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Communication Development

Infant Hearing Program

One reason why early identification of hearing impairment is so important is because there are critical or important periods that exist for normal development – in this case, it is for the development of hearing centres in the brain, and for the development of language.

childDuring early infancy, many changes happen in the brain when it begins to receive information from the different senses. When the brain does not receive sound information from the ears, then some of these developmental changes in the brain may not happen. In addition, if the brain is not receiving information about all the different speech sounds, then it will be harder for that person to learn how to speak.

Communication between a parent and child begins in the earliest moments of life. Regardless of what language is being used, there is some form of communication happening between parent and baby starting just after birth. Usually, by the time children with normal hearing reach the age of 4 or 5 years, they have finished learning basic language skills. These skills are picked up naturally by hearing others speak.

Children with hearing impairments have the same needs as children with normal hearing, that is, to communicate with their families and other people important to them. However, every hearing impairment is different, and every child learns differently. This means that there is no one “right” way to encourage the development of language skills that will be best for all children and families.

For hearing parents with babies whose hearing is normal, spoken language is used for communication. Babies begin to pay attention to parents’ sounds and begin to learn that language very soon after birth. The same is true for babies with hearing impairment who are born to parents who also have impaired hearing, if the family chooses spoken language for the baby. Some of these families who have a baby with hearing impairment may choose to use language in the form of hand gestures to communicate with their child, who watches and learns this form of language. What is important for each family is that the language chosen should be one that mostly everyone in the family can use and understand.

Some hearing parents may have a child with impaired hearing, and some parents with impaired hearing may have a child with normal hearing. In these situations, the normal flow of communication may not happen. Parents may sometimes feel anxious or frustrated because they do not know how best to communicate with their child. Although a child with a hearing impairment might not be able to hear the parents’ spoken language, they will still feel their touch, and see their smiles.


Communication Development Options

‘Communication Development Options’ is a term that is used to describe the different choices available to families to communicate with their child, and to help the child with a hearing impairment develop language. The strong involvement of the whole family with the baby can make more of a difference than the approach chosen.

There are three main approaches offered through the IHP that can be used to help a child with hearing impairment learn language. Each family and each situation is different and it is important to be aware of each approach when considering communication development options. Whatever the option initially chosen, changes to the communication development program might be needed if there is no steady improvement in the child’s language.

The 3 main approaches to language development are:

  1. The Oral Approach
  2. The Visual Approach
  3. A Dual Approach