How Can a Child with Hearing Loss Learn to Communicate?

There are different ways for children to learn language when they have hearing impairment. Here are a few of the main ones:

  • Oral/Auditory options combine hearing, lip-reading, speech therapy and hearing devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. The goals of these options are to help children develop speech and English-language skills.
  • American Sign Language (ASL) is a language used by some individuals with severe hearing impairment and their families. ASL uses hand signs, body movements, facial expressions and gestures. It’s a language with grammar rules that are different from English. ASL has no written form.
  • Cued speech is a system that uses hand shapes in different locations along with the natural mouth movements to represent speech sounds. Watching the mouth movements and the hand shapes can help some children learn to speech-read English; this is especially important in discriminating between sounds that sound different but look the same on the lips.
  • Signed English is a system that uses signs to represent words or phrases in the English language. Signed English is designed to enhance the use of both spoken and written English.

Combined options use portions of the various methods listed above. For example, some deaf children who use oral/auditory options also learn sign language. Children who use ASL also learn to read and write in English. Combined options can expose children who are deaf or hard of hearing to many different ways for communicating and expressing themselves.

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American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Aural/Audiologic Rehabilitation for Children
Cochlear Implants
Children and Hearing Aids

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Communication Considerations for Parents of Children with Hearing Loss

US Department of Education
Opening Doors: Technology and Communication Options for Children with Hearing Loss

Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
Hearing & Communication Technology

My Baby’s Hearing
Cochlear Implants
Hearing Aid Choices