Teaching deaf children language was to become easier with the introduction of modern hearing aids. However, the use of hearing technologies has now become a topic of debate. A leading academic journal called Social Service review published an article in 2016. According to the article, a group of researchers were averse to the use of modern hearing technology.
They were of the opinion that the technology’s ‘speech only’ approach was hurting deaf children. The researchers believed that it was preventing deaf children from learning the language. Since this was happening in the first critical years of these children, it was impairing their brain development. As a result, it had lasting harm to their psycho-social and cognitive functioning.
The researchers contended that there was a much better approach for parents of such children. It was to begin teaching them to sign language as early as possible.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants
The children with hearing loss use either hearing aids or cochlear implants. In some cases, they receive both. The function of hearing aids is to amplify residual hearing. On the other hand, cochlear implants bypass the ear and take the electronic impulses straight to the brain.
The authors of the article published in Social Service Review have criticized the promoters and makers of these implants. According to the authors, these individuals discourage the parents of deaf children from teaching their kids sign language. Many of these parents have little or no experience with deafness.
About 96% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. So, these children rely greatly on their parents’ guidance. One of the biggest problems with hearing technology is that it often doesn’t work that well. It is quite a task to learn how to use cochlear implants.
Researchers have pointed out a study that involved over 20,000 deaf children. They had received implants in 2000. The study found that 47% of them had stopped using the devices. It gave researchers a reason to believe that using devices for teaching deaf children spoken language is a gamble.
Most of the deaf children raised using only spoken language have inadequate access to auditory information for developing language. The authors of the article published in Social Service Review have termed this ‘linguistic neglect’.
Why sign language is a much better option
Of course, it isn’t easy to teach deaf children sign language. Parents have to learn the language as well. According to the authors of the article, this method is more reliable for introducing such children to the language. It ensures that these children receive cognitive and other benefits associated with language acquisition.
According to research, deaf children do better across a range of functions upon learning sign language early. This is also true with their academic achievement. The children who start learning sign language at birth would successfully learn to use cochlear implants for accessing speech. According to the authors, social workers can play an important role in addressing ‘linguistic neglect’.
This is not just because of their involvement in promoting child welfare. The social workers can truly see the consequences that linguistic neglect can have on such children.