Lip Reading

When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with hearing loss. I was born with some degree of hearing loss that grew worse the older I got.

Picture1A common question that gets asked is how come my parents didn’t find out sooner?

They didn’t find out sooner because I can lip read. The theory is that with the small amount of hearing that I had when I was born, I was able to match sounds with lip movements and that as my hearing declined, I adapted by picking up lip reading.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to lip read, or a time where I ever had to actively try and learn it, I just knew how to do it.

Can everyone with hearing loss lip read?

In a previous post, I talked about some of the misconceptions about hearing loss. One of these misconceptions was that all deaf people can lip read.

As I said in the post, that’s not true. I know some people with hearing loss that can lip read, and others who don’t do it at all.

An example of this is my brother and I. My brother, A.J., is profoundly deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in the other. I’m profoundly deaf in both ears. He wears a cochlear on one ear and a hearing aid on the other. I wear a cochlear on my left ear only.

When he takes off his devices, he can hear faint sounds. I can’t hear at all.

My boyfriend made an interesting observation one day. He noted that when he talks to A.J. while he is texting or driving, he almost never has to repeat himself. A.J. can carry on a full conversation without having to look at him.

When my boyfriend talks to me, and I’m either texting or driving, I almost always ask him to repeat himself, or I will have to look at him (I highly don’t recommend doing this while driving).

Based on this, I depend on lip reading more than A.J. does. But I didn’t know how much.

To find out, I decided to do a little experiment.

Lip Reading Experiment

For the past month, I tried to be more conscious of how often I depend on lip reading.

Here were some of the things I noticed:

Loud Environments:

In very loud environments, like a high traffic restaurant on the weekend, or a dance club, I completely depend on lip reading.

One night, I was at a busy restaurant with my boyfriend and his parents. This was one of the loudest restaurants I’ve been at. I couldn’t hear a thing. I could barely hear myself. I was very quiet in that setting, because I wasn’t 100 percent confident in my ability to lip read accurately…at least not enough to hold a conversation.

I find that my confidence level depends on how often I lip read a certain person’s lips. For example, I would have been more confident if it were my own parents in that restaurant, because I grew up reading their lips.

Medium Noise Level Environments:

In medium noise level environments, like driving in a car on the highway, or in a coffee shop, I find that I’m split down the middle. I use both lip reading and my hearing.

I was driving on the highway, and had a friend with me. We were talking and I was splitting my time between coffee(1).pngconcentrating on my friend’s voice and driving at the same time. There were moments where I asked her to repeat herself, but I also noticed I continually resisted the urge to turn in my seat and look at her.

Quiet Environments:

In quieter environments, like a library or a friend’s house, I barely had to lip read. I was consciously listening to them, and my eyes only drifted to their lips if the level of noise escalated.

This experiment told me what I already knew. However, what I found very interesting was how unconscious the act of lip reading is to me. I had to remind myself multiple times to be conscious about it throughout this experiment.

Lip reading is not for everyone, but for me, it’s almost a necessity to get by. It’s also really cool to be able to hear a conversation happening across a crowded room, just by looking at them.

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