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The Speech & Hearing Center Opens Listening and Spoken Langugage Preschool Classroom



DATE: August 30, 2016

CONTACT: Erica Newman


 The Speech & Hearing Center Opens Chattanooga’s

First Oral Only Hearing Loss Preschool Classroom

Chattanooga, Tenn. -  The Speech & Hearing Center (TSAHC) has opened the area’s first oral only hearing loss preschool classroom for children with cochlear implants and hearing aids. A cochlear implant device is a surgically implanted electronic medical device which replaces the function of the damaged inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain, allowing the patient to hear. Implants help many who do not have the kind of hearing loss which hearing aids can assist.   The children will be taught at “Little Listeners” using listening and spoken language techniques instead of sign language.

 Information about children with hearing loss in Chattanooga:

A large part of TSAHC’s mission is educating parents whose children have been diagnosed with hearing loss about their options and the urgency of the treatment timeline. Once they know the various communication modes and treatment options and choose an end goal, TSAHC helps them with the means to obtain it.

 Many parents express the desire to make sure their children feel like part of a community. Some  parents choose American Sign Language or Total Communication, sometimes with the intent to give their children that sense of identity and belonging to a community. 

However, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication disorders (NIDCD) 90% of children born with hearing loss are born to hearing parents. The amount of families expressing to TSAHC that they want their child to be part of a “ mainstream hearing world” is increasing, perhaps due to advances being made in hearing technology (digital hearing aids, cochlear implants). Many feel these options give their children the greatest chance at hearing, clear speech and ability to develop language like their hearing peers.

 Whether the child uses hearing aids or cochlear implants, he/she requires some form of speech and or listening therapy (Listening and Spoken Language Therapy/Auditory Verbal Therapy). Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing reports that the critical language learning window is from birth to approximately 3 years of age, when brain neuroplasticity is the greatest. If there is any hearing loss at any point, language, learning and therefore reading and school readiness are greatly affected.

 TSAHC is the only organization to offer Listening and Spoken Language Therapy by a certified Auditory Verbal Therapist between Chattanooga and Knoxville, Birmingham,Nashville and Atlanta, a 115 mile radius. The therapy places major focus on guiding and coaching the parent to learn how to model this language, listening and learning style in the home.

 Classroom Information:

“Therapy in the clinic is just the beginning. To give these children a greater chance at being ready for kindergarten and succeeding in school, they need more time where they are exposed to language and learning to use it. A preschool environment where they can continue their language development will ensure this goal is met,” said Pam Hosterman, Director of Speech Language Pathology at The Speech & Hearing Center.

 While there are very strong preschool classroom options in Chattanooga for children with hearing loss who want to use only American Sign Language, there is not a single option for children who are working on developing language from the Listening and Spoken Language model.

 This is the first classroom in our area for children with hearing loss who wear cochlear implants or hearing aids to receive listening and spoken language instruction. The class will begin August 30 2016 with 3-5 children who have hearing loss at the East Brainerd Church of Christ 3 days per week. The instruction will be supervised and led by an extremely specialized and experienced team of a Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist /Listening and Spoken Language and Specialist and a Deaf Educator Speech Language Pathologist who is working on her AVT certification.

 After observing a longtime successful classroom in Birmingham, Alabama and consulting with other programs across the country, it is clear, although the number seems small; 3-5 children is the perfect size for this learning environment. The amount of noise created with children, makes for a difficult place for students with hearing loss to listen and repeat words and sounds. Much of this therapy in the classroom is direct communication with the teacher. Hearing aids and cochlear implants help the children improve their level of hearing but background noise can always present a problem. The teacher will wear a microphone connected to a speaker to make the sound even louder and more clear.


- In children who attended these school programs, no gap was noted between chronological age and language age. This means children with hearing loss who are enrolled in a therapy classroom can progress at the same rate as children with “normal” hearing .

-Children enrolled in a program focused on listening & spoken language showed an average of one year of language growth for each year in the program. Selecting an educational environment that provides a consistent emphasis on developing speech, auditory & spoken language skills is key.

-Children with mild hearing loss miss 25-50% of speech in the classroom and may be inappropriately labeled as having a behavior problem or learning disability.

-With appropriate early intervention, children with hearing loss can be mainstreamed in regular elementary and secondary education classrooms.

* - See more at:

  Background information on academics/workplace environment for those with hearing loss:

A child who can learn in a mainstream environment and develop language with their peers is just as likely to graduate from high school, go to college and have a career to support themselves.

While some people with hearing loss who had a strong deaf education, vocational training and college preparation, are very successful, this population of parents has chosen a spoken language only approach. TSAHC sees adults with hearing loss in their clinic who have careers and personal success, but also see many adult patients with hearing loss who did not succeed in deaf education and did not have the option of alternative programs like “Little Listeners.” Most of these patients are perfectly healthy in every way but cannot find jobs. With no job, many rely on disability benefits or unemployment benefits and struggle. Those who are lucky enough to get a job often times cannot sustain employment due to communication challenges in the workplace.

A job for a person with hearing loss and limited verbal communication skills most times must require no phone work, limited emailing with the clients (because of lack of language skills), and many times is physical labor or minimum wage paying office work. The quality of life for these individuals is not what it can and should be. This is why TSAHC feels strongly about offering more than one choice for children with hearing loss.

 TSAHC is confident “Little Listeners” will help these families achieve the goals they set for their children; success in school and beyond. It has worked across the nation at Clarke NYC Auditory/Oral Center in New York, Alabama School for Hearing and Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center National Center for Childhood Deafness and Family Communication in Nashville among others worldwide. Grant funding for education outreach has been provided by The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.

 TSAHC is passionate about giving these families who cannot uproot their lives to move to a bigger city and who love Chattanooga a chance to see their children with hearing loss develop language and thrive in mainstream community environments.