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"We wanted Jose to learn to speak. We work with him all the time at home. He is 3 years old and won’t stop talking!" - Carlos

Speech is a skill that many people take for granted. But speech is a building block — a skill that helps build language. Parents can choose to have their child use this building block for communicating — that is, expressing themselves.

Speech is often used in combination with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices. A child with some residual hearing may find it easier to learn speech than a child with no residual hearing. But, since this building block is used by a child to express him or herself to other people, one or more other building blocks must be used to help the child understand others.

Speaking may seem easy to a person with hearing. But for a child with hearing loss, speaking is often hard without proper training. Like all other building blocks, the skill of speaking must be learned. Often a speech-language pathologist must work with the baby and family.

Residual Hearing: This refers to the amount of hearing a child with hearing loss has, despite their hearing loss.
Cochlear Implants: A cochlear implant is a surgically placed device that can help a person with severe to profound hearing loss. It gives that person a way to hear when a hearing aid is not enough. A cochlear implant sends sound signals directly to the hearing (auditory) nerve.

Hearing Aid: Hearing aids make sounds louder and clearer. Hearing aids are be worn by people of any age — including infants. Young babies with hearing loss can better understand sounds using hearing aids. This gives them the chance to learn speech skills right from birth.

There are many styles of hearing aids. They can help many types of hearing losses — mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Your baby's audiologist will help you pick the best type for your baby's hearing loss. A young child is usually fitted with behind-the-ear (BTE) style hearing aids because they adjust better on growing ears. Behind-the-ear hearing aids come in skin tone as well as many bright colors.

Mild Hearing Loss: A person with a mild hearing loss may hear some speech sounds but soft sounds are hard to hear.

Moderate Hearing Loss: A person with a moderate hearing loss may hear almost no speech when another person is talking at a normal level.

Severe Hearing Loss: A person with severe hearing loss will hear no speech of a person talking at a normal level and only some loud sounds.

Profound Hearing Loss: A person with a profound hearing loss will not hear any speech and only very loud sounds.

Assistive Listening Devices: There are many devices that can help children and adults with hearing loss. You can talk to your audiologist about which one (or ones) is best for your child. Some of these devices include:

  • Hearing Aids
  • Cochlear Implants
  • FM Systems
  • Captioning
  • Telephone amplifiers
  • Flashing and vibrating alarms
  • Audio loops systems
  • Infra red listening devices
  • Portable sound amplifiers
  • TTY or TDD (Text Telephone or Telecommunications Device for the Deaf)
Speech Language Pathologist: A speech language pathologist is a professional trained to know about how children learn language and to teach children how to use speech and language.

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Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

    Hearing Loss Team

    1600 Clifton Road
    MS E-87
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
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