“What’s that noise?”, I asked my mum as we were walking into town. To which she replied with a surprised “It’s the birds”. It must have been strange for her to have to tell a 7 year old what birds sounded like, never having realised that it was new to me as I had only just gotten my hearing aids.
I was diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) at the age of 6, it’s something I’ve grown up with and never knew any different. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years not using my hearing aids as they were uncomfortable and I was self-conscious about them. They made everything louder when I just needed things to be clearer.
Without realising, I taught myself to lip-read. I only noticed I was doing it when a friend with braces would cover her mouth, as she thought I was staring at her. When she did this, I was completely lost in the conversation and would usually fade out and start daydreaming. This is how I spent most of my education due to teachers’ backs being turned and a lack of understanding of how to handle it.
As I grew older, my friendship groups changed and I would usually explain that I was ‘a bit deaf’ but never gave further insight into it as I felt I didn’t really understand it myself. I made friends from different backgrounds and cultures with a variety of accents and speech patterns. I found it challenging when in groups and several people are talking so I just started focusing on one person and read what they said instead of listening.
Throughout my adult life, I’ve worked in a variety of customer-based roles in retail and pubs. Being able to see what someone is ordering when there are four rows of people between you made my life so much easier compared to my colleagues, as they’d be shouting to each other. I wanted to get more experience in another environment such as offices so I now volunteer at Action On Hearing Loss on Reception. It’s an opportunity to get involved with the community and also builds my confidence in handling phone calls – something I actively avoid!
I’m not even aware of how much I lip-read until someone has his or her back turned. I consider myself very lucky that I am able to do so and I always try to improve it. I watch people from across rooms to see their conversations, not to be nosey but to learn. I also do it when watching sport; the foul language being thrown around and the snide remarks are always fun to interpret as I avoid subtitles due to the delays.
Being able to lip read helps to me feel included in things that are happening around me. I don’t know BSL or SSE nor am I part of any deaf clubs. All my friends are hearing. I sometimes feel a bit anxious when I meet new people or am part of a new environment but once I understand the basics of someone’s speech, I feel more relaxed.
There are classes held around the country with lessons in lip-reading and most are free. Here is a link to check if there are any in your local area.
And also further information and help.
Recently there have been videos using BSL to sign to songs for those learning to try and improve their skills and so I wanted to try something similar for those that wanted to test their lip reading skills. All you have to do is guess the song that is being lip-read in the clip, and then upload one yourself. Try to pick something known and just lip-read along as you would normally sing (be sure you don’t accidentally upload the music too!)
I’ve added my own to get things started, I picked a song that had a good pace so it would appear like I was talking to you. I hope you enjoy it. Also, sorry I look miserable – my face generally looks like that!!
by Kimberley Lucas.