Hearing Building Blocks

​Auditory Learning: Building Blocks in Learning to Listen

Learning to listen is like building with blocks – one skill stacks on another.

Once your baby has hearing aids or cochlear implants, it is time to learn to listen in new ways and lay a foundation for the development of spoken language.

Use the 3 Ps to Help Connect Sounds with Meaning

  • 1: Practice: repeat the event or play routine many times.
  • 2: Playful: play with your voice; present interesting contrasts (choo-choo vs. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm –good)! Tots will notice these differences.
  • 3: Positive: Have confidence that practice will pay off; watch your child's face and actions for understanding!

4 Steps in Auditory Learning

Following are 4 important steps in auditory learning (adapted from Cole & Flexer, 2011): Your family-infant teacher will work with you to build your child's listening skills one block at a time during your natural daily interactions.

Step 1: Baby Becomes Aware of Sounds and Speech

Purposely Call the Baby's Attention to Sounds

Suppose there is a knock at the door – you can point to your ear and say, "I hear that!"

  • Take the baby to the door and encourage the visitor to knock again.
  • Look animated and say, "I hear the door! Knock knock. Let's see who is here" (open the door).

Call Baby by Name

Peek a boo gives a fun opportunity to play with names. "Where's Ella?" (from behind the blanket). As soon as devices go on…"Good morning, Ella! Hi Ella…Ella, that's you!"

Use Interesting and Varied Sounds With Your Voice

  • "Are you wet? OOOOOOOOH that's cold!"
  • Taking a bite of peaches: "Choo choo, choo choo….here comes a bite."
  • "Dad lifts you UP and swings you… WHEEEEE."

This encourages your child to listen and "tune in" on what you are saying. If you use the routine over and over again, what you are saying will start to make sense. This helps the infant start to understand what you mean.

Copy the Sounds Your Baby Makes

Show interest and say the same sounds back. Pause and wait – this encourages the little one to take another turn.

Step 2: Attach Meaning to Sounds

For example, a little boy has heard his daddy say "UUUUP" with a fun intonation every time he tosses him in the air. After lots of practice listening….it clicks! Next time dad asks, "Wanna play up?​" you may see an excited response, anticipation of this fun game, and in recognition of the new word.

Continue To Use Interesting Sound Patterns For Your Baby To Hear.

  • At first, your baby may respond best to sounds that are different from one another ("beep beep beep" for the toy car will sound much different than "aaaaaaaaaaah" for the airplane).
  • Try associating sounds with favorite toys and activities. As the child hears familiar patterns ("up!" each time he is lifted; "wheeeeeee!" as daddy tosses baby; "rock-rock" in the rocking chair), the patterns will start to make sense.
  • Many auditory teachers promote the use of a consistent set of vocal sounds that are paired with toys or activities. These are known as the "Learning to Listen sounds."
  • For more information, visit https://www.hearingfirst.org/​ - by searching on “learn to listen sounds,” you will find multiple helpful resources for encouraging your child’s hearing abilities.

Step 3: Making Sense of Simple Words and Language

Use the 3 Ps.

  • Practice by Repeating Words OftenShoes on. Time to put shoes on. Here's your shoe. You like these shoes. Let's tie your shoes. Oh! Where's your other shoe? Oh here it is! Your shoe was under the blanket.
  • Play by giving opportunities to listen.
    • While you and your child are bent over the laundry basket, give an auditory challenge (e.g., use your voice when the child is not looking directly at you)​…Is your sock in there? Can you find your sock?
    • If you are positioned beside and close to your child, the little one gets a chance to rely on hearing to identify the word "sock".
    • There are lots of ways to tuck in these listening opportunities all day long for simple words, phrases and questions.
  • Be Positive! Give your child time to "connect the dots."
    • Wait expectantly for the child to respond or answer before giving another listening opportunity.
    • EXPECTANT waiting lets your little one know that you expect a response.
    • Give a little wait time and expect that your child can figure it out. This is a powerful strategy!

Step 4: Understanding longer and more complex ideas through listening

Now you are off and running! Continue to foster listening in natural ways by challenging your child to take the next step. Hold high expectations and give strategic opportunities to listen.

Your child is expressing words, phrases and maybe sentences – what a rewarding time! This is what you have been working for! Listening skills are supporting the child's language learning!

Continue To Use Some Familiar Tools And Techniques:

Follow your child's lead. Respond to what the child says and means.

  • Try to stretch their ideas or stretch the language the child the child uses
    • Your child says "It's a giraffe." You can respond naturally, and give an auditory prompt for the child to expand the grammar.
    • "Yes, IT'S a giraffe." Here, the word "it's" is said with a little more emphasis to give it some highlighting.
    • Next, give the child a chance to use the phrase correctly. "Show daddy that picture!" Child runs to show him, "Look dad, it's a giraffe." Dad answers, "Wow, it's a big giraffe."
    • This has given the child several times to listen and practice that pesky word ending (It's).
  • You can also stretch the concepts that the child uses.
    • Suppose your child says, "I wish I had a giraffe for a pet."
    • What a wonderful idea! How might you stretch this idea?
    • That would be amazing…but how would it fit in your room? What would you need to have to care for a giraffe pet? Why do they live in zoos?

Know what your child can do and expect a little more: If your child can follow an instruction with two ideas (please grab the keys and your shoes), go for more. "Can you get my blue purse, your goggles, and your brother's floaties?"

More Resources: Wonderful Guides for Developing Listening Skills