I wonder how many people realise how tiring it is to not be able to hear properly? Most days I am so totally zonked when I get home from work that I’m quite happy to shut the door on my social life and veg out in front of the
TV laptop. Plus, I’m blitzed all weekend too.
I point the finger of blame at the high level of concentration needed to lipread a variety of people all day. I’m lucky I get paid to talk to people all day, I love it, but it certainly takes its toll. I don’t think people realise how difficult lipreading actually is. They just see me ‘getting it’. When I’m on a course or in meetings, the interpreter always gets breaks, but I don’t – I’m even concentrating on lipreading during the ‘coffee break’. It’s exhausting.
So what makes lipreading tricky? Lots of things. The main problem is poor lip patterns, where someone doesn’t speak very clearly and hardly moves their lips. Total nightmare to lipread. Close to that, is lack of facial expression. Next on my list is dark glasses or sunglasses. For some reason, if someone’s eyes are obscured, this makes lipreading very difficult. I prefer to call it speech-reading or face-reading, because I really look at the whole face and look for lots of clues, I don’t just look at the lip patterns. I look at the facial expression of the speaker and bear in mind the context of the conversation. What also makes lipreading difficult is excessive facial hair, wonky teeth, a stammer, a lisp, and varying accents.
If someone speaks too quickly, or too quietly, that makes lipreading really hard. That doesn’t mean to say, you can speak to me as if I’m five or I’m stupid, because I can tell! and it will just get my back up no end. And my back is pretty spiky when it’s up. People who eat at the same time as they are speaking are just rude, and this is tricky to lipread. If you are smoking or chewing a pen, how am I supposed to decode your lip patterns? Very bright light and poor light are also contributing factors. Some people are much easier to lipread than others, and factors like ethnicity, accent and whether English is the speaker’s first language will affect their lip patterns greatly. Plus, only about only 40% of speech sounds are visible!
I’ve got a little residual hearing and really try to make the most of it, I try to hear what I can. Since I’ve always done this, I rely on listening to what I CAN hear, to help me fill in the jigsaw puzzle of running speech. Any background noise then makes lipreading terribly difficult and I get extremely irritated. The extra concentration makes me tire more quickly as well. So, I’m not a huge fan of noisy pubs and shops.
When I’m tired, I mean, really REALLY tired, someone can speak to me and it will sound like baby talk, and I can’t make sense of it. That’s because that’s what I hear, and I’m just too exhausted to make sense of what I’m lipreading, and put the two together, sounds and visual lip patterns. It comes out as Gobbledigook – which I’m quite proficient in!
I found a test for tiredness created by scientists at the Wellcome Collection and took it at lunchtime the other day. A good score is a reaction time of 220 milliseconds and a reaction time of 300 milliseconds means you’re very tired. I scored about 350….