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Using radio aids with pre-school children

The first few years of a child’s life are a time of rapid and important development. During this time the foundations for communication are laid and for all children, language and interaction with their parents is critical to success. Hearing is essential for learning spoken language and the earlier a child can hear speech, the better their opportunity to learn to listen and talk. For a baby with hearing loss, ‘hearing technologies’ such as hearing aids and cochlear implants can provide the necessary hearing for speech. However, crucial early speech and language development occurs in the routines of everyday life, which are full of difficult listening conditions, for example playing outside, travelling in the car or a buggy and even around the house. Using a radio aid is one way to help overcome this by transmitting the speaker’s voice directly to receivers on the child’s hearing technology to improve the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR). Using radio aids with children in school is well-established practice; however despite encouraging research findings, provision of radio aids for babies and young children during their critical period of language development is inconsistent and inequitable.

 This study conducted by The Ear Foundation recruited twenty one families to explore the benefits and challenges of radio aid use with a deaf child aged 4 years and under. Using both quantitative and qualitative measures, the study investigated potential differences in behaviours with and without radio aid use and sought parents’ insights into the experience. Findings provide strong evidence for the advantages of early radio aid use and support equitable access, consistent protocols and funding.

Highlights from this study’s findings include:

·         Everyday listening environments present a risk to learning spoken language: using a radio aid can reduce this risk

·         Using a radio aid facilitates important predictors of spoken language outcomes; improved hearing for speech and increased quantity of adult language and parent-child interaction

·         Radio aid use can have a positive impact on the well-being of both children and their parents 

·         Successful radio aid use requires timely and good quality information and support to maximise potential benefits for the child and their family

·         Radio aid equipment can be challenging, but benefits largely outweigh any difficulties

Executive summary available here: Using radio aids with pre-school deaf children- Executive summary

Full report available here: Using radio aids with pre-school deaf children. full report

Executive summary (infographic) available here: Using radio aids with pre-school deaf children-Executive summary infographic

For more information, please contact Sarah Allen sarah@earfoundation.org.uk