Auditory-Verbal Therapy

Auditory-Verbal Therapy: What It Is and How It Works

Approximately two to three of every 1,000 children are born with hearing loss in the United States. The sooner hearing loss is diagnosed, the sooner the child can be treated and managed, so vigilance is key for new parents. Newborn hearing screenings became mandatory in the state of Texas in 1999 through the passage of House Bill 714. Fortunately, thanks to technological advancements in hearing aids and cochlear implants, even infants and toddlers are now able to hear their surroundings and listen and develop spoken language more effectively with the use of their technology. However, wearing a device alone is not always enough to sufficiently develop comprehension and use of spoken language to the fullest potential, so hearing aid fitting and cochlear implantation is often paired with auditory-verbal therapy services.

The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Putting hearing aids on or placing the cochlear implant device onto your child will allow them to hear sounds like music and voices, but true understanding comes when the meaning is attached to auditory stimulation. Auditory-verbal therapy sessions are focused on emphasizing listening skills as the primary avenue for the child to learn a language.  Through play-based sessions (which are as much about fun as they are about learning), children develop a listening attitude so that paying attention to the sounds around him or her becomes automatic.

Auditory-verbal therapy services differ from traditional speech and language therapy services for normal hearing children with speech and language disorders. An Auditory-Verbal methodology is a parent-centered approach (parents are a part of every therapy session), and the principles of AVT include early identification of hearing loss, immediate assessment and fitting of appropriate, state of the art technology, and immersion into a hearing/speaking environment to include good speech and language models. Auditory-verbal therapy sessions emphasize decreasing dependence on visual cues for understanding and enhancing auditory input. A child’s mind is exceedingly malleable when they are young, but there is only a narrow window of time (the first three and a half to five years of life) in which to develop the brain as a listening brain as opposed to a predominantly visual one. This shift allows children with hearing loss to integrate as comfortably as possible into society as they grow up.

A Parent’s Role

It is interesting to note that the parents are the ones being trained in this technique so that they can integrate what they learn in the auditory-verbal therapy sessions and can carry over everything they gain into as many teaching moments as possible throughout the day. The trained auditory-verbal therapist remains involved providing guidance along with strategies to the parents. However, most of the hard work — the repetition and consistency that makes a difference in the long run — is provided by the parents in their day to day interactions with their child. Their hard work and dedication pay off as hearing and listening become an integral part of communication, play, education, and (eventually) work in their child’s life.

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