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Listening and Spoken Language

Babies learn language best when in a loving environment, surrounded by enriching and engaging conversation. Judith Simser, O.Ont., B.Ed., Dip Ed. Deaf, LSLS Cert. AVT, summed it up when she wrote, “Children learn language best through enjoyable, natural, meaningful one-to-one interactions with people who are special to them – their parents!” Thanks to today’s advances in hearing technology for infants and young children, early diagnosis, and support from qualified professionals, families are more confident than ever their child who is deaf or hard of hearing can develop listening and spoken language.

An undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss can delay language development. To maximize language development, hearing loss needs to be identified no later than 1 month of age, infants need appropriate amplification no later than 3 months of age, and family-centered early intervention services promoting the use of listening and spoken language should start no later than 6 months of age (JCIH, 2007). Successful early intervention relies on the coordination of the family members and professionals working together to help children learn to process and produce sound and language. In order to listen, babies and young children need to receive clear, complete and consistent access to sound during these first months and years of life. For children with hearing loss, this is done through hearing technology.

Listening and Spoken Language

Early identification and intervention combined with appropriate hearing technology can enable a child with hearing loss to develop language skills comparable to their peers with typical hearing by the time they enter first grade.
Historically, Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) approaches have been the auditory-verbal approach (A-V) and the auditory-oral approach (A-O). Today, as a result of advances in newborn hearing screening, hearing technologies, early intervention programs and the specialty skills of professionals, these two approaches have more similarities than differences and they lead to similar outcomes. Families who choose a listening and spoken language outcome for their child should seek out a teacher of the deaf, speech-language pathologist or audiologist who is specially trained to help them help their child develop listening and spoken language. Professionals who are certified in supporting families and children to develop listening and spoken language are known as Listening and Spoken Language Specialists (LSLSTM) and are designated as either LSLS Certified Auditory-Verbal Educators (LSLS Cert. AVEd) or LSLS Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapists (LSLS Cert. AVT.)

To hold the LSLS credential, individuals must meet high-level requirements in addition to the standard teacher and clinician preparation programs; it is a rigorous credential that demonstrates these professionals have satisfied stringent requirements for continuing professional development, completed a mentored practicum experience, and passed a comprehensive qualifying examination. The practical aspects of the training assure each LSLS certified professional demonstrates requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to facilitate development of a child’s listening and spoken language. The certification for LSLS certified professionals provides parents and guardians a method of identifying teachers of the deaf or hard of hearing, speech-language pathologists and/or audiologists who have demonstrated expertise in using listening and spoken language techniques. Click here to learn more about the LSLS certification program.

A LSLS certified professional may work directly with a child or student and their family. These professionals support and coach parents and caregivers in their role as the child’s most important teacher of language, and the goal is for the child to receive inclusive education in mainstream educational settings. For those children who use listening and spoken language and benefit from an educational program delivered by specialists, there are schools and programs taught by LSLS across the United States and internationally.

The following are important factors that support listening and spoken language:

  • Early identification of the child’s type and degree of hearing loss. There are now very simple tests that can be done to identify hearing loss. They do not hurt and the child doesn’t have to actively participate.
  • The fitting of hearing aids as soon as possible after the hearing loss has been identified. Ask if your child’s audiologist has a hearing aid loaner program or whether a statewide hearing aid loaner bank exists.
  • Use of amplification 100% of the child’s waking hours should occur within two to three weeks of the initial fitting. Remember, hearing is something we do all the time and it is critical for a baby’s learning brain to have constant, meaningful access to sound.
  • Families and professionals will observe the child’s response to sound and determine how well he or she is learning through hearing. These observations will help determine whether the hearing aids need adjustments, or if a cochlear implant is recommended.
  • Immediate enrollment in early intervention with a professional who specializes in facilitating listening and spoken language in infants and young children. To learn more about early intervention services in your local area, contact the National Center on Hearing Assessment and Management and click on States.
  • Providing children with hearing loss with an inclusive education in the regular classroom environment when appropriate.
  • Guiding parents and caretakers to provide children with optimal hearing, speech and language stimulation.

AG Bell supports and advocates for the families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing who choose listening and spoken language, and for the teachers and therapists who provide professional services to them. For more than a century, AG Bell has strived to ensure that every child and adult with hearing loss has the opportunity to receive early intervention to listen, talk, and thrive in mainstream society.