them know.
- Use context to help you understand. When you miss words, filling in the gaps based on the topic being discussed can illuminate the subject. In one Australian lip reading competition, the best scores were usually in the 40 to 50% range. The rare 90th percentile score relied heavily on context to gain understanding.
- Make educated guesses. Only one-third of the 140 sounds used in English are visually different. Since many sounds and words look similar when lip reading, knowing which sounds are similar can help you choose the appropriate word when interpreting.
- Take lip-reading classes, watch online videos, or use smartphone apps to learn the basics of lip reading. Classes are available through online sources such as lipreading.org and community resources such as libraries.
- Practice! Use closed captioning on television programs or streaming services. Watch a scene with closed captioning on, then turn captioning off. Watch the scene again and try to read the lips of the actors.
Lip reading is an excellent way for those with hearing loss to improve communication. Using it in conjunction with hearing assistance devices can provide optimal hearing improvement. Hearing Associates of Las Vegas can help evaluate your hearing loss and determine the best way to manage your hearing health.