By: Gloria McGregor, Founder
Hello I’m Gloria McGregor the owner, writer and presenter of lipreadingpractice.
Some of you may remember my article written in 2015, when my website was just 2 years old. For those who are not familiar with it, here is a brief background. I was a primary school teacher in my early thirties with three young children when I found I had a hearing loss. Although I didn’t know it, my hearing loss was quite profound. My hearing loss was mostly in the high frequency range and I could still hear some of the low frequency. Hearing aids in the 80’s were nothing like they are today. My hearing aids amplified everything, meaning that low frequency sounds were very loud, but I still couldn’t hear the high frequency sounds. Life was very difficult and I was often quite depressed. Luckily, I became a head teacher in 1982, so I wasn’t in the class all day long. I also, managed to work as an advisor for a year which was really interesting. By the 1990’s however, it was a real struggle to cope with my hearing loss at work, home and socially. I took early retirement in 1995 when I was 51 years old. Retirement was a difficult time but I went to lipreading classes, which is one of the best things I have ever done. I not only learned to lipread but met many people who understood what it was like to live in a hearing world when you have a hearing loss. We shared our experiences and strategies, “what worked for us!” Sadly, my tutor had to retire due to ill health and the classes in Essex disappeared. I went to an advanced lipreaders class in Suffolk, so I was OK. In 2006, I was thinking about training as a lipreading tutor and phoned Essex to make enquiries. A few weeks later I was teaching a class. I have been teaching lipreading ever since although, after retiring (again) in 2009, I have been teaching on a voluntary basis.
I was worried about the lack of lipreading class provision, so decided to do something about it. Eventually, after trial and error, with the help of my web designer, I created the website www.lipreadingpractice.co.uk. I finally allowed it to “go live” in April 2013. It was incomplete having only the consonant sounds, some lipreading tips and useful addresses on it.
By May 2013 it was page one of Google where it has been ever since. I have never advertised! It took me a year to put all the sounds on the website and I have gradually been adding other sections. The website is a FREE resource for anyone who wishes to practice and develop their lipreading skills and to find other websites for help and information. I have no idea who uses the website unless I receive emails. If I am asked for advice, I do my best and try to include other avenues to explore, but basically everybody is different and has to find what is best for them.
There are no pop-up adverts to interrupt your learning and you are not required to log on or to register. I do not receive funding from anyone, so I do not recommend hearing aids or other devices unless I think that they are really worthwhile and will be of benefit to the user. Again, everybody is different and must make their own decisions, if possible, trying equipment before buying.
2013 was a special year. Because of my work and my website, in September I was invited to give an inspirational talk to the new intake of students at He University, Shengyan, China. I was nervous but it was an amazing experience, speaking to 2000 new students, plus older students, staff and other guests. I was in exulted company and I was honoured to be made a Visiting Professor of the university in recognition of my achievements and for my charity work – helping others and creating my website.
Lipreadingpractice features video clips to help the user practice lip pattern recognition as sounds; in words and in passages both looking at the front face and a side profile. Each video has removable subtitles which make it easy for the lipreader to check lipreading accuracy. These videos are filmed professionally to ensure picture, sounds and subtitles are accurate.
The website has come a long way since those early days. There are now videos at three levels of proficiency so people can work at their own level and pace. Written exercises can be downloaded for those who wish to use them. The information, tips and useful addresses have been increased and are updated as new information is found. Also, information about deaf awareness both for those with hearing loss and hearing people can be found. I also try to draw user’s attention to local and national events, news and any surveys or campaigns organized by other organizations.
In addition to my website, I have sponsored and attended exhibitions including City Lit Deaf Day and information days both locally and in the City of London to draw attention to the importance of lipreading and to raise deaf awareness.
I have written blogs and articles for many national and local charities and have given talks to local and other organisations. It has been a great privilege to try to help people who, like me have become deafened in later life. I have met some amazing people and taken part in events that would never have happened if I hadn’t lost my hearing. Through my website I receive emails from people all over the world who are using it to help them improve their communication skills.
Any disability brings challenges and obstacles to be overcome but there are also many achievements and opportunities to celebrate too, if we look for them. We can all make a difference. It doesn’t have to be huge; befriending someone who is feeling isolated will have a great impact on that person and make such a difference to their lives. We all know that if someone smiles at us, we smile back and that smile often makes us feel better. Communication in these strange times is not easy; still not many clear masks are being used which makes lipreading very difficult. It’s difficult for hearing people too, when we can’t get the other clues from seeing people’s faces. Let us hope that it won’t be too long before we are able to meet with each other again and see what they say!
In my last article I said how stunned I was by the success of lipreadingpractice. Today in 2021, I am still thrilled that it is being used and is helping people and I am so pleased to receive emails from users, thanking me and telling me how useful they find the site. It still amazes me that these emails come not just from the UK, but from all over the world. It is very humbling!!
In July 2018, I finally took the plunge and had my first cochlear implant which was such a great help in all aspects of my life and especially with my work as a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers and of the Worshipful Company of Educators – but that’s a story for another time!
Thank you for your time and for reading this. I wish everyone all the very best for the future.
If you want to brush up your lipreading skills – please visit this free website www.lipreadingpractice.co.uk.
Gloria McGregor, Founder of Lipreading Practice