Posted on Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Read My Lips


Most people consider lipreading something done consciously by someone with hearing loss or a really good spy. But the McGurk effect--a perceptional phenomenon discovered long ago--shows that most everyone's hearing relies, in some way, on lipreading.

If you are like most people you are unaware of the many visual cues you take in in order to process words. It might not even seem that you are focusing on a person's lips when they speak or noting how they form words, but most people unconsciously read lips. And when the visual details on these lips differ from what is actually being said, most people will hear the word that matches what they are seeing and not the word being spoken. This is known as the McGurk effect.

The McGurk effect was discovered in the seventies by two scientist researching how children learn language. They realized when watching video setup for their experiments with children, that when what they were seeing was different from what was actually being said their sight overruled the ears. Watch the beginning of the below video to see the phenomenon for yourself.

The majority of people hear bar or far accompanying the two visual images in the video above though the word itself doesn't change. It's bar. Some people are less susceptible to this visual farce. People who watch a lot of dubbed television and have learned to discount what their eyes are seeing for example.

And like people can be taught to discount visuals, other people learn to hone in on them. That's what true lipreading is about. It's sharpening a skill that most people already have. Though only thirty to forty percent of what is said is available to lipreader this is a valuable tool that people with hearing loss can use.

Lipreading isn't in and of itself an answer to hearing loss. Hearing loss needs to be addressed with medical intervention like hearing aids. In fact, lipreading done exclusively with no other help for hearing loss is exhausting. Consciously reading lips requires effort and that effort can tax the brain and thereby sap energy. Still lipreading that assists someone with hearing loss rather than serves as their primary way of hearing is a valuable tool.

If you'd like to learn more about improving your hearing, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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