Auditorial Deprivation is not Language Deprivation

According to research done by Humphries et. al, “80% of children born deaf in the developed world are implanted with cochlear devices”. This is to “allow them to have access” to sound in the earlier stages of their lives, however exposure to sound does not guarantee language acquisition. This is something that many parents do not realize; that language acquisition is separate from auditory access.

Humphries also stated that if the child never acquires a language during the earlier stages of their lives, they may never be completely fluent in any language. In other words, it makes it harder for that same person to learn any language.

At the most recent conference for California Educators of the Deaf (CAL-ED), Julie Rems Smario (California Department of Education and Natasha Kordus (Supervisor of Assessment) did a presentation on SB 210, California’s version of the LEAD-K bill. The description of this presentation reviewed the law, the assessment tool adopted by the state (Ski-Hi Language Development Scale), and the reporting process for SB 210. During their presentation, they brought up one of the popular buzzwords by AG Bell and other hearing and speech based organizations, auditorial deprivation. Joy Maisel, an attendee of the conference, emphasized in her recent vlog that auditorial deprivation is not language deprivation. This was an important point to Rems Smario and Kordus.

In NAD’s “Position Statement On Early Cognitive and Language Development and Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children” language deprivation is emphasized as damaging. “Young deaf and hard of hearing children continue to experience delayed cognitive and language development in early childhood that lead to academic difficulties and under-performance when they begin schooling." (NAD)

When AG Bell and other leading organizations that focus on auditory and speech development (Listening and Spoken Languages) discuss auditorial deprivation, they are talking about a word that is commonly used for adults that lose their hearing later in life. These adults are deprived of something they once knew, however there are people that believe this should not be applied to deaf babies.

Parents that are unaware of this appropriate application are often placed in a position of shock because research often talks about the different consequences of auditorial deprivation such as depression, anger, and frustration. These same symptoms can also be applied to language deprivation and this is ignored because parents are being told they need to worry about their child’s hearing first and foremost. After the parents are shocked, upset, scared, and worried, these same organizations inform them of different options such as hearing aids and cochlear implant. Speech therapy is also encouraged.

These same organizations often avoid mentioning American Sign Language as a tool to help their child learn and thrive. For years, parents have have been encouraged to look at cochlear implants and hearing aids as solutions to a problem but some parents don’t put in the work for speech therapy and auditorial therapy. This approach can cause a child’s brain not to process sound in the way that makes these devices beneficial to them. and when these children struggle they still haven’t learned a language. There have been reports that some parents whose children who do not benefit from auditorial technology are blamed by AG Bell. In some of these cases the accusation is unfounded.

Even children that thrive and succeed with cochlear implants still have to learn how to read and write English to have a comprehension of the language. While they’re learning how to listen and hear, they will still be deaf and frustrated. Giving them the tool of American Sign Language is giving them access to language immediately, not after they learn how to hear first. This removes the layers of frustration a child may have because they can not communicate what they need or want from their families.