Babies are learners from Day One, with their ears providing a doorway to their brain. They learn about their world by absorbing information through their senses and through meaningful interactions with parents and caregivers. What babies hear is connected to how they learn to talk and to what they know about the world. Listening and spoken language (LSL) matters if you want your baby to benefit from these meaningful interactions to begin growing their brain to be able to listen, talk, and read.
The quality and quantity of your child’s early learning experiences impact their brain development. The brain undergoes extraordinary changes during the first 3 1⁄2 years, which is also a sensitive time period for language learning. Being able to hear during this period is very important for a child learning how to listen and talk.
This means parents need to know if their baby can hear as early as possible. If they cannot hear, then parents should understand how hearing technology, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, can help their baby’s brain access all the sounds and the spoken language surrounding them.
Did you know that we actually hear with our brains, not our ears? And, we see with our brains, not our eyes. We smell with our brains, not our noses. Ears, eyes, and noses are ways of getting information from the environment into our brains for interpretation. So, think of your ears as the doorway that gets sound to your brain, which turns what you hear into meaning.
In fact, your baby’s auditory brain starts developing before they’re born and continues to mature after birth. That’s why it’s very important for your baby to have a hearing screening at birth. You need to know if your baby’s ear or doorway is open and able to deliver auditory information to your baby’s brain.
Auditory information includes sound events such as:
We Hear With Our Brain
Dr. Carol Flexer, a notable audiology thought leader, explains how we hear with our brains and why opening the doorway to the brain through use of hearing technology is so important.
Repeated exposure to audible and intelligible words – like singing, reading, rhymes, conversation, and storytelling – helps a child’s brain build the connections that will enable them to easily learn words and continue learning at a rate similar to their hearing friends in the future.
To help a child with hearing loss “grow their brain,” you should maximize their hearing and listening experiences throughout the day. This helps set the stage for how your child will learn and interact with others throughout life.
Research tells us that the number and variety of words a parent speaks to a child throughout their early years impacts development. Children with normal hearing hear millions of spoken words before they enter school. Children with hearing loss also need to hear the same millions of spoken words.
Why? Because little brains are shaped by these early experiences, which are the foundation for talking, reading, writing, and doing well in school and life. Children who have heard more spoken words during their early years do better in school because those early experiences make their brains smarter.
Did you know that more than 90% of children who are deaf or hard of hearing are born to hearing parents who listen and talk? Most parents want to communicate with their child in the language that’s most comfortable to them. When you speak to your child in your home language, they benefit by hearing your rich tone, inflection, and emotion, in addition to hearing your words. You are your child’s first teacher.
Therefore, you’re already equipped to provide the continuous spoken language interaction your child needs. To get the most successful outcomes, you will be the driving force behind giving your child access to sound through hearing technology, as well as using strategies to teach your child spoken language through listening.
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