Hesperian Health Guides

Lip Reading

Children with a lot of hearing loss often depend partly on lip reading to understand what people are saying. But lip reading is not easy to learn. Do not try to hurry the child or she (and you) can easily get discouraged. Do not start teaching lip reading until the child is at least 3 years old.

a woman speaking while a boy holds a ball and touches her lips.

Sit in front of the child in good light, and show him something, for example, a ball. Say “ball,” moving your lips clearly and speaking slowly. Let the child see your lips move, and watch your face. Repeat the same word many times.

Then have the child try to imitate you, and feel his own lips as he does.
DVC Ch31 Page 275-2.png

Next, sit with the child in front of a mirror, so that he can see both of your faces. Say the word ‘ball’ and then have him copy you, watching both of your lips and faces in the mirror.

DVC Ch31 Page 275-3.png
Be sure the child is watching your lips.

In this way teach him different words. Start with words where the lips move a lot, and that are easy to tell apart. Pick words that you can use often with him in games and daily activities. When you speak to him, make sure he is watching your face and mouth. Use hand signs when he cannot understand a word. But use the sign after speaking the word, not at the same time. He cannot watch both at once.

You can play games with the child together with children who hear, using ‘mime’— that is, acting things out and saying words with the mouth, without making sounds.

Unfortunately, some sounds and words look exactly the same on the lips—the sounds ‘k’, ‘g’, and ‘h’ look the same. ‘P’, ‘b’, and ‘m’ look almost the same. ‘T’ ‘d’, ‘s’, and ‘z’ look the same. And so do ‘ch’ and ‘j’. To help the child tell similar words apart, use hand signs or give him small ‘clues’, like touching parts of the body, clothes, or food. For example:

If mama wears a dot on her forehead, and papa has a scar on one cheek, when anyone at home speaks of them they can also give the ‘magic sign’.
DVC Ch31 Page 275-4.png
DVC Ch31 Page 275-5.png
a boy speaking while he points to his forehead.
Where is mama?
a girl speaking while she points to her cheek.
Papa is plowing.

This page was updated:21 Nov 2019