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Sound Advice, producer of the ebook, Teaching A Deaf Child To Listen and Speak – Perfectly! began as a social venture in Ireland named Irish Deaf Kids, 2007 – 14, whose mission was to empower parents to enable their children to reach their full potential.
The Situation Before 2011
Before 2011, infants and children in Ireland waited up to five years to get hearing aids via the public health service. Speech therapy services were (and in 2016 are) equally thin on the ground. Families had limited access to hearing and speech services, creating a neurological emergency for the children, whose listening brains were not getting any sound stimulation from hearing aids, to learn to hear and talk.
Every level (and month) of hearing loss experienced by these children increased their risk of educational struggle due to correlated linguistic challenges – which sadly happened among children born in Ireland before 2011.
Ireland’s Landscape After 2011
Research shows the critical period of ‘learning’ [to hear] runs from a mother’s sixth month of pregnancy to a child’s second birthday – making early diagnosis and intervention vital.
Children detected today with significant hearing loss who receive digital hearing aids before the age of 6 months, and a cochlear implant between the ages of 7 months to 1 year can develop language skills similar to children with typical hearing, and start preschool with these critical building blocks for structured, spoken language.
Knowing this, Ireland’s move to introduce newborn hearing testing (through the National Audiological Review, 2011) was a first step in the right direction. Secondly, the children need to get digital hearing-devices as early as possible, with sustained spoken language intervention in the form of regular auditory-verbal therapy (AVT) from a qualified practitioner, whether this person is practising in Ireland or via teletherapy from outside Ireland.
How Do Hearing Devices and AVT Help?
Around the world, deaf babies are known as million-dollar babies. Deaf “children who do not get early intervention cost schools an additional $420,000 [to educate] and face overall lifetime costs of $1,000,000 in special education, lost wages and health complications.” (statistics: MASSHAC, 2012)
Here’s where hearing devices and AVT help. Children need digital hearing-devices to hear sounds and to acquire speech and language – the basis of communication for most people. Without this access to hearing – and to spoken language, the children risk lifelong social isolation and having their learning abilities limited both in school and in social contexts, even within their own family environments.
The Neurological Emergency
The earlier a baby hears sounds from hearing devices, the sooner their brain’s hearing system can prepare to process speech and language tones. In babies aged six to 12 months, their brain is processing speech sounds in the same part of the brain that manages motor movements for producing their own speech.
When a baby has hearing difficulties that go undetected, they are incorrectly tracking sound, rhythm, grammar, phonemes and language use. Maybe sound is muffled to their ears or they are missing the rhythm and intonation of your particular language. When the hearing issues are addressed, your child may have a slightly incorrect intonation in their speech but a good speech pathologist will work with your family to address this trait.
The Window For Speech
Most importantly, if this infant language window is missed, the child is always playing catch-up and may never have clear speech. Children need to hear words thousands of times to process those sounds, before they can say these same sounds and put them into words and finally recognise them in written form.
Even when a child hears most sounds without hearing aids, they need to hear small sounds like “s” and “t,” and other speech pitches and sounds that we take for granted. This is where life-changing hearing-devices, parent coaching in spoken language strategy and language-rich environments are needed as childrens’ brains grow and develop.
Caroline Carswell, Founder,