Lipreading is a hugely important skill for many people who are deaf or have hearing loss. It's the ability to recognise the lip shapes, gestures and facial movements of someone when they’re speaking, to get a better understanding of what they are saying. Bear this in mind next time you’re talking to someone who is deaf or has hearing loss – it should make it easier for you to follow some simple communication tips.
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start speaking.
- Don’t approach them from behind, or tap them on the back to attract their attention – approach from the side or the front.
- If possible, find a place to talk that has good lighting, away from noise and distractions.
- Turn your face towards them so they can easily see your lip movements.
- Speak clearly, not too slowly, and use normal lip movements, facial expressions and gestures.
- Make sure what you’re saying is being understood.
- If they don’t understand what you’ve said, try saying it in a different way. Never say, "It doesn't matter."
- Keep your voice down: it’s uncomfortable for a hearing aid user if you shout and it looks aggressive.
- Try not to turn or look away while you are talking, and don’t cover your mouth with your hands.
- When communicating with someone who's using communication support, such as a sign language interpreter, always remember to talk directly to the person you are communicating with, not the communication professional.
- Learn fingerspelling or some basic British Sign Language (BSL) to help you communicate with someone who uses sign language.
If you know someone is deaf or has hearing loss, don't be afraid to ask them what you can do to help make communication easier, as everyone will have different communication needs and preferences.
What else can help?
Remember that lipreading and following conversation when you have hearing loss requires a lot of concentration, which can be tiring, especially if there's background noise or everyone is talking at once.
The levels of background noise in public places, including cafes, pubs and restaurants, can really vary. If you're choosing a place to go for food or a drink with a friend, relative or colleague who has hearing loss, here are some tips:
- A place with carpets and soft furnishings will be quieter, as these absorb sound and help to reduce echo.
- Book a table, away from speaker systems and other noise.
- Well-lit venues are better for lipreading.