Hearing loss in children has a dramatic impact on education, on socialization, and on personal and family relationships. A major reason: children with hearing loss are not able to take advantage of Incidental Hearing.
Incidental Hearing, a term coined by world-renowned pediatric audiologist Carol Flexor, Ph.D., refers to gleaning language that is not directed to us. Hearing-impaired children, even those who use hearing aids, generally do not pick up language that's not spoken directly to them or on subtle social cues. They often must be trained on reading emotional cues.
For example, a child with hearing loss will not hear the specifics of his mother's telephone conversation, even though he's playing within earshot. While the mother's voice will be audible to the child, since she has her mouth directed away from the child, the clarity of the telephone conversation will be sacrificed. Ears with hearing loss just can't "eavesdrop" well. In contrast, a child with normal hearing both hears and discerns speech, despite the presence of background noise and despite multiple speakers.
Incidental Hearing also helps children with normal hearing grow their language base. It is well documented that children with hearing loss have less reserve in their vocabulary and a less sophisticated lexicon (familiarity with subject/verb agreement, verb tenses, etc.) to help them piece together what is being said when they only hear only a portion of conversation.
Why is Incidental Hearing important? Incidental Hearing allows the normal hearing child to expand their knowledge of the world, language, and social cues by unconscious assimilation rather than by concerted effort. At Hearing Associates, we can help hearing-impaired children gain that same advantage.
Hearing Associates has a long-term commitment to provide Audibility Everywhere for all of our patients, but this professional mantra is even more critical for kids with hearing loss, who have their entire future ahead of them.
Most parents don't know that hearing aids generally work best when within three to six feet of the speaker or sound source. When speech is at a distance, when there's background noise, or when the listening occurs in a poor acoustical environment (auditoriums, live theaters, places of worship, or large spaces with echoes), children with hearing loss need a "bridge" to link them into the speech signal.
For example, at school this bridge is provided by an FM system used by the teacher in the classroom. The FM system allows the teacher's speech to be transmitted wirelessly and delivered directly in the student's ears via their hearing aids.
In other difficult acoustic environments, hearing loops can greatly help hearing impaired children in a similar manner. Almost all children's hearing aids have telecoils (T-coils) that, when enabled with the correct hearing-aid software, can link the child into the facility's sound system via a hearing loop.
Click on the Hearing Loop tag to watch a video about Ellie, a hearing impaired child whose family installed a television hearing loop in their family room. You can also visit our offices to have your child listen to the television in our looped waiting rooms. This amazing technology is available at a very affordable price, and more importantly, the hearing loop expands your child's concentric rings of audibility exponentially, no matter where it's installed.
To learn more about strategies your family can employ to increase your child's Incidental Hearing, consider attending our Beyond Hearing Aids: Sound Advice audiologic rehabilitation classes.