Lipreading classes are often known as ‘Managing Hearing Loss’ or ‘Speech Reading’ classes.
They are run either by Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults (ATLA)-trained tutors, or by people not formally qualified but with a great deal of valuable lipreading and teaching experience.
To find a lipreading class near you:
- Visit the website of the Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults (ATLA)
- Ask your audiologist or community Adult Education Centre
- Look in your local library or supermarket ads board
- Find a lipreading class in Scotland
How many people usually attend a lipreading class?
This depends on the provider and whether the class has to be economically viable. Since key elements of successful lipreading include being reasonably close to the person speaking and seeing their face in a good light, most classes have no more than 12 members (who may sit in a horseshoe shape facing the teacher) but you may find yourself in a class of 15.
Do family members also attend lipreading classes?
Lipreading tutors will always encourage partners and spouses to attend classes so they understand lipreading skills and techniques too.
What happens during a lipreading class?
There is no national curriculum for the teaching of lipreading. Most classes last for an hour and a half or two hours (with a break for tea/coffee) and are held in an empathetic, relaxed environment.
These are the sorts of things we cover in a typical lipreading class:
- We study specific phonetic lip patterns (e.g. p b m), and then we move onto almost any subject that incorporates the use of words and phrases that utilise those lip patterns. In other words, we practise seeing normal speech while recognising particular lip shapes and patterns. This is important because we can learn how to distinguish sounds that look alike, such as pat bat mat.
- We learn what could help to make our lipreading more effective e.g. knowing the context and other lipreading tips and techniques.
- We also practice speed recognition of particular phrases. For instance, if you are going for an appointment or are in hospital there will be some phrases that are bound to come up. Practising these or something similar can help to reduce the stress felt in these circumstances.
- In many classes there will be conversation in pairs or small groups in addition to whole group work. You may be invited to have role play sessions, where you can practise being in specified situations and use relevant language. We often play games which are both useful and fun.
- Classes are also about finding strategies that enable us to lipread more effectively i.e. the environment (the best place to sit or to be in any particular situation), and our position (the best place to lipread, directly from the front or from a profile view).
- We learn how to manage our hearing loss in a hearing world, and build self-confidence.
- One of the most important aspects of the lipreading class is that we are in a group of people who understand hearing loss, and we can make friends, swap ideas and strategies, and have conversations in a safe environment. We laugh with each other not at each other if we make mistakes. This fellowship is so important.
What are the benefits of attending a lipreading class?
- Sharing experiences enable us to understand how best to listen and look for all the clues to get the gist of a conversation. We have to do what works for us.
- By sharing good communication strategies and tactics and by developing mental flexibility, we boost our confidence, and that helps to reduce social isolation.
- Having a sympathetic group where strategies can be tried out and practised is so useful.
- Lipreading and communication tips and skills can be shared; so too are views and opinions on equipment and technology (we can sometimes try out devices).
- Friendships are often formed at these groups – one member of my morning group said that the lipreading session was the highlight of his week. Why? He was able to share in the conversation, to have a laugh and not be afraid of getting anything wrong. Everyone was in the same situation. He had been a solicitor and was on the verge of giving up being chairman of various groups. His confidence and assertiveness improved so much he became chairman of a local Hearing Help group, as well continuing with his other groups.
There are so many reasons for going to a lipreading class not least for the social interaction with a group of people who have similar experiences to oneself.
Those who have tried very often continue and go on to attend support groups, which incorporate many of the previously mentioned activities.
Why not try a class for yourself?
It’s about meeting like-minded people
Shona found out about lipreading classes after attending a Hearing Link Services programme and was eager to give it a try.
Shona was nervous about asking bosses for time away from work to attend lipreading classes, but following an Access to Work assessment she found the courage to ask. A search of the internet found a lipreading group near her home in Warwickshire and Shona hasn’t looked back since.
She said: ‘After being on the programme and feeling the benefit of meeting other people who could not hear, I knew I needed to keep that going. I found Jo (lipreading teacher) who was inspiring; she helped build my confidence and lipreading skills and was just so encouraging. The class made me realise that I might already be good at lipreading, but there was always more to learn, and if nothing else it boosted your confidence to learn how much you already knew.
‘I have also learnt stuff I never knew before, about how to hold a phone better so I can hear better whilst using a hearing aid, advocacy, and most importantly how to have fun! I have met wonderful people who have shared hobbies, knowledge and experiences and now have a new band of friends.
‘I would encourage anyone living with hearing loss not to miss out on this essential skill and give it a try. It’s not just about recognising lip shapes, which is an interesting dinner party subject on its own, it’s about meeting like-minded people who all have their own experiences of coping with a hearing loss. You will meet people from all walks of life and you take these steps together and discover so much. Best bit is there are no exams at the end!’
Webpage reviewed: November 2022
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