What is Lipreading?

Oddly enough….it involves reading lips. That’s obvious, but what’s less obvious is that everybody lipreads, even people with normal hearing.

In a noisy bar you might not hear as well if you can’t see the other person’s mouth. When you’re watching TV and your favourite footballer misses a goal, you see his frustration because the ‘f’ and ‘sh’ are easy to recognise.

There’s more to lipreading than watching the speaker’s mouth, teeth and tongue to recognise words. It’s their facial expression and body language too. Are they looking happy or sad? Are they looking relaxed or tense? Taken together this may help anticipate the situation and understand what is being said. The brain is very good at filling in the gaps. Lipreading is often educated guesswork.

What makes it more complicated is that speech has evolved for hearing, not lipreading. That means only about 30% of speech can be seen – and this is a speaker with good lip movements. Many words look the same on the lips. Ask a friend to say the following (silently) and see if you can recognise them: ‘bat’, ‘mat’ and ‘pat’; or ‘fan’ and ‘van’. They all look the same. Try: ‘I love you’, ‘I love food’; or ‘biscuit’ and…‘big kiss’. They look similar too. Lipreading errors can lead to embarrassing or funny situations.

If you have a hearing loss it helps to wear your hearing aids, and glasses if required. It takes great concentration to be a good lipreader and it can make you very tired.

Managing your hearing loss

For most people, hearing loss happens gradually. A little bit like putting on weight, you don’t realise until your clothes start to feel tight. Is it hard to follow conversation when there’s background noise? Do you struggle to hear in meetings or find that children are mumbling? Are you turning the TV up too loud?

Maybe you have a hearing loss, just like us.

We teach techniques to help with difficult situations. We encourage you to be assertive and upfront about your hearing loss and how you can educate your family and friends. There are simple techniques such as the speaker getting your attention by saying your name and facing you.

We explain how the ear works, how we hear and what can go wrong. This takes the mystery out of hearing loss.

We love our hearing aids and cochlear implants, but they are complicated devices. How do you use them? What types are available; and who can trust can you for advice? These are things that people in our classes understand.  They have hearing loss too, and often they know.

Our educational program has evolved over 70 years, and the information you especially need to manage your hearing loss will be included into these lessons. Better Hearing Australia Canberra and other BHA branches are the only organisations in Australia that conduct lipreading classes.

We learn together and from each other.