A Milfield law graduate is paying lip service to a life-changing skill after finding her vocation in an entirely different field.
Natalie Brodie-Clarke is hoping to roll out lip reading classes across Northumberland after becoming the youngest teacher to complete the Scottish course.
“I came back from university having done a law degree and found I couldn’t hear very well,” Natalie explained.
“I went along to a lip reading class as a student to find out if it would help me in my lectures. The tutor said that lipreading can really change lives, but warned that a serious shortage of tutors was causing a real problem. She was looking at me as she said it, and that’s how I got involved.”
The 27-year-old is passionate about the life changing effect learning to lipread can have on the hard of hearing. She believes classes are valuable for rebuilding self esteem, so often eroded by the communication problems associated with hearing loss.
And with Northumberland having been identified as one of the worst regions for the number of lipreading classes in comparison to the size of the population aged over 60, she is keen to introduce more.
“Learning to lipread is a really great way for people who are hard of hearing to engage again,” she said.
“People can become very isolated if they can’t hear - they stop going out with friends because they feel they can’t contribute. This can give them a whole new lease of life - it’s definitely a really worthwhile thing.”
Natalie already runs a weekly class in Morpeth, and is kicking off a new course in Longhoughton, starting with a free taster session tomorrow.
“People can come along and get a feel for what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s not just lip reading, people come to learn about equipment that’s available.
“Bring your friends - hearing people are welcome too, lots of people who are hearing learn to lip read.”
Running lipreading courses might be a world away from a life as a legal eagle, but Natalie couldn’t be more happy with the path she has taken.
“I’m really passionate about it and it’s very satisfying to teach,” she told the Advertiser. “Some people find learning to lip read easier than others - it depends if you learn better by reading, looking at pictures or hearing - but everyone can do it, it’s something that everybody can learn.
“There’s nothing better than having someone come to your class who doesn’t speak to anybody and doesn’t communicate, to suddenly in four or five weeks turning into the heart and soul of the class - that’s the difference it can make and it’s the best feeling for me, bringing someone out of their shell.”
A spokesperson for Action on Hearing Loss said: “Lipreading is a vital communication skill and can have a tremendous impact on the everyday communication of people with a hearing loss and help reduce their social isolation.
“It’s a difficult to learn, but life-changing, skill and it can take several years of regular classes to reach a good standard, and we would urge people to take part in this free-taster class this coming Friday.”