Education secretary Damian Hinds and Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry have both backed a campaign to promote lipreading classes, launched by an adult-education college.
City Lit, London’s largest provider of short courses for adults, is launching the #HearMyLips lipreading campaign to show the potential of lipreading and how it can help hearing-loss sufferers lead more productive lives. The campaign kicks off almost exactly 100 years after the institution, which was founded in 1919, began to offer lipreading classes to soldiers who had suffered hearing loss from shelling in the First World War.
According to City Lit principal and chief executive Mark Malcomson, the goal is to train more teachers to teach more classes nationwide. “We have led the way on lipreading for 100 years, first supporting soldiers whose hearing was damaged on the battlefields of World War I. Now we aspire to help all people with acquired hearing loss to manage their everyday life,” he said.
Mr Malcolmson added that hearing loss could be slow and gradual or “plunge sufferers into a life of silence immediately”.
“Lipreading can help people lead healthier lives, reduce the risk of social isolation and improve mental wellbeing," he said. "There is a clear shortage of classes across the country, but for some, an unfair postcode lottery is making things far worse.’”
City Lit said one in six people in the UK suffer from hearing loss, but those 11 million people have access to a mere 353 courses nationally. In some areas, such as Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and the North West of England, access to classes is especially limited.
With the number of people suffering hearing loss predicted to rise to 14 million by 2031, the situation looks set to worsen unless more teachers are trained. City Lit is currently one of only three centres in the UK delivering lipreading training.
Grayson Perry said: “By 2031, one in five of us will have hearing loss so that’s 14 million people. So I want your support on the City Lit lipreading campaign #HearMyLips because this could really help you in all situations. I myself have quite significant hearing loss, and social situations can be very tricky even with hearing aids.”
Education secretary Damian Hinds added: “I am pleased to support the #HearMyLips campaign to help those with acquired hearing loss. I hope others are inspired by this institution that encourages learners from a variety of backgrounds to challenge themselves and unlock their inner potential, boosting their confidence and giving their creative sides a chance to grow."
Lisa Weller, a former student at City Lit who later trained to become a lipreading teacher, said: “When I started to lose my hearing I lost a lot of confidence and self-esteem, people used to laugh if I got things wrong, which made me self-conscious and I began to withdraw from certain situations.
"After attending lipreading classes for just a few weeks, the lipreading theory started to put things into place so I could see where I was going wrong. The tutor also taught me strategies to help when I was in social situations therefore my confidence began to increase quite quickly.”
How to support the #HearMyLips campaign:
- Tweet your support at #HearMyLips.
- Talk to those around you to learn how hearing loss affects all our lives.
- Contact your local NHS provider to see if they offer referrals for lipreading.
- Engage your local MP to increase funding for lipreading provision and for training more teachers.
- Partner with City Lit to build a programme.