Who’s the best lipreader of all?

28 02 2015


Lipreading has become a rather commercial activity in the last few years. I’ve been asked to lipread celebrities at royal weddings, the Royals at royal weddings, babies and parents at royal christenings, criminals, sports people, and even the unsuspecting public.

I was born deaf and I have always been a lipreader. I am now totally deaf with 2 cochlear implants, yet I retain my lipreading skills. I am able to lipread most people I meet, lipread sideways, and even fool a lot of people into thinking I am a hearing person. I believe lipreading is not a science, it is an art. An art I have honed over many years, in many situations, in many different countries with various accents. My life experience of travelling around the world and “getting on with it” has served to make me a better lipreader. I can even lipread in Spanish, Japanese and Arabic.

There are days when my brain just “won’t compute” – I can be too tired for lipreading and the mental exercise inherent within, or my brain might just say “no”, or I may mentally get stuck and see a phrase which I know is not correct from the context of the language.

Forensic lipreading is even harder, as there is no sound at all, and often the screen view is very small. You are watching video footage over and over and over, sometimes a hundred times over, for perhaps a five second segment of footage, just to get that one word so that the whole sentence makes sense. You really can’t do this with a foreign language that you do not know.

Sometimes people tell me they are the best lipreader in the world. How do you think they are able to make that claim? Don’t you think it’s a bit presumptuous?

I’d love to hear what you think, please comment!




15 responses

28 02 2015

Reblogged this on terpstube.

28 02 2015

Enjoyed your post. I am HH and also an interpreter by profession. My hearing loss is progressive and I have found hearing aids are appropriately named. “Aids”. They don’t fix the problem. Over the last few years I’m finding my lip reading skills have improved substantially out of necessity.

I work in education and am often in a position with loud ambient noise. I told someone a while back without thinking or even realizing what I was saying to turn around and face me because I couldn’t understand what they were saying and I needed to see their face.

That comment no sooner left my lips and I realized what I was saying. It really startled me. I started watching at that point and it was amazing how much better I could hear people when they were looking at me in contrast to when all I could see was the back of their head.

I guess I have become dependent on lip reading without realizing it. I’ve also noticed I can for the most part understand the general conversation of most people from across a room or through an office window now. I don’t get it all but know in general what they are talking about. Some people are easier to read than others. Kind of creepy actually and I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

At any rate thanks for the post. I look forward to other comments. Apparently I have transitioned into another new stage of hearing loss without realizing it.

28 02 2015

Oh it looks like you certainly have! And soon you will be able to do it sideways 🙂

With my cochlear implants, I am supposed to reverse this process, stop looking and thinking about what I’m seeing, and concentrate on what I’m hearing. It’s very hard to do this, as lipreading comes so naturally to me. Last week though, I had an odd experience. I was lipreading someone and missed one word, I then reflected on what I heard, I really had to think hard for a minute – not on what it looked like, the shape of the word – but on what it sounded like. I had to repeat the sound to myself before I realized what the word was. I got there in the end!

28 02 2015

Interesting. Habits are an interesting animal that sneak up on you. Now that I have become aware of my need to see there face I have also noticed when I can see there face I am psychically more relaxed. When I can’t I’ve noticed my shoulders, neck, and upper back tend to tense up.

A number of young people I work with have CI’s. The ones that have had them for years are obviously more comfortable using them. The ones that have only had them a short time are still bouncing back and forth. Many of them have a speech therapist they work with.

It amazes me how much my perspective on many things has changed as my hearing gets worse. I have worked most of my adult life around the Deaf/HH community and I arrogantly just thought ‘Oh, I get It”.

Pfft. NOT!

There are some things you can’t understand until you experience it. I had NO idea.

28 02 2015

Perhaps you could write a blog post about that, how your perspective changed? That would be really interesting to read about as I’ve always been deaf and don’t know any other way of hearing apart from bionic.

28 02 2015

That would take a book. 🙂 My speech is fine. Most people don’t realize I have a hearing problem. I’ve become good at hiding it. That’s a chapter all it;s own.
Noticing people’s mood from body language, facial cues, eye contact, etc. is much more noticeable to me than it used to be.
Environmental happenings. Shaking, vibration, lights, etc. I never really noticed that much before. Now they drive me nuts. It’s really disturbing when I feel something or see something and can’t figure out what is was. Then someone says it was just the guy outside mowing the lawn and he accidentally bumped the wall outside with his driving mower. Or some kid is playing with the flashlight on his phone and you can’t figure out where the flashing light is coming from even though the kids in the corner are laughing and talking about it. Then someone tells you what happened and looks a you like you’re nuts.
The Postman bangs on your door to deliver a package and tells you they can hear your T.V. inside their truck out on the street and you realize your volume is cranked up way to high even with the caption turned on
And people that have known you all your life and think it’s funny you heard something wrong and everyone laughs at you. And the classic…….Never mind, it wasn’t important. And the list goes on.
But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Just new to me.

28 02 2015

Ah yes, all of that is so familiar. I thought it was just me that hates vibrations & light, such as people bumping into me / my chair/bed as they walk past, or switching on a light at night. I wake instantly. It’s very easy to become a recluse just to have – pardon the pun – a quiet life!

28 02 2015

Yep. You can relax when you shut and lock the door.

28 02 2015
Ann weston

I think lipreading is an art and I’m not too bad at it definitely can’t lipread sideways I am profoundly deafened awaiting a cochlear implant

28 02 2015

The cochlear implant is an amazing thing Ann, good luck with yours 🙂

28 02 2015
Sam Spritzer

I am the greatest lipreader in the world. I can do it sideways, upside down, backwards, facing the other way, in bright sunlight, pitch black darkness even while you’re stuffing your face with grease and crumbs dripping all over your white t-shirt. And if I don’t get it, I can get away with presuming it is what they said but they didn’t.

Sadly, its all a pipedream. Whatever lip-reading I do, is simply sufficient for my daily needs. It is at least better than that of the average hearing person because we know what to look for. The more we do it, the better we get. I am at least comfortable with my own lip-reading skills that I can do a day or two without my CIs. The best part is being able to “hear” others in loud situations as well as “thanking people for their complements” about me which kind of leaves them in awe since the wonder how the hell I knew when I wasn’t even in the conversation.

I was also a forensic lip-reader but that was only an imaginary title I had when I was in law enforcement and they needed someone to “eavesdrop” on a conversation. We didn’t have to get the entire sentence; just enough to understand what was being said.

28 02 2015

Haha Sam – me and you need to have a lipreading contest! 😛

15 04 2015

Thanks for the sharing

2 08 2016
SonoLab Ltd

I admire anyone who can lip read well… I find it really hard to do that. Lip reading is seen as a third ear and can help people a lot and I guess it becomes second nature to people who can do it.

2 08 2016

Hi, it does become second nature when you do it all the time. I see it as the flip side of being able to listen. When you can hear well, it’s effortless.
With my cochlear implants, I can listen but I struggle and find it very hard to do.
Switching to lipreading, it’s so much easier to understand speech – almost effortless 🙂

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