My wife Joanna wears hearing aids and lip reads more than she knew. Now I know why she often nodded in agreement when she hadn’t really heard me. We cut a deal a long time ago that she asks me to repeat if she’s not sure.
There’s a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth and read, right?
But no, it’s far, far more complicated than that. I have to queue up words in my mind, invent possibilities that fit the facial expression, body language, approximate number of syllables etc etc. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, and I hold both in my mind simultaneously, waiting for it to become clear. While I’m doing this, collecting possibilities and sifting through them all, I need to keep the conversation going. So I smile and nod and say ‘mmm,’ and ‘yep…’ as appropriate. If I don’t do that, the speaker stops, and we haven’t gotten anywhere.
Sometimes though, I get right to the end, and I realise that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. And then I have to say, ‘Sorry, can you go…
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