Speechreading (lipreading) as a communications strategy for people with hearing loss

Speechreading (lipreading) as a communications strategy for people with hearing loss

Speech reading can be an effective communications strategy for people with hearing loss.

Speech reading is method of using visual clues from a speaker’s face to decode the contents of spoken language. We all speechread to some extent, but many people with hearing loss rely on it to provide a large percentage of their communications.

Speech readers attempt to decode spoken language by deciphering patterns on the lips. Anyone who has ever tried it knows that it isn’t easy. Furthermore, it seems to be a talent, in the sense that some people are extremely good at it, while others just can’t seem to get it.

Researchers estimate that only about 40 % of the sounds of normal speech are clearly visible on the lips.

Sounds which look the same are the bane of speech readers. For example, the letters ‘b’, ‘m’, and ‘p’ look virtually identical on the lips. The speech reader must rely on contextual and other clues to differentiate between the words ‘bat’, ‘mat’, and ‘pat’.

Other troublesome sounds are those that are formed in the back of the mouth or in the throat. ‘g’ and ‘k’ are examples of these sounds that produce very little visible evidence on the lips.

Additional problems for speechreaders are caused by things that obstruct a clear view of the speaker’s face. People who hold a hand in front of their mouth or turn their backs on a speechreader quickly prevent communication. Also, men whose facial hair covers their lips are difficult to speechread.

May 2013 – Seeing at the Speed of Sound

May 2011 – Lip reader deciphers royal wedding whispers

December 2009 – What can we learn from a speechreading computer?

September 2009 – Computers Are Better Lipreaders than Humans!

December 2007 – Clear Speech for Communication Partners

December 2005 – Here’s Mary Allen, Ph.D., of the University of South Australia, with her thoughts on computer based speechreading instruction you can use at home.

April 2005 – Here’s Steve Silverman with some great suggestions for both the speaker and the speechreader!

November 2001 – The League for the Hard of Hearing offers some great speechreading tapes that feature Gene Wilder.

More on this and related topics

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Seeing at the Speed of Sound

May 2013

I AM SITTING in my office during a summer internship. Absorbed by my computer screen, I do not notice when my manager enters the room, much less when he starts talking. Only when a sudden hand taps my shoulder do I jump. He is gazing expectantly at me. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in,” I say. “Oh, right.” His expression changes: to surprise, and then to caution. He proceeds to say something that looks like, “Would you graawl blub blub vhoom mwarr hreet twizzolt, please?” I haven’t the faintest idea what he said. I have no excuse, for I was looking straight at him. But despite my attention, something went wrong. He spoke too fast; my eyes lost focus. “Um, could you repeat that, please?” I ask. His eyebrows raise, but he nods and says it again. I sit up straighter, attempt to concentrate, but again it reaches my eyes as a garbled mess. “It’s fine,” he answers. “I’ll send you an email.” Well, at least I understood that part, I think as he walks out. Full Story

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Lip reader deciphers royal wedding whispers

May 2011

Tina Lannin, a professional lip reader who was born deaf, caught the private whispers during the royal wedding that television microphones couldn’t capture. Lannin, who has worked for 7 years as a forensic lip reader for police forces and media outlets with O’Malley Communications, picked out comments from Prince William, his bride and Queen Elizabeth II in a partial transcript. Her assessment couldn’t be verified.  Full Story

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LHH Offers Speechreading Videos

November 2001

The League for Hard of Hearing (LHH) offers a set of Speechreading videos entitled “I See What You’re Saying”. Award winning celebrity Gene Wilder brings his unique humor and talent as an actor, writer, and director to this set of videotapes, which provide instruction and practice in speechreading. Each tape combines entertaining vignettes with effective strategies to improve communication skills. People who are deaf or hard of hearing and professionals teaching speechreading will find these tapes an amusing tool to enhance visual awareness and improve skills, making real life communication situations easier and more fulfilling. A handbook with suggestions for effective use of the videos and additional practice materials is included.

V730 2-tape set, including handbooks – – $90
V731 Volume I — Orientation, 110 minutes, tape, handbook – – $55
V732 Volume II — Practice tape, 65 minutes, handbook – – $45
V733 Additional copies of the handbook, package of 12 – – $15