Sorry, You’re What? Lip-reading Fails

Mishearing conversation is a regular occurrence for me and always has been, but after losing all of my hearing in my right ear I began mishearing words and sentences on a daily basis and the words became more and more obscure or just downright stupid. Reading lips is a LOT harder than you think it is.

Lip reading takes a lot of energy and concentration and isn’t even 30% accurate as most of us just guess the sentence which can lead to some embarrassment.

Just the other day I was sitting on the sofa chatting away with my husband about some inconsequential nonsense when I suddenly blurted out “do i want curry powder? Why would I want curry powder?”. My husband was in stitches, crying with laughter whilst I was sat looking confused and not knowing what on earth he was talking about. Turns out he actually said “do you want a Creme Caramel?”. A whole different ball game completely. And I did go for that creme caramel, sans curry powder of course.

I’ve also often been left embarrassed when singing along to songs as I have a tendency to make up lyrics if I do not understand what they are saying. Until very recently I’ve been singing ‘All About That Bass, no trouble’. Now I know the real lyrics it makes much more sense!  There’s never a dull moment when I’m around.

For a hearing impaired/deaf individual, lip-reading is relied on to pick up on words that they cannot hear but sometimes even this can prove to be full of potential, often hilarious, slip ups. Some people are just easy to lip-read and some, for reasons unknown are just impossible. Sometimes even the slightest misunderstanding can completely change your train of thought and result in some clangers.

Even simple statements can easily be mistaken when lip-reading…

“I Love You” = Olive Juice / Elephant Shoes

“You’re an idiot” = You’re hideous

Words that sound similar can also cause issues such as;

Mop /bop /pop

Cab /lab

Ten /den

Cat /hat /pat

and so forth.

There is a whole YouTube channel ‘Bad Lip Reading’ dedicated to the clangers made when attempting to read lips and worth checking out to see if you can actually work out what was really said. You can find the channel here;

Also have a look at this video can you work out what they are saying? I got 2/4, a “fine effort”.

Here are some top tips for making the lip-readers life a little bit easier;

· Make sure you are in a well-lit environment; it is near on impossible to lip read in the dark or a shadowy area.

· Make sure you are not eating/chewing whilst talking

· Do NOT cover your face with your hands

· Speak slowly and clearly

· Face the lip reader when speaking – V. Important!

· Do NOT mumble!

· Do NOT over exaggerate your facial expressions – this actually makes life harder!

What have been your best/worst/most embarrassing (delete as appropriate) lip reading disasters? I’d love to hear them.


One thought on “Sorry, You’re What? Lip-reading Fails

  1. Too many to recount here on big clangers. Sad thing is people lose patience if you can’t lip read what they are saying. It has come home to me forcibly in the last few weeks having just been switched on with CI. People I know well actually want to stop and talk to me as I can now hear as well as see what they are saying!!

    You need clues when lip reading which come from the face, body language and environment (if in the kitchen probably talking food etc). I have adopted a hands on approach as well, give permission to people to touch your arm before speaking to you. By taking this simple step it can avoid much frustration for the reader and talker.

    Your list is also very important too but you have to remind people constantly to do this. Perhaps the most challenging thing is not being negative about asking for lip reading support. Too many times I have heard myself whining and being negative which I regret, but sometimes it is just so hard.

    You are right it is tiring too. I use a Lip Speaker quite regularly and the only way that I can concentrate fully is to block out activity around me and take the CI off (previously removed hearing aid) so I am in silence and can fully focus on the Lip Speaker. I think I catch about 60% of the conversation that way and of course can ask the Lip Speaker to get repeats rather than me. It never ceases to amaze me how responsive people are to the Lip Speaker. We have a rule, no longer that two hours and if longer than 4 hours then two Lip Speakers are required anyway. If you are clear before hand that the lip reader gets tired too it focuses the conversation.

    In a work situation it is also important to remind people of a very simple fact, you can’t write and lip read, it is impossible. At meetings I try to encourage whoever is taking minutes to forward notes or minutes as early as possible. It helps to fill in the gaps.

    There are many other strategies which can help and they become normal after a while. The ‘normal’ for those with hearing loss consists of coping strategies, negotiation and asking for support all day, every day.

    Finally, how many times have you had someone start a conversation and your response is to a totally different conversation?

    All for now.
    Jackie in Wales very happy CI user.

    Liked by 1 person

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