Drs. Marlene Bagatto and Janis Cardy from the National Centre for Audiology and the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Western are testing new ways for evaluating if hearing aids help very young children in their speech development. The study will help audiologists and parents to see which babies who uses hearing aids are developing early speech behaviours normally and which babies are at risk for speech delays.
Infants with permanent hearing loss are at risk for delays in the development of their speech and spoken language skills. Even though hearing aids are very helpful in improving speech development, some babies who wear hearing aids can still experience delays. Audiologists and parents would like to be able to identify which infants are at risk as early as possible so that appropriate interventions, such as speech-language therapy, can be put in place. Many of the current tools for identifying delays only examine the onset of verbal behaviours, such as first spoken words. However, there are many important preverbal behaviours (such as different stages of babbling) that occur in the first year that could be used to identify at risk infants earlier than other tools. The LittlEARS Speech Production Questionnaire was especially developed to evaluate speech production behaviours that normally develop in the first 18 months. It was originally developed for German-speaking babies who are normally hearing. The purpose of this study is to use the LittlEARS questionnaire with English-speaking children who are normally hearing and to compare it to other clinical measures of speech development to make sure that will be valid to use in English. Once the study is completed, audiologists will be able to use the LittlEARS questionnaire to determine if a baby who is wearing hearing aids is on track in their early speech and language development.