Seeing at the Speed of Sound

Posted on March 7, 2013

Lipreading, which makes one sense do the work of another, is a skill daunting to describe. Rachel Kolb, ’12, deaf since birth, shares its mysteries.

By Rachel Kolb

I am sitting in my office during a summer internship. Absorbed by my computer screen, I do not notice when my manager enters the room, much less when he starts talking. Only when a sudden hand taps my shoulder do I jump. He is gazing expectantly at me.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in,” I say.

“Oh, right.” His expression changes: to surprise, and then to caution. He proceeds to say something that looks like, “Would you graawl blub blub vhoom mwarr hreet twizzolt, please?” I haven’t the faintest idea what he said. I have no excuse, for I was looking straight at him. But despite my attention, something went wrong. He spoke too fast; my eyes lost focus.

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