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Lipreading classes – a lifeline to people with hearing loss in lockdown and beyond

By Lorraine Braggins

Everyone felt cut off from friends and family during lockdown. But for those with hearing loss, feeling isolated can be a daily occurrence even in normal times.

Losing your hearing can have a drastic effect on every day communication with family, friends, colleagues and people you encounter out and about in daily life. The frustration of not being able to understand what people say, the exhaustion of concentrating to hear and lipread, plus the embarrassment when you’ve misheard or lipread the wrong words and responded inappropriately – all of these can lead to people withdrawing from social activities, declining to join meetings and avoiding conversations.

Not surprising, then, that lockdown compounded the issue and many felt even more isolated than ever, especially being unable to lipread people wearing masks.

Many lipreading classes were adapted for online learning enabling people to reconnect with others and gain the support from the tutor and their fellow students in the group. Despite being in their rectangular boxes, people felt a genuine sense of camaraderie – a mutual understanding of the communication difficulties faced every day.

Learning to lipread is not easy, whether face-to-face or online – it’s a skill which needs constant practice.

The classes provided an opportunity to learn and improve the skill. Students also learnt strategies and useful tips on how to manage their hearing loss, including in a digital world.

Lipreading lessons don’t just aid communication with family, friends and colleagues, but also provide wider benefits. Learners report great improvements in self-confidence, enjoyment of social situations and general emotional and mental well-being; they know they can relax and have fun in an inclusive class and enjoy the company of others who share the same challenges and who understand just how they feel.

We weren’t sure a year ago whether lipreading online would work. But it turned out that some people actually preferred it as they could pin the tutor large on the screen, read the captions if needed and wear a headset if helpful with hearing. Plus the convenience of not travelling and being able to access the course from anywhere made it easier for working people to slot a class into their day.

Of course, many people have missed the face-to-face contact with their peers and are looking forward to enjoying classroom-based lessons again. So City Lit is offering a choice of online or face-to-face classes with day and evening options from September 2021.

For more details on our face-to face and online lipreading courses, including free taster sessions in September, please see our website: https://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/specialist-learning/centre-for-deaf-education/lipreading-and-managing-hearing-loss or email: lipreading@citylit.ac.uk

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Hearing Link or Hearing Dogs for Deaf People unless explicitly stated.

Lorraine BragginsLorraine’s career working with deaf people spans more than 30 years. Following her training at City Lit, she became a hearing therapist and lipreading teacher within an NHS audiology department. She subsequently worked with deaf children in schools, supporting them with their language development. Lorraine joined City Lit in 2008 to manage the Acquired Hearing Loss programme and has since developed many initiatives, such as Lipreading and Managing Hearing Loss courses for armed Forces personnel and veterans, as well as training for Social Services staff to support deaf people. Lorraine enjoys teaching all the varied topics about deafness. She is a passionate champion of the benefits of lipreading classes and has spoken on the issues on BBC Radio 4 and at the House of Commons. In her role as Head of Programme, she is currently involved in the City Lit’s centenary campaign #HearMyLips to train more lipreading teachers across the U.K. Lorraine has a B.A. (Hons) in French and Russian.

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