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How to communicate with people who rely on lipreading

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Reading lips is a LOT harder than you think. It’s a challenging skill that takes a lot of energy and concentration. When you read lips, only about 30% of speech can actually be seen on the lips. The rest is inferred from context, movements of the jaw, cheeks, neck, and the expression of the eyes.⁠

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

  • “I Love You” = Olive Juice / Elephant Shoes⁠

  • “You’re an idiot” = You’re hideous⁠

  • Cab / Lab⁠

  • Cat / Hat / Pat⁠

and so on.⁠

There are things you can do to make life a bit easier for deaf/hard of hearing people who rely on lipreading. These small things can mean a lot to someone and can make a huge difference.⁠

How to communicate with people who rely on lipreading
How to communicate with people who rely on lipreading
  1. First of all, face the deaf/hoh person and be sure to have their attention before start speaking.⁠

  2. Maintain eye contact and show your mouth.

  3. Be sure that the ligth source is in front of you. Don't stand in front of a window.⁠

  4. Re-phrase if needed, or write it down.⁠

  5. Try a voice to text app. Download the Google Live Transcribe app or other similar apps. These apps display what you are saying as text on the screen of your phone.⁠

  6. Try using gestures and keep it simple.⁠

  7. Don't exaggerate mouth movements or shout - no one enjoys being shouted at.⁠

  8. Don’t give up, be kind and patient.⁠

Have you ever wondered about Lipspeakers and their crucial role in facilitating communication for the deaf and hard of hearing? Click the link for an insightful exploration of their skills and contributions:

Listening Fatigue

Remember that listening or concentration fatigue does affect deaf children and adults, and people who have to concentrate hard for a long periods of time on signing, listening or lipreading.⁠

This can also affect interpreters or people who have to speak in a foreign language.⁠


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