As of April 12, the Island Deaf + Hard of Hearing Centre will offer one-of-a-kind speechreading training for Victoria’s hard-of-hearing population.
Speechreading is alternative to lipreading. Unlike its counterpart which focuses solely on the mouth, speechreading also incorporates the speaker’s facial expressions, hand movements and other body gestures, as well as situational and environmental cues, to provide a broader context for conversation.
The training will make a big difference for the thousands of annual visitors to the Hard of Hearing Centre, said executive director Denise Robertson. Ten per cent of 60-year-olds are hard of hearing, she said, with that percentage increasing with age. As such, at least 2,400 of the 24,215 residents of Victoria over 60 have debilitating difficulty with hearing.
“The topic (of a conversation), your knowledge of the language, vision and endurance – all of those pieces are things that people don’t necessarily learn as you progressively lose your hearing,” said Robertson. “This is a course to help you really stay focused, and learn how to work with and live with your hearing loss.”
It will also provide an alternative to hearing aids, the price and technology of which keep some older Victoria residents from accessing them, said Robertson.
The speechreading lessons are being conducted by Leslee Scott, the sole speechreading trainer in British Columbia and a master’s graduate in deaf education and sign language. Scott has been profoundly hard of hearing since childhood and has a cochlear (hearing nerve) implant, Robertson said.
“This is a woman who has spent many, many years developing her own advocacy for herself in what her needs and what her communication looks like,” Robertson said of Scott. Scott’s goal is to train enough British Columbians in speechreading to have the method proliferated throughout the province – especially in remote communities.
In Victoria, instructor training will cost $600, while courses for members and non-members of the Hard of Hearing Centre will be $100 and $140, respectively. Being a non-profit, Robertson said the program has room for those who cannot afford it but would benefit from the training.
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