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Communication Options for Your Deaf / Hard of Hearing Child - An Overview

At some point early on after your child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, some very important decsions will have to be made by you about your child's education and communication options. Armed with the knowledge of the level of your child's hearing loss, you will most likely have multiple choices.

This page is meant to provide a general overview of the communication options you may have to choose from. For more in depth informationon these options, please see our Teaching, Education, Communication and Learning Strategies Section.

What does Communication Options mean?

There are many different ways in which we communicate. Those with a hearing loss, adapt and use methods beyond normal oral listening - they use body language, lip reading, and sign language to make up for the fact they don't neccessarily hear everything. The communication option you choose to use with your child will be affected by their level of hearing loss. Those with more severe losses may want to place additional emphasis on non-oral communication (i.e. sign language).

What are the Communication Options?

Auditory/Oral — These programs teach children to make maximum use of their residual hearing through amplification (hearing aids or cochlear implants), to augment their residual hearing with speech (lip) reading, and to speak. This approach excludes the use of sign language. The goal is to give the deaf / hard of hearing individual the necessary spoken language skills to be mainstreamed educationally and to function independently in the hearing world.

For more information, see:

Auditory/Verbal — The auditory/verbal approach is similar to the auditory/oral approach, except it does not encourage lip reading. This method emphasizes the exclusive use of auditory skills through one on one teaching. It excludes the use of sign language, while emphasizing the importance of placing children in the regular classroom ("mainstream education") as soon as possible. The goal of the auditory-verbal approach is for children who are deaf or hard of hearing to grow up in typical learning and living environments and to become independent, participating citizens in mainstream society.

For more information, see:

Cued Speech — This is a visual communication system combining eight handshapes (cues) that represent different sounds of speech. These cues are used simultaneously with speaking. The hand shapes help the child distinguish sounds that look the same on the lips—such as "p" and "b". The use of cues significantly enhances lip reading ability. It is a particularly good system for a child who may not be able to learn entirely though amplified hearing.

For more information, see:

Total Communication — Total communication is a philosophy more than a communication method. It uses a combination of methods to teach a child, including a form of sign language, finger spelling, speech reading, speaking and amplification. The sign language used in total communication (SEE sign) is not a language in and of itself, like American Sign Language, but an artificially constructed language following English grammatical structure.

For more information, see:

American Sign Language (Bilingual/Bicultural or BiBi) — In this method, American Sign Language is taught as the child’s primary language, and English as a second language. American Sign Language is recognized as a true language in its own right and does not follow the grammatical structure of English. This method is used extensively within the deaf community, a group that views itself as having a separate culture and identity from mainstream society. Another key component to the BiBi approach is to actively teach children to understand and accept the differences between the hearing and deaf communities.

For more information, see:



Help Kids Hear is a site dedicated to helping parents of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children. We are parents of hard of hearing kids and simply want to "give back" to the community. We welcome your comments, questions & suggestions. Please drop us a note at