Ninety-five percent of children born with hearing loss are born to parents without hearing loss. As they learn the unexpected news their child is deaf or hard of hearing, many concerns fill their heads.

Modern technological advancements in newborn hearing screening offer more parental options than ever before. Digital hearing aids, bone-anchored devices, cochlear implants and remote microphone technologies are designed to get auditory information from the environment into the child’s brain where it can be processed.

Opening the door

“If you think of the ear as a figurative doorway,” says audiologist Carol Flexer, “‘deafness’ or ‘hard of hearing’ is a way to describe the degrees of how blocked that doorway is and how little sound is getting to the brain.” These technologies are essentially propping that doorway open for sound to enter the child’s brain for storing, learning and understanding what they hear.

“Once a baby is given the ability to hear,” Flexer continues, “we know what it takes to develop that brain.” It needs enriching experiences, like conversation and music, to be able to develop robust listening and language skills. Organizations such as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) connect families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing with qualified specialists who guide parents on how to share their home language, culture and values with their children.

“If you think of the ear as a figurative doorway, ‘deafness’ or ‘hard of hearing’ is a way to describe the degrees of how blocked that doorway.”

Widening worlds

“The overall goal,” says certified listening and spoken language specialist and AG Bell Chief Strategy Officer Gayla Guignard, “is to maximize the development of the child’s auditory brain centers in a manner that will allow him or her to listen, talk, communicate, read and learn on par with his or her friends.”

The ability to listen and learn to speak from listening is possible for children who are born deaf or hard of hearing. Making sure the brain receives sound is paramount, and while hearing technologies do not perfectly replicate the experience of babies born without hearing loss, these devices allow for children to access very quiet speech.

Continuous language enrichment, engagement and reinforcement by the child’s parents, other family members and caregivers are key to strengthening their child’s listening and speaking skills as well as his or her academic experiences, independence and success.