Support AG Bell Today

Opinion: The Impact of Listening and Spoken Language

When we ask families what their goal is for their child, virtually every family around the world says: “I want my child to go to school with their siblings, and to grow up to be whatever they want to be.” That is possible when children can learn to listen and talk.

Lea en Español

By Jane Madell, PhD, CCC A/SLP, FAAA, LSLS Cert. AVT

As a practitioner in the field of audiology for more than 50 years, I have seen extraordinary changes in services for children with hearing loss. Deaf does not mean the same thing now that it did when I started. We can say to almost all the families of children identified with hearing loss that their child has the option of learning to listen and talk. And due to huge advances in technology, a child, though deaf, can even hear. That was not something we could universally count on when I started.

When we ask families what their goal is for their child, virtually every family around the world says: “I want my child to go to school with their siblings, and to grow up to be whatever they want to be.” That is possible when children can learn to listen and talk.

Children who can listen and talk have opportunities to have the same experiences as their peers who are typically-hearing. They can attend regular schools and, with additional support while in school, learn alongside other children. This support includes speech-language therapy and preview and review of new language and concepts. They go to college and do whatever they want to do. They become doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, scientists, audiologists and listening and spoken language specialists – their choice of field is wide open. They succeed as their peers who are typically-hearing do. They marry and have families of their own.

The first thing children must need to be successful in learning to listen and talk is good and appropriate technology that permits them to hear at both normal and soft conversational level. If technology is not providing sufficient auditory information, we cannot build a child’s auditory brain. The ability to hear soft conversation is critical because young children learn 90% of what they learn by overhearing. So, if a child is not hearing soft speech, they cannot overhear.

The audiologist’s job is critical in the child’s success with technology and must be well-prepared and qualified to serve children. Audiologists need to test children very frequently to be sure that they are hearing at or close to the level of the Speech String Bean. Once children are capable of repeating words, [very early] speech perception testing needs to be performed. The errors children make will be used to modify their technology settings, thereby improving listening skills. (This is a big difference in what is possible since I started!) Once children can hear well, using listening to learn language becomes easier. Listening and spoken language specialists partner with families to build children’s language exposure and skills.

Listening and spoken language is blossoming around the world. More and more people know it is an option and want to choose it. About 95% of parents of children with hearing loss have normal hearing, and they want their children with hearing loss to have the same choices that their children with typical hearing have. The number of LSL specialists has grown and the number of people studying to become LSLS is growing. Options for children with hearing loss are unlimited. I think it is so wonderful!

Opinión: El impacto de la Escucha y el Lenguaje Hablado

Como profesional en el campo de la audiología durante más de 50 años, he sido testigo de cambios extraordinarios en los servicios que se ofrecen a los niños con pérdida auditiva. Tener sordera no significa lo mismo ahora que cuando empecé. A casi todas las familias de niños a los que se les diagnostica una pérdida auditiva les podemos decir que sus hijos tienen la opción de aprender a escuchar y hablar. Y gracias a los enormes avances tecnológicos, un niño, aunque tenga sordera, puede incluso oír. No era algo con lo que podíamos contar universalmente cuando empecé.

Cuando les preguntamos a las familias cuál es su objetivo para sus hijos, prácticamente todas las familias del mundo nos dicen: «Quiero que mi hijo vaya a la escuela con sus hermanos y se convierta en lo que desee ser». Esto es posible cuando los niños pueden aprender a escuchar y hablar.

Los niños que pueden escuchar y hablar disponen de la oportunidad de tener las mismas experiencias que sus compañeros con una audición normal. Pueden asistir a escuelas del sistema ordinario y, con apoyo adicional mientras estén en la escuela, aprender con el resto de los niños. Este apoyo incluye logoterapia, además de vista previa y revisión de nuevos conceptos y lenguaje. Van a la universidad y estudian lo que desean. Se convierten en médicos, abogados, programadores informáticos, científicos, audiólogos y especialistas en escucha y lenguaje hablado: su campo de elección es amplio y abierto. Tienen el mismo éxito que sus compañeros con una audición normal. Se casan y tienen sus propias familias.

