Early access to sound is important. Hearing is critical to speech and language development, and learning. Research tells us that the critical period for the development of hearing in the brain is within the first six months of life, and therefore access to sound during infancy is essential for the auditory centers of the brain to fully develop. Thanks to mandatory infant screening programs, children’s hearing losses are now identified early, when intervention has the best outcomes.
What Parents Can Do
Parents can help children with hearing loss develop their auditory skills to their fullest capacity. Parents should play, talk, read, and sing with their child encouraging noisemaking and reinforce all efforts to communicate. Try and make activities auditory without violating the concept of the natural environment. Also, try and minimize background noise such as the radio, or television as much as possible.
Ensure that your child has the best possible access to sound through appropriate technology. When considering what technology may be appropriate for your child it is important to be educated about the differences between the devices available.
The Cochlear Implant
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that provides electrical stimulation to the auditory (hearing) nerve allowing severe to profound individuals to hear. Cochlear implants are comprised of external components such as the microphone and speech processor worn by the user and internal components that are implanted surgically such as the magnet and the transmitter. In order to qualify for a cochlear implant candidates must present with a profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and demonstrate minimal benefit from amplification devices. Cochlear implants provide children, who are born with a severe-profound hearing loss, with access to spoken language code, increased ability to cue into a speaker and increased potential for incidental language learning.
For individuals with hearing loss, hearing aids work by delivering amplified sound to the damaged auditory structures. Although hearing aids are easily accessible they are limited in their ability to help individuals with severe-profound hearing loss beyond environmental sounds and low frequency (low pitched) sounds in speech such as vowels.
FM systems consists of a transmitter microphone, worn by someone such as the child’s teacher, and receiver worn by the child. The receiver works by delivering the sound signal directly to the child’s ear or hearing aid with an optimal signal/noise ratio (the ratio of the desired auditory signal to the amount of background noise in the environment). FM systems are appropriate for individuals with mild-profound hearing loss and are potable and easy to set up and use.
Hope this helps!