CALLS for free or low-cost lip-reading classes in Northumberland have been backed by Morpeth’s MP.
Wansbeck Member Ian Lavery has added his weight to a campaign by RNID Action on Hearing Loss to press Northumberland County Council to make sessions available for people with hearing difficulties.
The calls come after RNID research found Northumberland offers nowhere for people to learn lip-reading, despite classes being available in other parts of the country at little or no cost.
Mr Lavery gave his support to the cause after spending time with members of the Morpeth Hearing Action Group and finding out how difficult it is to learn the technique, as well as the substantial impact it can have for people with hearing loss in being able to communicate with family, friends and colleagues.
He said: “I welcomed the opportunity to meet with local campaigners in my constituency and now have a greater understanding of how hearing loss can have such a serious impact on quality of life.
“I recognise that lip-reading is a vital skill, which can build confidence and help avoid social isolation.
“I fully support this local campaign for lip-reading classes and will raise the issue directly with the Chief Executive of Northumberland County Council.”
Morpeth campaigner Andy Griffin said it is vital that lip-reading classes become available.
The 66-year-old said: “We greatly appreciate Ian Lavery’s support for our campaign for lip-reading classes, which will help reduce the social isolation experienced by local people with hearing loss.
“My hearing has been declining for years and I increasingly try to read people’s lips shapes, gestures and facial movements to interpret what they’re saying.
“We outlined our life experiences and spoke about how learning basic lip-reading techniques would give us increased confidence in our day-to-day lives.
“We highlighted that lip-reading classes are regarded as a leisure pursuit, bracketed with basket weaving and fingernail art, and we’re delighted that Mr Lavery feels as we do, that it should be considered as an essential health issue.”
RNID Director of Public Engagement Emma Harrison added: “Learning to lip-read can have a tremendous impact on everyday communication by helping people with hearing loss fill in the gaps and make educated guesses about what others are saying.
“Hearing loss affects more than half of people over 60 so with the ageing population demand to learn lip-reading in Northumberland is only going to increase.”
A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said the authority hopes to be able to set up classes later in the year, but needs to find an appropriate teacher.
She said: “We fully acknowledge the value of lip-reading to those who are deaf or hard of hearing and are working with the RNID with the hope that we canmake some provision this autumn.
“This does however rely on us finding suitably qualified teachers within the area and we would urge anyone who thinks they may be able to help us to get in touch.”