The Gift of Hearing

Auditory-Verbal therapy is teaching children with hearing impairment to listen and talk and maximizing their residual hearing with the constant use of amplification devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. Auditory-verbal therapy emphasizes imparting skills of speech and listening. Julius is a 5 year old child. He was born with an ear abnormality called Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome. In simplified terms, this means that he has abnormally structures in his inner ear which impedes sound conduction. Due to this abnormality, Julius could not hear normally and at times his hearing can fluctuate.

After management with the ENT doctor, audiologist and AVT team, Julius finally received a cochlear implant at the age of 2 years. Cochlear implant is a device placed under skin helping to bypass the damaged regions in the cochlear. There is also an external part whereby individualized maps are loaded by the audiologist. Acoustic sounds are converted to electrical signals and transferred to the brain. This device bypasses the abnormal part of the Julius’ ear and helps him hear sounds which he could not previously.

However, listening from cochlear implant is not as simple as it seems. It is not the same as hearing from our normal ears. A patient has to learn to relate different sounds received by the cochlear implant with speech and other sounds in his environment. It has been a 3 year long journey and Julius is now able to listen and respond to speech and his cognitive abilities have improved a lot.

Julius and his mother have been attending weekly Auditory-Verbal therapy and this has been their consistent routine for the past three years. Julius’s mother deserves a lot of credit because of the extra effort she took by taking time off from her job to focus on teaching and assisting Julius. She reported that Julius had started saying ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ after three months since cochlear implantation and after six month, he could speak many more words. Julius learned fast and effectively.

Auditory-Verbal therapy was the key to learning for Julius and his mother. Basically, the therapy involves teaching parents to achieve specific learning goals and objectives. These goals not only concern with the hearing part but also to help the child develop his listening and speech skills. This improves his spoken language and communication competence. The goals include developing the sense of hearing as an integral part of child’s senses to help him associate different sounds with its corresponding stimulus.

The child’s listening and reasoning abilities are also improved with the help of specific exercises which can be performed by the parents at home also. All these exercises may seem like a normal child’s play except that they really are not. They are specially catered to help develop the hearing impaired child using meaningful play.

However, the value of Auditory-Verbal therapy does not limit only to covering for the child’s disability.

For a mother and the child both, the play exercises serve as a great bonding experience. For even normal children, this therapy can provide added benefits and boost their normal development in many different ways. Impaired children aided by this therapy can show better results than their normal counterparts in the development of their cognitive abilities, general knowledge and vocabulary.

Julius’ mother admits that Julius has shown better results in development than his two other siblings when they were his age even though they are not hearing impaired. The immense help Julius has got from this type of therapy after his cochlear implant operation cannot be understated.

Early treatment of the child affected by hearing loss and immediate start of therapy of the child and the parents after the child’s operation are key to great results. These measures will help the child develop normal social and communication skills without using sign language. Advances in medical field have made this world potentially a better place to live for the deaf child.