Lip Reading can be Beneficial for Everyone! by: Dr. Arthur G. Zinaman
Greetings and felicitations to all. You will find the topic of ‘Lip or Speech Reading‘ very useful, informative, and interesting. This is not a new concept, but one which may be overlooked by most people. Lip reading is simply the process of watching people’s faces, and especially mouths, to assist with good and precise communication.
We’ve known for years that the most beneficial way of speaking to one another is face-to face. Why you ask? When you look at the person with whom you’re speaking many ‘non-verbal’ clues are consciously or even unconsciously gleaned to help with comprehension and understanding. The action of watching a speaker’s face will support your ability to decipher words via lip movement, facial expressions and gestures. Additionally, facing a person while speaking allows their voice to be heard by both ears relatively equally. Contrast that with the person who continues to talk while walking away from you. Picture the setting; speaking face to face, or to a person’s back. Which scenario do you think would provide a better chance for clarity and distinction of speech? (Hint: its face to face).
There are other ways to enhance understanding of what a speaker is saying that are related to lip reading. Facial expressions, body language, and even some hand gestures are helpful to understand more fully what is being said. Many people use their hands and arms to accentuate a point or to provide a greater depth of what they wish to share. Don’t miss these signals! Most everyone uses them when they talk.
It is to your benefit to use all communication cues and clues to assist with comprehension. Try to use this information at your next ‘hearing challenged’ encounter. It’s easy, sometimes fun, and always complements you to help ‘hear’ friends, family, and neighbors more clearly and accurately. That’s a good thing!
Lip reading is dependent on several factors to be most effective. Surprisingly it is easier to lip read in a quiet place because of less distraction. A very crowded area with many people milling about, talking, or a cheering crowd, is not conducive to attention and concentration. It is important to actively pay attention to the speaker. This is paramount and the foundation to hearing well.
There are some issues beyond our control that may have a negative effect on the ability to use lip reading. What are they you ask? Some people mumble, have poor dental work, a bushy beard/mustache, medical issues with the vocal cords; all of which makes lip reading problematic. Not much you can do here folks, except to do your best when encountering these matters.
Good lip reading is also dependent upon adequate lighting and eyesight. Simply put, if you can’t see the speaker, lip reading may be useless. So, try to get closer to the people you believe you’ll be speaking the most with so your vision will not be impaired. Get to your meeting or clubhouse early to reserve a seat close to the stage and don’t forget your glasses!
After a short time, your ability to read lips will become somewhat automatic and not require a major conscious effort to use. Using your sight to assist hearing loss is a powerful tool, available to most anyone, and easy to learn. Today’s advanced technology hearing aids have been ‘lifesavers’ for many people, but they cannot do the entire job of providing clear and accurate hearing. Using augmented strategies, such as lip reading, can be very beneficial towards staying active in conversations and discussions.
Every work day I see firsthand the frustration my patients encounter with misunderstanding speech and not participating with conversations and people around them. Becoming uninvolved can lead to avoiding family, business, or social situations, and can ‘pave the way’ toward you becoming a passive observer of life instead of an active participant. This is unhealthy for your well-being.
To sum up, learning to lip read is one way to maintain your connection to your loved ones, friends, and community. Improving ability to hear and understand what your loved ones and friends are saying are among the major reasons patients come into my office. We must use all the tools available to us to increase meaningful communication. Lip reading is one of those tools which takes us closer to that goal.