Margaret Brady* from Melbourne began noticing her hearing was not like it used to be several years ago.
“I now have significant hearing loss which affects my ability to communicate, especially in noisy environments,” Margaret said.
“I felt like people were constantly getting annoyed at me when I kept asking them to repeat themselves.”
Margaret is one of the 3.6 million Australians estimated to be living with hearing loss. With an ageing population and a world that is becoming noisier, this figure is predicted to increase to almost 9 million people by 2050.
Hearing loss creates barriers to getting and maintaining employment due to reduced capacity to communicate, as well as affecting personal relationships, individual self-esteem and confidence. The widespread use of face masks to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 has highlighted the reliance on lip-reading for many people.
The Deafness Forum Australia, a not-for-profit body that promotes hearing health and wellbeing, has developed a first-for-Australia – an online learning course called Read Our Lips Australia.
The online course is designed to improve lipreading ability. Identifying and understanding lip movements is a skill that can be improved with regular practice, time and patience. Created by experienced lip-reading instructors, users are guided through online modules at their own pace to identify key mouth movements.
By improving their understanding of what someone is saying in different environments and contexts, Read Our Lips Australia assists users to fill in the blanks when they cannot understand speech by listening alone.
“I found the Read Our Lips Australia online program to be an extremely valuable introductory learning tool which had significantly improved my skills and confidence when communicating with others,” Margaret said.
Deafness Forum Australia Chief Executive Steve Williamson said that background noise, distance from the speaker, room lighting, and so many other factors play a role in how well someone can hear.
“Lipreading can really improve our ability to communicate and most importantly, to understand another person’s speech.
“The Read Our Lips Australia online course will be an important tool to help people with hearing loss to understand conversations, have better comprehension, improve their self-determination, and ability to communicate with confidence.”
The online course was made possible through funding from the Department of Social Services.
Learn more about lipreading and Read Our Lips Australia at www.readourlips.com.au.
*We have not use used Margaret’s real name in this story as she would like to remain anonymous, but her quotes are true.