Breaking Down Myths – Most Deaf People Can Read Lips

From looking at my post counts here at RJsCorner I see that I am pretty much ignoring my number five pillar, breaking down myths. I need to pay more attention to that topic so this post will be about a deaf myth.

It’s true that people who are deaf sometimes can read lips but lipreading is in no way an adequate substitute for hearing. In fact, only 15% of the English language appears on the lips. So in reality, lip reading is nothing more than a guessing game.

In certain circumstances, I do get by with lip reading. For instance, if I am at a grocery store checkout I can lip read “Do you want paper or plastic bags”. But if I was asked “Did you see Dancing with the Stars last night”, I wouldn’t have clue. And then the usual “How are you?”s is easily lip read. In other words, if I can expect what a person is going to say I have a greater chance of lipreading.

Let me give you a little lesson in this. The letters “b”, “m”, and “p” look exactly the same on the lips. The phrase “buy my pie” just looks like the mouth opening and closing three times. I think you get the idea. Many syllables just don’t appear on the lips or tongue.

Let’s get some other obvious things out of the way. It is impossible for a deaf person to read lips in a dark room. It is equally hard to read the lips of someone with a big mustache. Another example is someone who is constantly moving their head, or even unthoughtfully looking away from the lip reader. You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize any of these things greatly hamper what lipreading skills the deaf person might have.

Finally, I want to give you a deep dark secret of most deaf people. We often fake it instead of really trying to understand. Since lip reading is a very tiring thing, sometimes it’s just not worth the effort. In those cases, we usually just nod our heads in agreement, or so the person thinks.

 The final attempt at the lesson for today is don’t expect a deaf person to really know what you are saying just because you move your lips. If you really want to get your message across, try an old fashioned paper & pencil approach. If you are tech savvy pull out your cell phone and fire up a speech to text app. Do whatever is necessary but don’t assume lipreading is the answer.

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