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Suffolk Center for Speech


What is Speechreading?

Speechreading is a type of aural rehabilitation which with training can be enhanced and tuned as a means of understanding someone better, but speechreading starts to first develop in everyone around four to eight months after birth. If a child is typically developing, at around 12 months of age, the infant will alternate between looking at the speaker’s eyes, lips and mouth, and then back to the speaker’s eyes. This gaze shift is the first audiovisual connection and leads to the development of speechreading when in situations that are less than ideal for receiving an auditory signal. (Seal, 2013) Speech reading has been compared to how we read the same text in different fonts or different styles of handwriting (Seal, 2013). We can recognize the sentence and make sense of it even though it is presented in a different way. The same is for reading lips. Lip reading is used to fill in the gaps of what one is missing through auditory perception.

There are two types of speechreading techniques to teach speechreading. The Analytic approach is more concerned with the smaller parts of speechreading such as learning how to identify how certain sounds look when they are formed on the lips. This approach helps somewhat, but when used alone it does not make a practical compensatory technique as it is difficult to identify every movement of the speaker’s lips while speaking in conversation. The approach usually results in lower success rates in everyday situations. The second approach is the Synthetic approach. This approach takes into consideration the meaning of the message as a whole rather than its individual parts. To practice this approach the patient will be given clues about the conversation such as key words or a topic and having the patient respond to what he/she heard. The basis of this practice is to use educated guessing based on context clues to fill in the gaps of what the speech reader did not hear. When using this technique, the patient can be limited to when the topic of the conversation is unknown and as a result misunderstands what is being said. These approaches may show some benefits in situations that are familiar and with known topics and vocabulary, but there is not much supporting evidence that either can improve the natural ways of speechreading, especially in unfamiliar situations where the topic of conversation is unknown or the vocabulary used is unfamiliar. (Anderson, 2016).

Speechreading can greatly help those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or even those with normal hearing levels to understand what is being said in conversation as well as enabling those to take part in conversations. The ultimate goal of auditory rehabilitation is to help integrate the patient into society and allow them to take part in communication situations throughout their everyday life.


– Marykate K.

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