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Are people comfortable with lip reading?

lip reading made difficultLip-reading is an essential part of communication for the hard of hearing. But do people mind having their lips read and do you mind staring at someone’s mouth when they are talking?

I used to lip-read a lot and, according to a hearing specialist I saw many years ago, I’m very good at it. But I don’t look directly at people’s mouths any more, these days I tend to look people straight in the eye. Why? Because a few years ago I began to realise that many people get really uncomfortable with me watching their mouth when they are talking to me. Many times people have instinctively brought a hand up to their mouth or they start biting their lip or doing something else other than just talking.

It would be easier for me to read lips more often but I don’t want to make people unconformable when we are talking. I can certainly understand why they would feel uncomfortable and I don’t blame them for expecting me to be seeing them eye to eye. The easy answer is: “Just tell them you are hard of hearing” but it’s not always easy to just blurt that out.

There’s one guy I knew who completely covered his mouth when he’s talking and he made me realise that even though I may not look directly at people’s mouths much any more I still rely on the mouth movement in my peripheral vision. I could rarely understand a word that guy said!

Do you lip-read and are you happy to read everyone’s lips, even strangers? And have you ever noticed someone be unhappy with you doing it?