OSERS: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
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Opening Doors: Technology and Communication Options for Children with Hearing Loss

Exploring Communication Options

Communication is at the heart and soul of our lives. Children with hearing loss may build their communication skills using one or more of the communication options described in this section. To help you get started learning more about these options, let's take a look at each one.


This approach encourages children to make use of the hearing they have (called residual hearing) using hearing aids or cochlear implants. Speechreading, sometimes called lipreading, is used to supplement what's detected through residual hearing. In this approach, children learn to listen and speak but do not learn sign language (described below).


A key element of this approach is teaching children to make effective use of their residual hearing—either via hearing aids or a cochlear implant. Therapists work one-on-one with the child to teach him or her to rely only on listening skills. Because parent involvement is an important part of the auditory-verbal approach, therapists also partner with parents and caregivers to provide them with the skills they need to help the child become an auditory communicator. In this approach, neither speechreading nor the use of sign language is taught.

Cued Speech

In this system, children learn to both "see" and "hear" spoken language. They focus on the movements that the mouth makes when we talk. This is combined with: (a) eight hand shapes (called cues) indicating groups of consonants, and (b) four positions around the face, indicating vowel sounds. Some sounds look alike on the lips—such as "b" and "p"—and others can't be seen on the lips—such as "k." The hand cues help the child tell what sounds are being voiced.

Sign Language

There are two basic types of sign language:

  1. SEE, which stands for Signed Exact English, and
  2. ASL, or American Sign Language. SEE is an artificial language that follows the grammatical structure of English. ASL is a language that follows its own grammatical rules. It is often taught as the child's first language. English may then be taught as a second language.

Total Communication

In this communication system, methods are combined. Children learn a form of sign communication. They also use finger spelling, speechreading, speaking, and either hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Confused? Overwhelmed? Wondering how in the world you're supposed to decide which approach to use with your child? Well, that's normal! There's a lot to know about each of these methods. To learn more, take a look at the publications and Web sites we've listed in the section, "Find Out More." Read, ponder and talk with other parents, your child's audiologist and other hearing health-care and education professionals.


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Last Modified: 01/04/2007