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How speechreading can work for you

Hone skills that keep you in the conversation

Linda Kessler, MA, CCC-SLP

For most people with a hearing loss, whether they use hearing aids or cochlear implants, the auditory pathway is primary, and most information about a conversation is received by hearing. But almost all people with a hearing loss rely on visual clues to some degree – in fact, so do many people with normal hearing. Have you ever heard, “Wait, let me put my glasses on so I can hear you better”? And when listening in very noisy environments, we all may rely even more on visual clues. Using the visual clues related to speech, or speechreading, is a skill that can be a valuable tool to help understand conversations, and training can help you improve this skill.

As a speech-language pathologist at the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC), I work with people with all degrees of hearing loss to help them develop or improve their speechreading skills and learn how to use speechreading in real-world settings, such as a noisy restaurant. Over the course of generally six to ten speechreading training sessions, my clients learn to decipher sounds and conversation cues by observing a person’s mouth, facial expressions and gestures. While it is true that only about 30-40% of the actual sounds of speech are visible, learning to recognize and discriminate between these sounds can really help people with hearing loss gain access to “extra information” that can make all the difference when it comes to understanding speech and staying connected to the conversation. Even more information can be gained when individuals use the context from a sentence to help figure out what is being said.

Learn these skills + more

There are many different ways that our training can help you to learn to speechread better. They include:

Speechreading therapy at CHC-NY for people who use hearing aids or cochlear implants

Speechreading therapy session

Learning what each sound looks like on the mouth. Some sounds look exactly the same as other sounds, and some cannot be seen at all.

  1. Learning how to combine what you can hear with what you can see. Many consonant sounds are hard for people with a hearing loss to distinguish between, but they may look very different on the lips. For example, the sounds “f” and “s” may sound similar to someone with a high frequency hearing loss. However they look completely different on the lips. So, if you ask a waiter for some ice water and you think you heard him respond, “That’s sign,” by looking at his mouth, you can probably figure out that he said “fine.”

  2. Learning how to use contextual clues to make sense of words you just can’t figure out. For example, words that are said in isolation (not in a sentence) are harder to speechread because there is no context. The punch lines of jokes are very difficult for people with a hearing loss. The punch line is funny because it is unexpected, which makes it harder to catch both via listening and speechreading. Comedy lovers, by the way, will want to check out CHC’s Comedy Night, April 17th, at Carolines On Broadway for a night of punch lines made accessible through real-time captioning, assistive devices and ASL interpreting.

Speechreading client shares her experience

The clients I work with find the speechreading skills they develop invaluable at times when the benefit they get from their hearing aids or cochlear implants just isn’t quite enough. A speechreading client who completed the program recently shared these comments:

I am a forty-something-year-old, professionally accomplished, woman who wears hearing aids. I struggled, though, to stay connected to others in conversation, especially in crowded spaces, loud restaurants, and important business meetings. After a suggestion from a family member, I found speechreading lessons at CHC with Linda. These one-on-one sessions were invaluable for teaching me the skills I needed to navigate those challenging situations. But, I never expected that those sessions would make me feel part of a community, as well. I recommend CHC whenever I can! It’s a vital NYC resource!

Contact us + learn more

I’m pleased to oversee New York City’s only speechreading therapy program and invite you to be a part of our supportive and caring community. It’s fun, incredibly helpful and often covered by private and government insurance plans.

And did you know speechreading training is now available via teletherapy? That’s great news for residents of New York State and New Jersey who prefer to participate in the program in the comfort of their own home.

Contact me at (917) 305-7838 or use the link below. I hope to hear from you soon!

View speechreading video

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