Friday, May 10, 2013

How Many Hours a Day Does a Child Need to Hear?

by Jane Maddell at HHTM:

We know, for sure, that kids need to hear all day long in order to learn language, and to be ready to read. Typical hearing kids hear 24 hours a day. Children with hearing loss hear only when they have their technology on.

Here is what else we know:
  • Typical children hear 46 million words by age 4 years
  • Children need 20,000 hours of listening to learn to read. (That would mean listening for 12 hour days for 1,667 days)
  • Children with hearing loss require three times the exposure to learn new words and concepts.

So, what does this mean for a child with hearing loss?
If a child wears hearing aids 4 hours a day, it will take 6 years for the child to hear what a typical child who does not need hearing aids hears in one year. That means that the child with hearing loss will have significantly less auditory input, resulting in less language exposure, which will result in poorer language and poorer reading. What can we do to change this outcome? We need to help families to keep hearing aids and other technology on their child’s head. For children with hearing loss, time is of the essence. There is no turning back. We cannot make up for lost listening time when the child is older. When children do not receive sufficient auditory exposure, the auditory portion of the brain will shrink and the visual cortex will expand to take over the area usually associated with audition.


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  1. Typical hearing kids hear 24 hours a day ? so , while sleep also hearing ?

    1. While sleep wasn't really what the author was referencing, you may be surprised that we do actually hear while sleeping.

      "when you’re asleep, your brain’s hearing pathways don’t shut down, says Ken Paller, Ph.D., a cognition professor at Northwestern. Those pathways allow sound information to “make contact” with your memories, stimulating and reinforcing the same patterns of neuron activity that occurred while you were learning, he explains. It’s complicated stuff, but Paller says sound cues help strengthen your memories of learning a skill while you sleep."