The Art of Lipreading

True story from yours truly: I began learning ASL at the age of eighteen. When a family member found out their response was, “shouldn’t she learn how to lipread?”

In actuality I had been lipreading for years. My hearing loss was undiagnosed until I was five. When I started speaking wrong (“pasghetti” for spaghetti, “alligator” for escalator), my mother would say to me: “no, look at my lips.” That’s how I learned to speak. That’s how I avoided needing speech therapy.

So I must lipread fluently, right? Wrong. Lip movements themselves only account for about 20% of sound, the rest comes in tongue and throat placement. Watching lips is an excellent tool for me to help identify sounds, because as my ears are scrambling to make sense, the lip movements will eliminate options. But without sound? Yeah, I’m not getting it.

That’s why there’s the joke that “olive oil” can be mistaken for “I love you.” Heck, let me use a current example of my favorite show, Once Upon A Time. When they filmed the climax of season one they were out in the streets, so they had fans watching. Two characters called out to each other, but the viewers knew them to be under a curse, so even though the script called for them use the characters’ real names, they used fake names with similar beats, and then dubbed over with the correct sounds.

And yet so many people think that lipreading is a thing. It’s a guessing game. I will admit some people are very, very skilled at it, and some people with hearing loss get by with lipreading. But to state that someone should just learn how to lipread, is to be completely ignorant on the topic.

This doesn’t even get into facial hair, mumblers, fake vampire teeth, etc. I put a character in SIGNS OF ATTRACTION that was a teacher with a very big mustache. This was taken from my own life. I had a macroeconomics class in college with a foreign teacher and big bushy mustache. This was before I had any assistive accommodations. I couldn’t understand his voice, and I couldn’t see his lips to help me. I passed that class by grace of my textbook alone.

Still don’t believe me? Take a look at this video. How well do you understand these speakers once the sound cuts off?

Writing During Mental Health Recovery

I posted at the beginning of this year about dealing with depression, and I haven’t made a ton of posts since then. Not because I’m struggling. As a matter of fact, I’m feeling better and think I’ve finally found the right medication for me. At least for my depression, there’s a bit of anxiety trying to run free.

The problem is that during my darkest moments I did nearly nothing. As you can imagine, many of my responsibilities have piled up around me, writing being one of many. So with my newfound energy there’s laundry to tackle, a desk to organize, cleaning to do (oh, so much cleaning), exercise to work back in, a family to love, and when I tackle one or two items on that never ending list, I’m done. Spent. Time to relax and recharge.

I am writing, though, don’t get me wrong. I’ve picked up a beloved novel that’s been collecting dust in first draft form. It’s needed work and the direction has finally clicked. My usual writing method I lovingly refer to as “word vomit” where I spit word after word on the page, usually completing multiple chapters a day. My current pace is one chapter, maybe two. And unlike any time in the past, I’m leaving a lot of loose areas and notes. This draft is one of the weakest I’ve done, because I know it’s going to need a lot of work in the next round.

And that’s okay. I love the characters, so I can read and re-read them many times and enjoy messing with their lives. Yes, this will take a little longer. In the meantime the laundry will get under control, the house cleaner, and the family loved. I’m taking things one step at a time. There isn’t a magic pill to take, though I wish there was.

And that’s another area I’ve realized. Better or not, I spent over a year depressed and barely moving. That’s a year of bad habits to break. A year to recover from. It doesn’t happen overnight. I have to force myself into action. I have to look deep inside and decide where I need rest and where I need to move. I have to push.

So if you are where I am, you are doing just fine. It will take time. Find a way to get back to yourself, step by step. It will come. As long as you continue taking those steps.