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Lipreading Software

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Updated February 13, 2012

If you need to learn how to read lips -- for example, if you experienced a sudden loss of hearing -- you can seek out in-person training in lipreading or you may turn to commercial lipreading software. Here's an overview of some of the more popular lipreading programs:

Sensimetrics produces the program Seeing and Hearing Speech. The company promotes its software as suitable for either professional instruction, or independent self-study. To help people learn to read lips, the software provides three different learning environments: with and without sound or visual cues. Learners are also taught how to identify which words are being stressed in speech. The program organizes speech into four categories: vowels, consonants, stress, and everyday communication. To further enhance learning, users can control the speed of the speech on the screen. Since lipreading can be challenging in background noise, users can train themselves to understand speech in a variety of background noises, such as traffic. When they feel ready, learners can test themselves, and store their test results.

Hearing Visions is another lipreading software company. Their product is "I See What You Say." The description on their website says the product will help people learn to read lips when either phrases or words are spoken. Different environments are offered for learning. The site has photos depicting challenging situations in which a person's lips are in hard-to-read position, such as biting the lips or not opening the lips much. On YouTube, the company is HearingVisions1, and offers a sample video.

A doctor and researcher in Australia, Dr. Mary Allen, developed her own program. Dr. Allen had done a thesis on lipreading with the aid of computers. As a result of her research, she developed a software program for self-instruction. She states that this software was tested on 38 late-deafened adults to gauge its effectiveness. In addition, she also offers a video of an actual lipreading competition. Her other products include a package of 33 photo cards depicting the sounds of speech like vowels and consontants, and a poster of all the photo cards.

Lipreader is a program available from the United Kingdom through the company David Smith Software. The software uses a graduated approach, starting with letters and sounds and advancing to full sentences. Users can control the speed of the speech. The program demonstrates mouthshapes for vowels and consonants, and also has a fingerspelling-only mode for users to learn the British sign language alphabet for these same vowels and consonants. Additional learning modules include asking questions and answers, full passages, and a comparison mode for learning the differences between very similar mouthshapes. (Can you tell the difference between "d" and "z" through lipreading alone?) To make learning more fun, the program also has puzzles, and allows users to add their own words, sentences, and passages. The program's creator, David Smith, has Meniere's disease, which can cause hearing loss.

Speechreading Laboratory, Inc. produces the program Read My Lips. The creator is Robert L. Russell, Ph.D. Instead of letters, the program begins with words before advancing to sentences and phrases. There is no sound because the creators believe that withholding sound will force students to learn better; instead people try to guess what is said, before the program gives the answer via a caption. Learners get practice trying to understand almost 40 people of all ages, including men with mustaches (it is very challenging to lipread someone with a mustache). The program covers lipreading in various settings such as eating at the breakfast table.

Older Adults vs Younger Adults

How effective is learning to read lips using software? It may depend on the age of the lipreading student. Researchers at Washington University sought to verify that lipreading ability apparently declines with age. They evaluated the lipreading ability of 43 young adults (average age about 20) and 38 older people (average age 76 years). Study participants had to watch, without sound, a female speaker saying sentences. Then they had to select (from a list) a sentence they thought the speaker was saying. In addition, they had to select words to fill in blanks in the sentences. The results showed that younger adults had much better lipreading scores. For instance, younger adults correctly lipread between 11 and 72% of the time, compared to between 1 and 56% of the time for older adults. Natural vs. Taught Lipreading examines whether lipreading is something that is natural, or if it is a skill that can be taught.

Sources:

Feld, Julia E. and Mitchell S. Sommers. Lipreading, Processing Speed, and Working Memory in Younger and Older Adults. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 2009 December; 52(6): 1555–1565.

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