ERIC Identifier: ED414669
Publication Date: 1997-08-00
Author: Stone, Patrick
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing:
Auditory-Oral. ERIC Digest #E551.
The auditory-oral approach is based on the fundamental premise that acquiring
competence in spoken language, both receptively and expressively, is a realistic
goal for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Further, this ability is best
developed in an environment in which spoken communication is used exclusively.
This environment includes both the home and the classroom (Adams, Fortier,
Schiel, Smith, & Soland, 1990; Stone, 1988). Elements of the auditory-oral
approach that are critical to its success include:
Parent involvement. Parental involvement and education are the bases for success
in an auditory-oral approach. Acquiring effective speech and language requires
that parents play an active role in their child's education. Early intervention
efforts focus on educating parents to become effective communication partners.
Classroom efforts involve supporting classroom activities and goals while
advocating for their child.
Appropriate amplification. The auditory-oral approach places a premium on
consistent use of appropriate amplification. Each child's needs are evaluated
individually and monitored carefully over time with modifications being made as
necessary. Hearing aids are the first choice; however, for children whose
severity of loss limits the success of a hearing aid, cochlear implants are a
viable option. Given the power and flexibility of current hearing aids and the
availability of cochlear implants, it is realistic to expect almost every child
with a hearing loss to hear speech at conversational levels.
Teaching children to use whatever hearing they have to further the
acquisition of spoken language is basic to the auditory-oral approach. Although
begun before school, oral intervention continues in the classroom. The four
levels of listening skill development are detection, discrimination,
identification, and comprehension. Because the purpose of developing listening
skills is to further spoken language competence, speech is the primary stimulus
used in listening activities (Ling & Ling, 1980).
Consistent quality speech training. Developing speech production skills
(duration, loudness, pitch, and articulation) requires skilled teachers who work
individually with children wearing appropriate amplification. Instruction is
carried on at two complementary levels: the phonetic (developing proficiency
with isolated syllables) and the phonologic (developing proficiency with words,
phrases, and sentences). Skills are developed at the phonetic level and
practiced immediately at the phonologic level. This is crucial as meaningful
communication is the goal and serves to stimulate further development. Children
are typically working at two or three stages at each level at any given time.
Developmentally appropriate language instruction. Language is best learned in
child-centered, naturalistic situations as opposed to didactic, teacher-directed
activities, where students develop useful communication rather than memorize
lists of vocabulary and rules of grammar.
Range of placement option. Effective implementation of the auditory-oral
approach requires that a continuum of placement options be available. Individual
sessions for infants and their caregivers, and self-contained or mainstreamed
placements in preschool and elementary school are necessary options. The
particular placement for an individual child will depend on his or her social,
communication, and learning skills. (See ERIC Digest E557 for a discussion of
Who can choose an auditory-oral option?
Given current amplification technology (i.e., powerful and flexible hearing
aids, FM systems, cochlear implants), it is reasonable and realistic to expect
most children with hearing loss to hear at conversational levels. This makes an
auditory-oral education a possibility for the large majority of such children,
given appropriate support. However, the crucial role parents play in such an
education makes it imperative that they make a conscious and informed decision
about the communication approach that best fits their situation.
What are the benefits of an auditory-oral approach?
The primary benefit is being able to communicate directly with a wide variety
of individuals. This ability brings with it options in terms of education,
vocation, and social life. Geers and Moog (1989) reported that 88% of the 100
16- and 17-year-olds they studied had proficiency with spoken language and had
high levels of speech intelligibility. The average reading ability of these
students was at 13- to 14-year-old levels, which is approximately double the
national average for all children who are deaf.
What are the limitations of the auditory-oral approach?
As with every approach to educating children who are deaf or hard of hearing,
not all children will be successful. Unanswered questions remain about auditory
functioning (even some hearing children cannot use their hearing well), language
processing (some children may also have additional language disorders), and
learning styles (some learning styles inhibit the attention and vigilance needed
to develop orally). As research provides more information, the small number of
children who cannot benefit from auditory-oral education will diminish.
Fortunately, the availability of effective amplification removes severity of
hearing loss as a limitation of auditory-oral education.
What are some questions to ask before choosing this option?
The primary question to ask is whether the philosophy and goals of
auditory-oral education match the family's philosophy, goals, and ability to
participate in their child's education. If the answer is "yes," more specific
questions need to be asked of schools and/or programs under consideration:
Does the school/program
- offer comprehensive parent education and support?
- have a certified audiologist available?
- have in place a consistent philosophy and practices
designed to foster the development of each child's listening skills?
- utilize a recognized speech curriculum that provides for
acquisition of speech skills in a developmental
- employ a language curriculum that is consistently used
and includes appropriate child-centered activities?
- have available a full range of adequately staffed
Do the children appear happy and outgoing? Are they using speech and language
that is understandable?
Are the parents of children in the school or program knowledgeable about its
philosophy and curricula?
Do parents feel adequately informed about their child's strengths,
weaknesses, and progress?
What percentage of graduates have intelligible speech?
What percentage of graduates have continued their education beyond high
Adam, A., Fortier, P., Schiel, G., Smith, M., & Soland, C. (1990). Listening to learn. Washington, DC: Alexander Graham
Bell Association for the Deaf.
Geers, A., & Moog, J. (1989). Factors predictive of the development of
literacy in profoundly hearing-impaired adolescents. Volta Review, 91, 69-86.
Ling, D., & Ling, A. (1980). Aural habilitation. Washington, DC:
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
Simmons-Martin, A. & Rossi, K. (1990). Parents and teachers: Partners in
language development. Washington, DC: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the
Stone, P. (1988). Blueprint for conversational competence Washington, DC:
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, 3417 Volta Place, NW,
Washington, DC 20007, (202) 337-5220.
The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf is an international
organization of parents, oral hearing-impaired adults, and professionals
dedicated to ensuring that every child with a hearing loss grows up given the
opportunity to learn spoken language.