The early weeks of a hearing loss diagnosis go by in a blur of information, and depending on the age of your child you might be expected to make some pretty major decisions while you are still trying to deal emotionally with the diagnosis.
To a certain degree some decisions might already be made for you. For example, if your child has a profound hearing loss cochlear implants are often the only choice when it comes to helping your child access sound. However, one area where you do have some choice is in the different communication and education options that are available to your child.
Becoming a little more familiar with the options available to you will help when you work together with your team of professionals to determine which method would be most appropriate for your child. One thing to remember is that whatever course of action you choose it is not written in stone. Raising a child, with or without hearing loss, is a constantly evolving undertaking. If at any time you feel that the chosen therapy is not as effective as it could or should be it is important to speak up and let your team of professionals know; adjustments may need to be made to help your child work towards success.
Additionally, if at any time you do not agree with any of the professional advice you receive, do not hesitate to search out a second opinion as to what may be appropriate for your child. It is important that both you and your child feel comfortable with the chosen approach. A brief summary of the most common methods are:
Auditory/Oral Method: Helps child fully utilize any residual hearing through the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants, and provides educational and appropriate therapies that support the development of listening and spoken language. The main goal of the auditory/oral method is to have children work towards mastery of spoken language and academic skills that will lead them to be successful in a mainstream education setting and to function in a hearing society. In order to meet that goal, children often attend a specialized program in their early years designed specifically for children with hearing loss.
Auditory-Verbal Method: Similar to the above approach in that it works with the child’s residual hearing. This approach consists of a set of guiding principles that are used by professionals and parents who follow the method, and works towards helping the child learn spoken language by listening. Central to this method is the parent-professional partnership, where the professional shows the parent how to teach her child to communicate using spoken language and the parent informs the professional of the child’s progress so that new goals can be developed continuously. The main goal is to provide both parent and child with enough support so that the child is able to continue development in listening and spoken language skills in everyday situations.
Cued Speech Method: Cued speech is a system that uses a strong visual component to demonstrate phonetic information; it is mainly used with children who have severe hearing loss and who are unable to learn solely through the use of amplified hearing. The method is designed to enhance lip-reading ability and combines natural mouth movements with hand shapes to represent different speech sounds.
Sign Language: American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that consists of signs made by using hands along with facial expressions and body postures. It is very much a part of a vibrant Deaf community culture. ASL is most commonly used by those who are profoundly deaf, although children with any degree of hearing loss can benefit from learning some ASL. Hearing parents of deaf children often learn to sign alongside their child.
Total Communication: Uses a combination of methods to teach a child. These methods include: a form of sign language, finger spelling, speech reading, speaking, and amplification.