You’ve done the ice bucket, now take the lipreading challenge

My SO (Significant Other) and I went to an amazing birthday party at a bowling alley/bar last weekend, but the live band was so loud I couldn’t interact with everyone. I have an auditory processing learning disability, so loud background noise/music (and especially heavy bass) makes it impossible for me to hear more than one thing at a time.

I spent a majority of the night trying to lipread my friends, and I was only able to understand about 20 to 30 percent at best, and that was only if they didn’t have an accent or facial hair. I got to feeling so frustrated and isolated that I finally asked friends to speak right into my ear or write things down.

All this had me thinking: how well do people with hearing disabilities deal with lipreading, not to mention the expectations to be an expert at it? At a meeting a few months ago, our summer intern Sara introduced herself and explained that she is deaf. In response, some people spoke louder.

Kind of a face palm moment. Some of us assumed that if Sara was deaf, she could read our lips, and speaking louder would help Sara lipread. The ability to lipread is actually #4 on our Myths and Facts about People with Disabilities list:

Myth 4: All persons with hearing disabilities can read lips.
Fact: Lipreading skills vary among people who use them and are never entirely reliable.

In a very interesting article in the Stanford Alumni magazine, writer Rachel Kolb explains more about the pitfalls and benefits of lipreading. Kolb knows all of this firsthand — she has a hearing impairment and graduated from Stanford in 2012. In her article, she says even the best lip readers only discern about 30 percent of what is being said.

With all this in mind, I found a lipreading challenge on an American Sign Language (ASL) forum, and Cam (our social media guru here at Easter Seals Headquarters) agreed to take it with me. We had some surprising (and not so surprising) results, but before we share our scores, we have a challenge for you blog readers out there.

Cam and I challenge you to try lipreading, too. Take the lipreading challenge and then leave your scores and your reactions to lipreading on our Easter Seals Facebook page. Keep your eyes on the Easter Seals blog for a future post, where Cam and I will share our scores. I can tell you right now, one thing we both learned is that lipreading is not as easy as we thought it might be. Good luck!


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  1. Mac Says:

    That’s still a great score Lisa – nice job! Did you have any particular ones that stood out for you?

  2. Lisa Hallen Says:

    I got a 36 in 4 minutes – I thought I would do better!

  3. Jackie Says:

    I’m in for this challenge!