Deaf Children are Learning to Listen and Talk

By Hearing First Team October 12, 2015

"Hearing First" | listening and spoken language, powering potential, mission

In today’s rapidly changing world, “what’s possible” is changing all the time. This is especially true for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. A hearing loss diagnosis means something different today than it once did. Learn about the shifts in understanding and advances in technology that are expanding more possibilities than ever before.

Ask your mother or grandmother if she remembers the day the family got their first black-and-white television. It seemed impossible at the time — to think of people all over the world watching the same event at the same moment from the comfort of their living rooms. By the time they raised their own children, television seemed commonplace. Personal computers were the new frontier. Today, our toddlers will never know a world without touchscreen tablets.

What’s possible is changing all the time.

Likewise, a lot has changed for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The diagnosis of hearing loss means something different today than it did thirty years ago. There are profoundly more possibilities. Today, children who are deaf or hard of hearing can learn to listen and talk. They can achieve learning and literacy outcomes on par with their hearing friends.

Yet many of the families who receive this diagnosis are unaware of what’s possible for their child. 

Over 90 percent of children who are deaf or hard of hearing are born to hearing parents. Most of these parents have similar hopes and dreams for their child: to learn to listen talk, and read, and to do well in school and in life.

What has created this dramatically-changed landscape?

  • We have a better understanding of how hearing happens.
    Science has shown that we actually hear with our brains, not our ears. Think of the ear as a doorway for sound to get to the brain, which turns those sounds into meaning. We now think about hearing loss as a doorway problem and technology as the means of reopening the doorway to feed auditory information to the brain.
  • We have access to better hearing technology.
    Babies with hearing loss have many options today. For most, even those with profound hearing loss, there is a hearing device that can offer the brain access to all the sounds of speech. The right device (be it a hearing aid, a cochlear implant, an assistive listening device, etc.) can provide access to all the sounds of speech the brain needs for language and literacy development.
  • As hearing technology has evolved, so have professional services to help children who are deaf or hard of hearing learn to listen and talk.
    Listening and spoken language (LSL) is a communication approach that involves a child with hearing loss developing listening and spoken language skills just like their hearing friends. There are trained LSL professionals who can help your family implement this approach.
  • New brain development learning has revealed that early intervention is mission-critical.
    We know so much more about early childhood development now, like how the brain forms neurological pathways in the first days, weeks, and months of a child’s life that impact their future learning and literacy. We also know the brain starts receiving auditory information before birth and continues to grow auditory connections after. In fact, newborn babies identified with hearing loss have already missed some hearing opportunities, which means it’s extremely important to find the right hearing device as soon as possible so their brains can start catching up. The earlier a child with hearing loss is identified, amplified, and receiving help, the more opportunities that child will have.
  • It’s news to most parents that children who are born deaf or hard of hearing can learn to listen and talk. When parents are made aware of this possibility, about 85-90% of them are choosing listening and spoken language as their child’s communication option.

    Learn more about this approach.

"Hearing First" | listening and spoken language, powering potential, mission

About the Author

Hearing First Team At Hearing First, we want all children to benefit from the availability of newborn hearing screening, the advances in technology, and the early learning services in their communities. We want all children to have the opportunity to take advantage of access to sound – a critical building block for future success.