Lipreading is not about ‘reading’ the shape of the lips

Lipreading

There’s a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth and read, right?

But no, it’s far, far more complicated than that. I have to queue up words in my mind, invent possibilities that fit the facial expression, body language, approximate number of syllables etc etc. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, and I hold both in my mind simultaneously, waiting for it to become clear. While I’m doing this, collecting possibilities and sifting through them all, I need to keep the conversation going. So I smile and nod and say ‘mmm,’ and ‘yep…’ as appropriate. If I don’t do that, the speaker stops, and we haven’t gotten anywhere.

Sometimes though, I get right to the end, and I realise that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. And then I have to say, ‘Sorry, can you go right back to the start?’

And you might wonder, well why were you nodding and smiling and saying yes all along when I didn’t understand. But that’s because it’s how lipreading works. It’s not a lie. It’s the only practical way to do it.

It can take a whole minute or two after the speaker finishes, that it suddenly comes to me what was said.

As you can imagine, this is incredibly hard work. I have an hour of lipreading in me a day, tops. After that, fatigue sets in. And if I go too far, pushing myself for maybe 3 hours, I am WIPED afterwards, and my head pounds. It can literally take me days to recover.

This is why, even though I’m a pretty competent lipreader, I prefer other modes of conversation.

If you’d like to do your bit to help raise awareness, feel free to share this post. Thanks!

One thought on “Lipreading is not about ‘reading’ the shape of the lips

  1. kmccready

    Reblogged this on Kevin McCready and commented:
    My wife Joanna wears hearing aids and lip reads more than she knew. Now I know why she often nodded in agreement when she hadn’t really heard me. We cut a deal a long time ago that she asks me to repeat if she’s not sure.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s