City Lit Blog

Hear My Lips: Grayson Perry backs City Lit’s call for lipreading drive as hearing loss soars

Story added 19th Nov 2018


Grayson Perry backs City Lit’s call for lipreading drive as hearing loss soars


One in six people in the UK suffer from hearing loss but on average they have only a one in 500 chance of being able to access a lipreading class in any one year. Put another way, 11 million people have access to only 353 courses nationally*.

In some areas like Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and the North West of England the situation is significantly worse, according to analysis by adult education college City Lit.

Lipreading classes are so scarce in those areas that there are places for only one in 1,323, 999 and 923 hearing loss sufferers respectively.

London currently has almost 1.5 million people suffering from hearing loss and only 27 classes available.  It means that the chance of people getting a place on a lipreading course is just one in 873 in any one year.

The research*, which looked at the number of lipreading classes currently available, presents a bleak picture.

And with the number of people suffering hearing loss predicted to rise to 14 million by 2031, or one in every five of the UK population, the situation looks only set to worsen unless more teachers are trained in lipreading.  There is no cure.

In 2019, City Lit will celebrate its centenary. When it opened in 1919, City Lit offered classes in lipreading for soldiers who had acquired hearing loss from shelling in the First World War. And is now launching its #HearMyLips lipreading campaign is the focus for its year.

Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry CBE RA, who has previously revealed that hats and bonnets help his poor hearing by acting as an 'ear trumpet', says:

‘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 Hear My Lips 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. So support the City Lit Hear My Lips lipreading campaign’.

With a century of expertise, City Lit is one of only three centres in the UK delivering lipreading training. It says we need to train more teachers to teach more lipreading classes nationwide.

Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP says:

‘I want to congratulate City Lit on their 100th year, and the landmark achievement of reaching a Centenary. It marks a century of commitment to London, as City Lit has adapted and innovated to meet London’s changing needs and to make a difference to the lives of those who live there.’

‘City Lit helps people overcome barriers many people experience when considering learning. It provides evening and weekend opportunities for those who work, as well as a welcoming environment and easily accessible courses.’

‘I am pleased to support the Hear My Lips 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.’

Speaking later today at the first event in City Lit’s centenary celebrations, Mark Malcomson CBE, the Principal and Chief Executive at City Lit will say that ‘Hearing loss can 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. There is a clear shortage of classes across the country, but for some, an unfair postcode lottery is making things far worse.’

For those who have served in the Armed Forces, the rate of hearing loss is three times greater than that of the general population.

In pursuit of that goal, and in commemoration of the lipreading classes that were first put on a hundred years ago to support soldiers whose hearing was damaged in the battles of World War I, City Lit is launching the #HearMyLips initiative to show why lipreading is a proven success and how it can help hearing loss sufferers lead more productive lives. At present, 41% of hearing loss sufferers retire early owing to their condition.

Mr Malcomson will add that: ‘Our 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 manage their everyday life.’

Lisa, a former student at City Lit who later trained to become a lipreading teacher herself 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’.

* Short lipreading courses typically last for 10 weeks.

The population figures are mid-year estimates for 2017 from the Office for National Statistics.

Data on lipreading class availability is from The Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults.


Useful links

Watch the video