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  • Writer's pictureGDA

Lip-reading - what is it all about...

Tanya Harper qualified as a lip-reading teacher and hearing therapist in 1995, and has been teaching her current classes at GDA for eight years. Tanya lives in the Cotswolds with her husband, two teenage boys, three cats and a very spoilt dog.

Here Tanya shares with us what lip-reading is all about and just what happens in one of her classes...

"Some people with hearing loss may find themselves, to some extent, naturally using lip-patterns to help them follow conversations, , but understanding the practise of lip-reading and the ability to lip-read is an extremely beneficial life-skill for anyone with hearing loss. Lip-reading is a skill that allows a person to be part of a conversation.

Lip-reading classes are an opportunity to practise lip-reading skill and to learn more about the relative ease or difficulty of lip-reading different sounds.

Lip-reading is a skill that allows a person to 'listen' to a speaker by watching their face to figure out their speech patterns, movements, gestures and expressions. Often called "a third ear", lip-reading goes beyond simply reading the lips of a speaker to decipher individual words.

During classes, we look at the groups of different lip-shapes - exploring a different group each week, and various exercises are planned to practise reading them and comparing them to other shapes. The exercises may take the form of short sentences, longer prose pieces, games or group work. We do these exercises by speaking ‘without voices’, so that no other cues can be used. The level of difficulty varies to cater for the beginner and more experienced lip-reader. One of the most important parts of the lesson is when participants give feedback as to ‘what they saw’; sometimes people see a completely different word or phrase, but invariably we can work out why they saw it. It is often reassuring when someone says ‘I saw…., I’ve no idea why!’, but after comparison, they are often relieved to find that there were genuine similarities between the word seen, and the word spoken. This illustrates the need for context, to avoid these confusions.

Obviously, I have to talk about something for the voiceless exercises. I try to keep the content interesting; the topics I cover are wide and varied, and sometimes obscure! I have been told that the information has been useful in answering questions in a pub quiz! Recent topics I have covered include Leonardo da Vinci, the history of the telephone box, the World Welly Wanging Championships(!), and a silent game of Bingo.

Lip-reading for an extended period of time is tiring due to the concentration involved. To remedy this, there is the all-important tea break half-way through each session. This provides the opportunity to chat with others who are in a similar situation - lip-reading classes are as much about the support network it offers as learning. It also allows the experience of communication in the presence of some background noise but in a safe environment where everyone there understands the difficulties.

It would be a mistake to think that a course of lip-reading classes will give the ability to lipread everyone and every word spoken: some people are simply difficult to lip-read; they may not move their lips much, may cover their mouths, look away, etc. Also, not all parts of speech are lip-readable, due to their being produced at the back of the mouth, for example. To enable lip-reading of a word which begins with such a sound, I will finger-spell the first letter, to help cue the reader in. Naturally then, I also teach finger-spelling during the classes.

As well as the lip-reading, the classes provide an opportunity to discuss listening tactics. We also, from time to time, discuss equipment and apps which people have found useful. Partners are welcome to come along to learn how they can help improve communication and support their partner.

Everyone in the classes is friendly and welcoming, and from all walks of life. You do not have to wait for the beginning of a new term; just turn up when you can.

And if you do decide to join us, the first lesson is free and then just £4 thereafter.

Although GDA's lip-reading classes aren't taking place at the moment due to current COVID-19 situation, we hope to be re-starting the classes in Cirencester, Gloucester and Cheltenham in the coming months. Keep posted for more information about when this will be, by clicking here. So, once everything is back up-and-running again, we invite you to come along and have a go!"


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