At Better Hearing Australia (VIC), our clients find the most difficult part of living with a hearing loss is understanding speech – particularly in noisy environments.
The good news is lipreading does help and it can be learned. Lipreading may be part of your communication strategies.
On this page you can watch our video and read more about lipreading.
What is lipreading/speechreading?
Lipreading is recognising (unconsciously) the speech shapes from the lips, teeth and tongue movements. Combined with the sound of speech and what we hear, what we can work out from the topic and context to understand what is said.
Benefits of lipreading
- Lipreading adds another dimension to understanding speech: some of the difficult speech sounds to hear such as ‘sh’ ‘th’ ‘w’ ‘s’ and ‘f’ are quite recognisable from the shapes made by the lips, teeth and tongue
- Watching the movement of the lips and speech organs helps to be more ‘in tune’ with the flow of speech and to follow what is said
- People with a hearing loss realise without any instruction that they need to see the speaker’s face for better understanding – this indicates that lipreading is naturally occurring
Limitations of lipreading
- Many speech sounds are not very visible such as ‘y’’ng’ ‘g’ ‘e’ and ‘i’ so not all sounds/speech can be lipread without other input or clues
- Some speech shapes and words – even phrases – look alike on the lips
- Speakers may not keep their faces and mouths visible throughout conversations
- People not speaking clearly do not form very visible speech shapes
- Lipreading is difficult in poor light or facing into glare.
- You need good vision and a clear view of the speaker’s face
- Combine the visual strategies with good amplification and careful listening
- Seek the cooperation of your communication partners to face you and speak clearly
To get better at lipreading, become aware of when you are using it, for example:
- watch your own speech in front of the mirror to become accustomed to watching the speech shapes (the lip area). This will help you to familiarise yourself with some for the lip shaping that occurs.
- watch familiar clear speakers, speakers across a room and news readers who articulate well and concentrate on their lip movements