Lip Reading and the use of visual clues

Lip Reading

Lip reading or more accurately speech reading, since it includes facial gesture and body language, is a great help to the hearing impaired in making sense of speech. Lip reading is not sufficient on its own but together with the additional visual information available, even with impaired hearing, speech is much easier to understand.

Most of us lip read

Most of us lip-read to some extent in difficult listening situations and this can be a most useful adjunct to hearing aid use. Even with normal hearing a person will look at a speaker whenever possible to assist the communication process. In noisy surroundings, there may be some reliance on mouth movements and facial expressions to increase understanding. Many hearing impaired people acquire great skill without any conscious effort, while others may benefit from lip-reading classes.

Lip Reading Classes

Lip-reading classes are usually provided through the local education authority. With impaired hearing, there is likely to be some dependence on visual clues. Visual information may through observing visual cues (speech reading) or through a manual communication system (signing or finger spelling). The degree of dependence is related to the degree of hearing impairment. Someone who is profoundly deaf is reliant on visual information, whereas with a mild hearing loss hearing remains a primary communication channel. Such classes also bring together people with similar problems, which may also be very helpful in an individual’s adjustment to hearing loss.

Speech sounds

Many speech sounds cannot be differentiated by the visual pattern alone. Groups of phonemes that look the same when spoken are known as ‘visemes’ *(visemic-visually distinctive) E.g. `p’, `b’ and `m’ are part of the same viseme group, a speech reader could only conclude that one of the group had been spoken.Is is thought that only about 50% of a spoken message can be understood through lip reading alone. Lip- reading classes provides activities to aid development of speech reading. Even when significantly reduced hearing is coupled with speech reading, the listener’s ability to comprehend may be greatly increased.

Auditory Training

Auditory training is a series of exercises to help a hearing-impaired person to learn to listen and to build up the correct associations of sounds and their meanings. It is usually only appropriate for individuals with severe or profound hearing loss of long standing who may also use sign language and finger spelling, but these are only rarely used by adults with acquired hearing loss, mainly because they are of little help in communicating with the hearing community.

A hearing therapist within a hospital usually provides auditory training for adults.

The eye can listen, too

To a hearing-impaired person a hearing aid is indispensable. But the ability to lip read may supplement the hearing aid and make a conversation more complete.

Observing lip movements, facial mimicking and body language may help the hearing-impaired person understand what is being said. But listening with both ears and eyes does not come natural. It demands effort and strength.

Speech reading

Speech reading is best developed in supportive groups and environments. So, it is a good idea to check out if lip reading classes are taught near your home. If not, it would be helpful to look for support from family and friends in trying to learn lip reading from lessons offered on video tape.The learning process never ends. Faces and dialects vary, but the more you learn the greater your confidence and the better your ability to communicate with the rest of the world.

Learning lip reading takes time, patience and understanding, but the rewards are worth it. So, always ask people to look directly at you, keep their face in a well lit position and speak clearly.


Here is advice on how to start lip reading:

Sit in a position so you can see the speaker's face in bright light.

Make yourself comfortable and try to relax.

Try to remember the tone of speech and how the words are articulated by the movements of the mouth. Using your memory you will learn to recognize sounds you are no longer able to hear.

Pay close attention to the movements of the mouth, tongue and jaw of the speaker. Ask him or her to rephrase the sentence when you do not understand what is said.

Pay attention to the speaker's facial expressions. You can read information about subject and mood in facial expressions.Notice the speaker's gestures, such as nods, pointing and glances in other directions.

Try as fast as possible to work out what is the subject of the conversation. Words are easier to understand when you know the context.

Remember that lip reading is a combination of seeing, listening and feeling. It is only natural that you tire quickly. Rest your eyes for a moment and resume your work.

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