Whether they realize it or not, most people read lips to some degree. People with hearing loss read lips to a large degree – almost every time they are listening to or talking with someone. It can be a shock to discover, after developing hearing loss as an adult, that your partner, children and friends do not “give good lip” as I wrote about in a recent article.
It’s even more shocking when, after telling your loved ones about, oh, 6,423 times what you need for good communication, they still forget how to speak in a way that works for you. But is that totally their “fault”? It’s not easy to change a lifetime habit of mumbling or speaking too softly or quickly. Especially when the only person asking for a change is you, the one person in their life who has hearing loss.
In an internet discussion on how to stop mumbling, professional speaker Lisa Marshall says this about how to improve speech articulation: “Here’s the short answer. Use diaphragmatic breathing. Relax your mouth and jaw. Stand up straight and make eye contact. Open your mouth wider to speak. Enunciate every syllable. Do daily vocal exercises to improve your enunciation.” The long answer by Ms. Marshall looks at the reasons why a person may mumble or speak quickly or softer, including nervousness, not really caring about being understood, and/or lack of focus on the conversation.
People generally don’t speak as clearly these days as in older generations. In the rush to get our thoughts out, or the niceties out of the way, words are only partially pronounced. Wha? Howza family? Whatcha doin’? And this is spoken with lips held so close together that a piece of paper wouldn’t slide between them. Even the most sophisticated hearing aid can’t understand words or sounds emitted through a miniature blowhole. Perhaps people with hearing loss – myself included – need to accept the reality of explaining our needs over and over again. Just as there will always be days of frustration.