Lo primero que los niños necesitan para aprender a escuchar y hablar es una tecnología de calidad y apropiada que les permita oír tanto en un nivel de conversación normal como en uno bajo. Si la tecnología no proporciona suficiente información auditiva, no se puede desarrollar el cerebro auditivo de un niño. La capacidad de oír una conversación en tono bajo es fundamental porque el 90 % de lo que aprenden los niños pequeños es de una manera casual. Por lo tanto, si un niño no oye el habla en tono bajo, no puede oír de manera casual.

El trabajo del audiólogo es fundamental en el éxito del niño con la tecnología, y debe estar bien preparado y cualificado para atender a niños. Los audiólogos deben evaluar a los niños con mucha frecuencia para asegurarse de que oyen en el nivel «Speech String Bean» o próximo al mismo, es decir, en la parte superior de la banana del lenguaje. Una vez que los niños son capaces de repetir palabras, es necesario realizar pruebas [muy tempranas] de percepción del habla. Los errores que cometan los niños se utilizarán para modificar sus ajustes tecnológicos, lo que mejorará sus habilidades auditivas. (¡Esta es una gran diferencia de lo que es posible desde que comencé!) Una vez que los niños pueden oír bien, la utilización de la escucha para aprender el lenguaje se hace más fácil. Los especialistas de escucha y lenguaje hablado trabajan conjuntamente con las familias para desarrollar la exposición y las habilidades lingüísticas de los niños.

La escucha y el lenguaje hablado se están expandiendo en todo el mundo. Cada vez son más las personas que saben que es una opción y desean elegirla. Alrededor del 95 % de los padres de niños con pérdida auditiva tienen una audición normal y quieren que sus hijos con pérdida auditiva tengan las mismas opciones que sus hijos con audición normal. El número de especialistas de LSL ha crecido y el número de personas que estudian para convertirse en LSLS está aumentando. Las opciones para los niños con pérdida auditiva son ilimitadas. ¡Creo que es una noticia maravillosa!

AG Bell membership for families is always free!

Family membership benefits:

  • Financial Support

    Scholarships for technology, therapy, and education

  • Professional Guidance

    Speak to a parent who's been there or search for a certified therapist.

  • State Chapters

    Connect with and get support from local families like yours!

  • Resource Library

    Get answers with access to our information library

  • Volta Voices

    A bilingual magazine with in-depth stories about growing up with hearing loss

  • Loft & Leap

    Access to unique leadership & educational programs for teens

Seeking an AG Bell professional membership?

Get listed on our searchable professional directory, find educational and research resources, scholarships and mentorship.

Professional Membership Has Its Benefits

Join today to connect with fellow members, exchange insights, get listed in our global directory, and celebrate the journey of listening & spoken language.

Professional benefits include:

  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs)

    Earn CEUs through the AG Bell Academy, at our yearly Symposium, or through events held throughout the year for members

  • $100 off Exam Fees

    Take your Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS®) certification exam for less!

  • Event Discounts

    Discounted registration to AG Bell’s symposium and other events, plus special discounts on travel, restaurants, retail shops and more

  • LSL Professional Directory

    Get listed and found by families that need your services and students that want your mentorship

  • LSL Leading Edge

    An exclusive e-newsletter for AG Bell professional members packed with the latest news and developments in hearing health and the listening & spoken language field

  • Volta Voices 

    AG Bell’s award-winning, quarterly digital magazine in English and Spanish

  • Access to AG Bell’s Network

    Connect with 40+ state chapters located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico

  • Professional Opportunities

    Get involved in AG Bell through committees, task forces, councils and other venues for members to interact and contribute meaningfully

  • The Volta Review 

    Stay current with the latest research through our peer-reviewed, online professional research journal

Seeking membership as a friend or family member?

Membership is always free for family & friends of people who are deaf or hard of hearing and helps connect individuals to our professional community!