Hearing loss affects one in seven Irish people and this figure rises to one in three in those over 60, and two in three in those over 70.

What is lip-reading?

Lip-reading is reading the visual clues of the spoken message. It involves observing the movements of the lips and tongue, the lower jaw, eyebrows and the facial expressions of the speaker. The lip-reader will also observe the syllables and stress of the speech.

Observing the movements of the lips and tongue, the lower jaw,

eyebrows and the facial expressions of the speaker.

What is sign language?

Sign language is the first language of 4000 Irish people. It is the most effective way for deaf people to communicate. It also allows deaf people to identify with a community, which is important for their well being. Deaf people often make sense of a word by breaking it up into what is meaningful for them - visual representations of word parts.

For example "macaroni". We would say ma-ca-ron-i. A deaf person might make sense of it by saying ma-car-on-i, the equivalent of four signs. Often they are helped to remember words by being showed the "visual parts".

Are they difficult to learn?

Yes, but once you have developed your lip-reading skills you will be able to take part in everyday communication more easily. This means you can interact with more people and avoid the feeling of isolation, which often accompanies deafness. Learning ability differs in each person. Generally deaf people pick up sign language with more ease, possibly because they are more determined to communicate to avoid their feelings of isolation.

How do I go about learning to lip-read and sign language?

Join an evening class where you can mix with people with a similar problem. You can also learn sign language from a home video tape or with the help of books. It is helpful to find a sign language partner, so that you can practice regularly and improve at a quicker rate.

Will this solve all my problems?

It will certainly help you to communicate better and have a better understanding of what is going on. However even the most skilled lip-reader cannot identify every word, largely due to factors beyond his control - speaker covering his mouth, inability to see the speaker's face, bad lighting on the speaker. With sign language, you will feel part of a community you can identify with. You will be able to follow a conversation much better than through lip-reading alone.

How can I assist a family member with deaf literacy?

Lip-reading and sign language classes are held during the day and in the evening in eight venues in Dublin, as well as in Meath, Kildare, Kilkenny, Offaly, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Longford, Cavan and Monaghan.

What does the future hold?

There is still, however, a need for greater recognition of sign language as a minority language in Ireland. The Irish Deaf Society are pushing for more subtitled programmes on our national broadcaster, RTE. Currently they believe their community is largely ignored by prime time television, and completely so after 9:00.

Useful addresses:

Irish Deaf Society,

30 Blessington St.,

Dublin 7.

Telephone: 01 8601878

Fax: 01 8601960.


National Association for Deaf People.

Telephone: 01 8723800.

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