Lip reading is a vital communication skill for many people with hearing loss. It’s the ability to recognise the lip shapes, gestures, and facial movements of a person when they are speaking, to gain a better understanding of what they are saying.
We all lip read and watch a person’s facial expressions without realising it, especially in noisy situations. Becoming a good lip reader requires skill, concentration, and a great deal of practice. Many words look similar on the lips, it’s easy to mistake ‘biscuits’ for ‘big kiss’ for example.
A good lip reading teacher will help you to tell the differences between words.
How learning to lip read can help you
Whether you’ve had hearing loss for years or are newly diagnosed, lip reading can help in times when you can’t follow everything that’s being said.
You can learn to ‘see speech’ by practising at home with a mirror or a friend. But you’ll develop your lip reading skills more quickly if you go to a lip reading class run by a qualified teacher. You could also learn a lot more about managing hearing loss.
You will also learn how to fill in the gaps of speech that you can’t hear, and how to use clues from the context of the conversation.
Research has found that attending a lip reading class can give you greater:
- confidence to communicate with others.
- control over your hearing loss, as you develop new communication skills.
- independence, as you’re less reliant on others to help you follow conversation.
“Attending the lip reading class has helped me face my situation more positively. It’s both a form of therapy and a tool to improve communication. It demands commitment, but it’s so rewarding.”
Lip reading classes
Lip reading classes are very informal and friendly. You can go at your own pace and the teacher will encourage you to relax.
The teacher will demonstrate the different shapes that sounds make on the lips, so you can identify them. They will also help you to get an idea of what is said, so you can join in the conversation.
Most classes will also cover other communication tactics that will both support lip reading and help you to manage your hearing loss. For example, you’ll be taught the best place to position yourself in a group so that you can lip read everyone, and how to be more assertive, so you feel comfortable asking people to repeat themselves or turn to face you.
It’s likely that the classes will also include group discussions and look at equipment and organisations that can help with hearing loss.
Find lip reading classes
You can find lip reading classes on the Association of Teachers of Lip reading to Adults (ATLA) website or you can get in touch with our Contact Centre.
Practice at home
ATLA has produced a DVD which you can use at home for practice. To find out more, email [email protected]
You can visit lipreadingpractice.co.uk for information and video lessons to help you develop and practise your lip reading skills.
The following tips can help, and you’ll do these things naturally once you get used to lip reading:
- Before you start a conversation, explain that you lip read.
- Ask the speaker to face the light, so you can see their lips clearly.
- Sit or stand at the same level as the speaker.
- Clarify the subject of the conversation first.
- If you don’t catch what the speaker says, don’t worry, just ask them to repeat it or to say it again in a different way.