Lipreading Practice

"When I got into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, a doctor told me to give up the course as I'd be totally deaf within a couple of years. But I refused to give in."

Stephanie Beacham

Deaf Awareness for hearing people.

Being a deaf aware person can help so many other people. One in five now have a hearing loss in the UK alone. The following is my interpretation of being deaf aware. I hope you will find it useful. Take from it whatever you think will be useful to you. If you have any other information or ideas that you would like to add to this, please contact me at gloria@lipreadingpractice.co.uk. through this website.

Situations that need attention.

You may recognise this: a person in an aisle of a shop has bent down and is blocking the way – you ask them to move but nothing happens. You could raise your voice and get angry OR you could think perhaps this person has a hearing loss and hasn't heard me. Your actions will be different depending on how you view the situation. I have been the person unconsciously holding people up. I don't know who is the most embarrassed when I apologise and explain that I am hard of hearing. I am conscious that sometimes I must appear stuck up, rude, stupid or worse!!!

Other situations can be crossing the road and not hearing a car that has turned into the road behind me; failing to respond to shop assistants or waiters who have come up behind me; failing to respond to a fire alarm because I haven't heard it; (very few shops or restaurants have fire alarm systems that are suitable to alert those who have a hearing loss) and oh so many others.

Most difficult of all is trying to respond to problems that can only be resolved by a telephone call. This includes banks, surgeries, hospitals and many others. There seem to be very few options at the moment to enable the hard of hearing and deaf person to be independent. BUT if you ask a friend or partner to speak for you, frequently this cannot happen for security reasons. I was once told that my husband could only speak for me if he had my power of attorney. I'm not quite ready for that yet!! Hopefully in the future more businesses will have the live email chat to resolve problems but this will not help those who do not use the computer. I know some offer speech to text but not all people have this facility at the moment. For many necessary calls when the hard of hearing person makes the call s/he is presented with a range of options but s/he cannot hear what the options are! There is still much to be done to raise deaf awareness and to help those with hearing loss to maintain their independence.

I hope that this will help to make hearing people more aware of what it is like to be hard of hearing in a hearing world.

You can help!!!

If you aware of the way to help those with hearing loss you can make a great difference to their lives by understanding some of the above situations and by making communication easier for them.

What do you need?

  1. Your attitude

    You need to be willing to adapt your own speech and behaviour.

    You need to believe that others have a right to be your attention and support.

    You need to be patient because sometimes it is not easy for the hard of hearing or deaf person to understand what you are saying.

    By doing this you can enjoy the company of hard of hearing people and you may be surprised at what they tell you in return and at the breadth of their accomplishments.

  2. Understanding

    that not every person who is hard of hearing or deaf has the same communication needs. Some who have little or no hearing may prefer to use sign language whilst others who have a hearing loss whether it is slight or profound, may use lipreading skills and will need your help to enable them to understand what you have said.

    that even if a lip speaker or signer is supporting, it is helpful to speak to the person concerned.

    that you need to focus on the hard of hearing person even if you are with a group that includes hearing people.

    that even if the person wears hearing aids they may NOT be able to hear you clearly.

    that you may need to repeat what you have said or better still to put it a different way so that they can try again to understand what you are saying.

    that if you shout at the person it may be very uncomfortable for them because the hearing aids will amplify the level of sound in their ears and they will still be unable to understand what you are saying.

    that volume does not necessarily equate with clarity for hearing aid users.

    that using facial expressions, gestures and your general body language provide useful clues to a lip reader.

    that you need to check to make sure the person is following what you are saying.

    that the use of a personal amplifier or loop system can be very useful to those with a hearing loss.It seems silly to say this but loop systems are only useful if they are switched on, and if the staff know how to use them. The use of loop systems in the business and entertainment world is improving but there is still more work to be done.

    that new technology may be the way forward e.g. smart hearing aids and skype etc. but the support of people is vital.

    that communication is a two way process and you both need to participate to get the best out of it.

  3. Knowledge of what makes communication difficult and how to make it better. This can include:

    noisy situations where everyone finds it difficult but for the hard of hearing it is really difficult.

    modern restaurants, offices etc. with no carpets, wall coverings, curtains and having modern furniture (not soft furnishings) do not absorb background noise so well which means they are places where hard of hearing people may find it more difficult to communicate.

    background music also makes it difficult for the hard of hearing to hear the spoken voice.

    candlelight or low lighting makes it almost impossible for anyone to lipread – and we all lipread to some extent.

    that positioning is very important for the hard of hearing person. For a group of say 6 people in a restaurant a round table would probably be better for them. Some hard of hearing people may prefer to sit with their back to the wall.

    of the importance of speaking slowly and clearly when speaking on the telephone. It is particularly important to clarify dates and times, even days of the week. They are difficult to get right when face to face let alone on the telephone. Some businesses have internet interactive type operators - this is marvellous. Some banks have a textphone number - again so much easier to manage for the hard of hearing.