Lip-reading: fighting the barriers

Many people with hearing loss rely heavily on visual clues from the face and mouth to aid communication and the understanding of speech. But the practice of lip reading comes with its own set of obstacles…

With the increase in use of face masks during the global pandemic, many of the hearing-impaired population – who make up 5% of the world – are beginning to feel alienated. Even your patients who rely on sign language still need to interpret facial expressions for a full understanding of what is being said, and those with hearing aids or cochlear implants are facing a lip-reading barrier or muffled speech.

Grammar is in the face

Lip reading itself is complicated. And typically for lip reading to be successful, the speaker must be directly in front of the person who needs to see what is being said. As some hearing-impaired individuals may say, the grammar is in the face – but if you can’t see the face properly, it’s next to impossible to ‘read’. Which accounts for the fact that only 45% of lip-reading recognition is accurate. Not only do hearing-aid wearers currently experience the issues that face masks represent, but difficulties also arise when the speaker has facial hair, talks while looking down or while moving back and forth – much like a teacher – has a unique dialect or accent or speaks too fast. And different environments also present different issues.

Difficulty listening in noisy spaces is one of the biggest complaints of hearing aid users, and understanding conversations in these situations is problematic. Add to this the current social distancing rules, making face to face communication even trickier, and it’s easy to see why the 466 million hearing-impaired people worldwide can be left feeling frustrated and isolated. Among them, 34 million children who are no doubt struggling to keep up with the conversations around them.

Looping together

Far from an exact science, 80% of lip reading is guesswork. But while it’s not a magic wand, it can be a great support for those reliant on hearing aids and cochlear implants, enabling patients to better understand what they see and hear and taking a more active part in conversations. However, becoming a good lip reader requires skill and concentration, plus a great deal of practice – it’s like a puzzle but once the pieces fit together, it just works.

Alongside hearing aids and the new transparent face masks now available, the accuracy of lip reading can be amplified with loop systems from Conversor. Not only will your patients be able hear more clearly what the speaker is saying, it will also bring the words in to context, allowing the hearing-impaired individual to have a fully-rounded, two-way, meaningful conversation. Conversor’s revolutionary Script can then take communication one step further by adding subtitles to lip reading, never missing a word again.

To find out how Conversor can change the life of your patients, call 01483 608 404 today and take their communication one step further.