Language & Communication9th September 2014

National Lipreading Awareness Week - What do you know?

Hearing Link promote on-line lipreading test to raise awareness

by Sarah Lawrence

News Release from Hearing Link

The Queen is ‘on heroin’

Shock statements on national TV news programmes like ‘The Queen is on heroin’ or the ‘politician is a brat in socks’ are amongst the misunderstandings that can come about when you lipread to help you work out what’s being said.

According to UK hearing loss charity, Hearing Link, misunderstandings are an every day hazard for people that rely on lipreading because so many words look similar and also because of varying accents, pronunciations and the fact that some people are prone to mumbling.

Not surprisingly, the Queen wasn’t really ‘on heroin’, she was simply ‘on her own’. And the politician wasn’t ‘a brat in socks’, he was ‘at the ballot box’.

To help more people understand the challenges involved in lipreading and to mark National Lipreading Awareness Week (8-12 September), Hearing Link has now created a short online lipreading test for the curious to try.

The online test features a speaker saying ten short words and phrases – but without sound. The viewer is then challenged to guess what was said by selecting from a list of multiple choice options.

Heather Paterson, a volunteer on Hearing Link’s helpdesk, explains: “The test is a little bit of fun to help highlight the serious point that lipreading is an important skill for people with hearing loss but also that it can be tricky to get things right.

“You might know that it is unlikely the Queen is on heroin but if that’s what it looks like and from what you were able to hear, it’s also what it sounded like, then you have to assume it really is what was said. It can make life seem a bit surreal at times!”

But lipreading misunderstandings aren’t always easy to laugh off. They can also result in embarrassment and shaken confidence.

Take Andrew who was stunned but delighted when a work colleague said “I’m with child!” and reacted accordingly to the news. It was only the bemused stares from around the office that alerted him that he’d made an error.

“My colleague had actually said ‘I feel tired,” explains Andrew. “It was such a stupid mistake, and so embarrassing. Although it was fairly trivial, I felt totally exposed. It’s the sort of thing that stops you from participating in discussions. You just withdraw for self-preservation.”

Confusion, too, can be a regular occurrence.

“I went into a coffee shop with a friend,” says Mary. “The noise made it difficult for me to hear so I had to rely on lipreading. My friend asked something which I guessed to be, ‘what would you like?’ I said, ‘Cappuccino please’. He looked confused because he’d actually said, ‘where shall we sit?’ They might sound really different but they look quite similar. We had a laugh about it but with someone else I might have been mortified.”

As a Helpdesk adviser, Heather regularly answers enquiries about hearing loss issues, including lipreading. She adds: “Lipreading is a fantastic skill and an essential one if you have hearing loss. It isn’t always easy because a lot of the English language doesn’t actually have a distinctive lip shape. You have to focus on key words that you can recognise and then interpret everything else from the context and the body language of the speaker, and of course, whatever it is that you do hear. You definitely get better with practice and experience but getting things wrong, like mixing up ‘heroin’ with ‘her own’ is a common hazard.”

To find details of lipreading classes or for help with any other hearing loss issues, contact Hearing Link’s helpdesk at <> or 0300 111 1113 to text: 07526 123255

To try Hearing Link’s online lipreading test or to submit details of your own lipreading gaffs, visit <>  The site also gives more information about lipreading and provides links to other helpful sites.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Language & Communication

9th September 2014