Although the type of hearing amplification varies (hearing aid or cochlear implant), as well as age at which a hearing loss was diagnosed, the process of auditory rehabilitation is different yet essential.
Habilitation through aural-verbal therapy
Infants born with a congenital hearing loss (i.e. a hearing loss present at birth, which can be a hereditary hearing loss or hearing loss due to other factors present either in-utero or at the time of birth), have had limited or no access environmental sounds and speech. These infants have not yet learned to listen and talk and still need to develop these skills. Intervention therefore focusses on habilitation through Auditory-Verbal Therapy.
Through early identification and greater access to more advanced hearing technology, children with even the most severe or profound hearing loss can gain access to sound and follow an intervention approach focused on achieving typical developmental milestones in listening, speech, language, cognition and conversational competence. Auditory Verbal Therapy is a specialist early intervention programme which equips parents with the skills to maximise their child’s speech and language development. The Auditory Verbal approach stimulates auditory brain development and enables children with hearing aids and cochlear implants to make sense of the sound relayed by their devices. As a result, children with hearing loss are better able to develop listening skills and spoken language skills, with the aim of giving them the same opportunities and an equal start in life as children born with normal hearing.
Auditory Verbal Therapy focuses on providing parents with techniques and strategies to develop their child’s listening and spoken language through play. Auditory Verbal Therapy enables parents to help their child to make the best possible use of his or her hearing technology and equips parents to check and troubleshoot it in collaboration with their audiologist. This will maximise a child’s access to sound so that listening and spoken language skills can be developed to the fullest extent possible. As the work of young child is play, developing communication skills through play, aids in developing a listening attitude so that paying attention to sound becomes automatic. Hearing and listening become an integral part of communication, play, education, and later in life, work. All learning from the therapy sessions carries over into daily life as parents are provided with the skills to continue therapeutic goals outside of structured, formal therapy sessions. This means that at home, parents can make everyday activities, such as reading a story or bath time, a fun listening and learning opportunity.
In older children and adults with an acquired hearing loss (i.e. a hearing loss that occurs or develops some time during a person’s life but was not present at birth), rehabilitation is sought to improve communication ability after the development of spoken language. Learning how to hear with a cochlear implant is like re-learning how to hear. Your brain already has the memories of what sounds sound like and how to interpret them. Auditory rehabilitation helps re-build these connections and helps the brain interpret and understand sounds again. Rehabilitation activities will cover several areas that have an impact on communication. The main areas that are covered in auditory rehabilitation are:
- Audition: The focus is on developing an awareness of sounds and building an understanding of what specific sounds mean.
- Speech: A hearing loss limits the ability to hear the sounds of your own voice and therefore you might lose some of your speaking skills, like clear pronunciation of certain speech sounds, in the time before receiving hearing amplification. Speech rehabilitation will help you re-learn how voices sound with a hearing aid or cochlear implant and monitor your own speech production.
- Language development and communication management: This is using your speaking skills in everyday conversations. Part of this is learning how to identify the sounds of different words and combining these into words, sentences, and a conversation. You will also learn how to manage difficulties understanding others during a conversation.
- Compensatory strategies: You might experience situations where it is difficult to communicate. Compensatory strategies will help you to be independent and manage communication breakdowns which may occur.
Aural rehabilitation can help reduce a patient’s perception of hearing difficulties, improve his/her perception of quality of life, assist them in becoming more effective users of their hearing technology and implementation of communication strategies. All of this improves a patient’s personal adjustment to living with hearing loss.
Engaging in auditory rehabilitation following hearing amplification is the most important step you can take to help improve listening and communication skills.