Lip-reading itself is complicated. If there are any obstacles present, it can become impossible. Typically, for lipreading to be successful, the speaker must be directly in front of the person who is D/deaf or Hard of Hearing without any obstacles or interference between them. Lip-reading obstacles frequently occur in a group setting or a setting with more than one person. These obstacles are common because they occur at everyday events with family, in school or the classroom, and in the workplace.
Varying Speaking Tendencies
Let’s consider lip-reading obstacles as a result of individual people’s idiosyncrasies or communication styles. Challenges may arise when the speaker
- has a mustache or a large beard that may block part of their lips,
- talks with their hand over their mouth, looks down while talking, or paces back and forth so they cannot be seen clearly (i.e. a teacher writing on a chalk board),
- mumbles or does not move their lips naturally when they speak,
- has a unique dialect (i.e. In Minnesota you often hear the word “sliver” to mean what a Missourian would call a “splinter.”),
- has an accent that would change the appearance of words on the mouth (southern, foreign),
- has an increased words-per-minute average,
- is talking over others in a group.
Participation in the Communication
We have just looked at ways in which lip-reading is used for a D/deaf person to simply understand a conversation. They are constantly working to understand what is taking place, which is exhausting. But also, at some point, the D/deaf person will want to participate in or provide ideas to an exchange. It is complicated to always understand the appropriate time to interject when lip-reading, as when sign language interpreting.
Example of Bad Lip-Reading
Below is another funny YouTube video on Bad Lip Reading. Note a major lip-reading obstacle in this example. The camera is far away from the person asking questions. In addition, the camera may not always be on the speaker the entire time. Sometimes the microphone blocks the person’s mouth. Even if the D/deaf person can lipread with 100% accuracy, they are likely to miss information that is not even visible.