Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Lipreading Misconceptions Speechreading/Lipreading

Lipreading for Beginners

Here’s the first big tip for lipreading beginners: Lipreading is not just what’s on the lips. That’s a common misconception because of the name itself, “lipreading”. To move beyond this misconception, the term “speechreading” was coined. This is a little better because it says we use our remaining hearing but it still focuses too much on the mouth, voice and lip shapes. 

Why aren’t we using the term speechreading then? Because the majority of the population knows the term lipreading. When Chelle goes into public and says she uses speechreading, she gets a lot of blank looks. Lipreading it is until we all come up with a better name for it and that becomes widely known.


All people with hearing loss use lipreading techniques to some degree. We aren’t consciously aware of what we are doing but we are doing it. Some of it is recognizing the more common words with their pattern but the majority of lipreading is:

  • Reading body language; does it match what I’m hearing? 
  • Using logic; is what I’m seeing fitting in with what I hear? 
  • It’s how well I know someone, or is it a stranger? Strangers take getting used to.
  • Sometimes it’s guesswork which is why we sometimes come up with off the wall statements. 

Only a little tiny bit of it is actual lip shapes. If you don’t know the strategies and tools behind lipreading, the lip shape classes and videos can be frustrating to learn. You won’t be able to figure out why you can lipread this person and not that person. Or, you won’t be able to understand why you ‘heard’ that person at home but can’t understand them at the restaurant. Learning how to set your stage is critical for successful lipreading. 

Think about this. The first lip shape Hearing Loss LIVE! teaches are the  lip sealers: M, P and B. When we are listening to people in real-time conversation, we are not picking out every M, P and B we see. That’s impossible. Speech moves too fast to pick apart every lip shape. What we are doing is recognizing patterns in common words. Chelle mainly uses the individual lip shapes when she’s stuck on a word. That’s when it’s handy!

Lip Shapes After Strategies

Recently, we were teaching a class in person starting with the concepts (strategies). A man was frustrated because he wanted to learn the lip shapes first. After 3 lessons in lip shapes, he understood why the strategies behind it were so important. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to see lip shapes in words. 

Lip shapes are hard! But we manage to have fun too. As we get to know each other, it gets easier. While teaching the lip shape classes, we often laugh and share insights as we go. Sometimes we get a word wrong and usually, someone else saw the same wrong word. Then we compare.

Seeing is Hearing

For all beginning lipreaders, the main thing to remember is seeing is hearing. We recommend the 3 Golden Rules…

The 3 Golden Rules when talking to someone with hearing loss: 1 Get their attention first. 2 Face them while talking. 3 Be within 6 feet.
Share this meme with family, friends and coworkers.

Discuss the 3 Golden Rules with all your hearing communication partners. If you do nothing else with lipreading, these 3 rules will make life easier. 

  • Hearing Loss LIVE! has 4 lipreading classes. Read more about each class HERE.

Discover more from Hearing Loss LIVE!

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading