07-05-2006

Children with even profound deafness can learn to listen and talk as well as their hearing peers thanks to advances in technology and education. But nearly 70% of mothers and expectant mothers in a new survey said they were not sufficiently informed about spoken language as an option.

Ninety-eight percent of the mothers surveyed, however, said that if hearing loss affected their own child, they would be inclined to explore spoken language, according to the survey released June 24 by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), Washington, DC. The poll results underscore the need to better educate both parents and professionals about available interventions for childhood hearing loss—and AG Bell is embarking on a multi-year campaign to fill that educational gap. The campaign, called Hear from the Start, Talk for a Lifetime, kicked off during the association’s biennial convention.

“Today children who are deaf or hard of hearing have the same opportunities to listen and talk as hearing children,” says K. Todd Houston, PhD, executive director and CEO of AG Bell. “But early diagnosis and intervention are critical to their success—and if parents aren’t aware of their options from the beginning, they could miss this important window of opportunity.”

According to the survey, one-third of respondents were unaware of the importance of early intervention when it comes to helping children with hearing loss learn to listen and talk. Other results from the survey show:

  • The majority of new and expectant mothers (56%) reported being “not too familiar” or “not at all familiar” with the issue of hearing loss in infants and children.
  • As many as 63% of new mothers and 72% of expectant mothers said that before the survey, they had not been provided with sufficient information about spoken language as an option for children with hearing loss.
  • Only 2% of the survey respondents volunteered cochlear implant surgery as an option for children with hearing loss, and only 5% suggested hearing aids.