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Lip reading and auditory closure

Time to Read: 4 minutes

Our brain is very clever and knows our ears need a little extra support in order to hear effectively in challenging situations.

These are things you do  and you don’t even realise it!

Lip Reading

Two friendly male mature students chatting while sitting in class roomEven people with perfect hearing use lip reading, (and a variation called speech reading), which relies on interpreting facial expressions as well as reading lips to fill in the blanks in conversations.

It is worth improving your lip reading ability if you have difficulties in noisy environments. There are exercises you can do in front of the mirror to better understand how how lips and mouth shapes form words

  • Words starting with the letters ‘P’, ‘B’, ‘M’, ‘W’, are made by pursing the lips together. Examples are: mint, pap, we, ball, boat.
  • ‘V’ words, and words beginning with the letter ‘F’, are made by pressing the upper teeth to the lower lip. Head to a mirror and try out words: fat, vein, very, have, sofa, food, etc.
  • A bit like the word ‘round’, our lips form a rounded shape when we speak a word beginning with the letter ‘R’
  • ‘S’ and ‘Sh’ sounds are also rounded with the teeth close together.
  • And what about vowels? Broadly speaking, all vowels leave your mouth more open. Take a look in the mirror and see how ‘A’, ‘E’, ‘I’, ‘O’, ‘U’ changes the shape of your lips.

There is one thing you can do to help people you know who benefit from lip reading: do not exaggerate your speech. It actually impedes comprehension.

Auditory Closure

Close up of a gorgeous woman posing in a studioWe’ve all been in situations where we’ve been in  a conversation, sitting in a meeting or listening to a lecture and become distracted and missed parts of what’s been said.

Not to worry! Our trusty brain can very quickly pull the pieces together and come up with a pretty good guess at the ‘missing bits’.

This is known as Auditory Closure.

We use this to process conversations in background noise, in understanding regional dialects as well as people who mumble.

Hearing Loss

If you have hearing loss, you might find yourself relying a lot on lip/speech reading and auditory closure.

As helpful as those skills are, being fitted with hearing aids when you need them is the very best thing you can do to support your hearing and your brain’s cognitive function.

We have some great articles here:

Additional Tips

We have a few other tips for you to help keep the conversation flowing.

  • Establish the topic of conversation at the start. If you get involved in a conversation that has already started, ask the question: “What are we talking about?” or “Just so I’m up to speed, are we talking about ‘X’.”
  • If you miss a word, don’t stress too much as long as you get the gist of the conversation. If you have lost the thread, don’t be afraid to stop and ask for clarification.
  • Position yourself so you can see the speaker’s face clearly so you can make best use of lip and speech reading techniques.