Jane Madell
February 21, 2012

A friend shared this puzzler with me recently. You have probably seen things like this before. Try and read it, and while you are doing so, think about how kids with hearing loss have to figure things out receiving an incomplete message.

7H15 M3554G3

53RV35 7O PR0V3


D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5!

1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5!

1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG

17 WA5 H4RD BU7

N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3


R34D1NG 17


W17H 0U7 3V3N

7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17,


C3R741N P30PL3 C4N

R3AD 7H15.
PL3453 F0RW4RD 1F

U C4N R34D 7H15.

You are an adult. You already have language. You can use the knowledge that you have to fill in the blanks and understand the message. But if you are a little one with hearing loss, and have to figure out what language is, things are much more difficult. Today’s technology is outstanding, especially compared to what was around when I started in this field, but it is not perfect.

How clear is the message?
Even the best technology does not provide a perfect signal because, no matter how good the technology is, children (and adults, for that matter) are listening though a damaged auditory system. So what can we do to make things clear? Let’s remember, It’s not about the ears, it’s about the brain! We need to do everything we can to build auditory brain development.

How do we do make sure kids are hearing what they need to hear?
We need to do a few things. First, we absolutely need to be certain that kids are hearing well enough. That means they need to hear with technology, hearing at no worse than 15 dB throughout the frequency range (especially in the high frequencies (see How Do I Know If Hearing Aids Are Working Well). We also need to be sure that children hear and understand speech at normal and soft conversational levels in quiet and in noise (see Speech Perception – The Basics). But is that enough?

Auditory Based Therapy
If we put glasses on a child with a severe vision problem and leave the child full time in a dark room the child will not learn to see, and the visual portion of the child’s brain will not develop. The same is true for hearing. Even the best technology does not work by itself. For kids to develop the auditory portion of their brain, it is ESSENTIAL that they learn to listen. This requires auditory based therapy. Both child and parents need to learn how to use listening to maximize auditory skills, to develop language, literacy and social skills. Kids should develop one year of language in one year. With good technology, appropriate auditory therapy guiding families, and families who can provide good auditory stimulation kids can do it!

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