Imagine yourself during a lecture, taking notes while the presenter is speaking. You’re able to hear what is said and, without any visual cues, understand the message, and write down the important information. Hopefully you also learn something new. This is an ultimate goal for a child with hearing loss – auditory learning, or learning new information through listening alone.
The foundation for auditory learning is access to sound. A child should wear his listening devices during all waking hours, and a pediatric audiologist should be managing the devices to make sure he is hearing across all the frequencies of speech in a variety of settings.
What we can expect a child to be able to learn through listening depends on a child’s age. For example, we want babies with a hearing loss to acquire the same auditory skills as babies with typical hearing. So we consider “typical” auditory learning mastering auditory skills that are typical for the child’s age. Once we establish the goal based on the child’s age, then we have to consider how to reach it.
For children who are able to benefit from direct instruction, we start this process with auditory training. Think of auditory training as training the brain to hear with the best possible quantity and quality of sound. In auditory training, words and sentences are typically presented with no visual cues. Lessons tend to occur in ideal listening conditions, typically in a quiet room without distractions, and typically one-on-one or with one or two other children of similar ability. The goal in auditory training is to teach the child listening strategies that can improve his speech perception abilities. All the while we continue to capitalize on listening in natural environments, such as in noisy settings like the school cafeteria, where the child can apply the strategies learned in auditory training sessions.
Use auditory training to develop targeted skills while facilitating auditory learning in natural listening environments. Listening in natural environments is the most meaningful context for a child to develop speech perception skills than can, in turn, help him develop spoken language skills.
Jennifer Manley served as a classroom teacher for students ages 3 to 12 at CID – Central Institute for the Deaf. She currently works in professional development giving presentations on auditory development and is co-author of CID SPICE for Life, an auditory learning curriculum and author of the 2nd edition of CID SPICE.