Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Auditory-Oral
The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E551
Author: Patrick Stone
What Is Meant by the "Auditory-Oral" Approach?
The auditory-oral approach is based on the fundamental
premise that acquiring competence in spoken language, both
receptively and expressively, is a realistic goal for children who are
deaf or hard of hearing. Further, this ability is best developed in an
environment in which spoken communication is used exclusively.
This environment includes both the home and the classroom
(Adams, Fortier, Schiel, Smith, & Soland, 1990; Stone, 1988).
Elements of the auditory-oral approach that are critical to its
Who Can Choose an Auditory-Oral Option?
Given current amplification technology (i.e., powerful and flexible hearing aids, FM systems, cochlear implants), it is reasonable and realistic to expect most children with hearing loss to hear at conversational levels. This makes an auditory-oral education a possibility for the large majority of such children, given appropriate support. However, the crucial role parents play in such an education makes it imperative that they make a conscious and informed decision about the communication approach that best fits their situation.
What Are the Benefits of an Auditory-Oral Approach?
The primary benefit is being able to communicate directly with a wide variety of individuals. This ability brings with it options in terms of education, vocation, and social life. Geers and Moog (1989) reported that 88% of the 100 16- and 17-year-olds they studied had proficiency with spoken language and had high levels of speech intelligibility. The average reading ability of these students was at 13- to 14-year-old levels, which is approximately double the national average for all children who are deaf.
What Are the Limitations of the Auditory-Oral Approach?
As with every approach to educating children who are deaf or hard of hearing, not all children will be successful. Unanswered questions remain about auditory functioning (even some hearing children cannot use their hearing well), language processing (some children may also have additional language disorders), and learning styles (some learning styles inhibit the attention and vigilance needed to develop orally). As research provides more information, the small number of children who cannot benefit from auditory-oral education will diminish. Fortunately, the availability of effective amplification removes severity of hearing loss as a limitation of auditory-oral education.
What Are Some Questions to Ask Before Choosing this Option?
The primary question to ask is whether the philosophy and
goals of auditory-oral education match the family's philosophy,
goals, and ability to participate in their child's education. If the
answer is "yes," more specific questions need to be asked of
schools and/or programs under consideration:
References and Additional Resources
Adam, A., Fortier, P., Schiel, G., Smith, M., & Soland, C. (1990). Listening to learn. Washington, DC: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
Geers, A., & Moog, J. (1989). Factors predictive of the development of literacy in profoundly hearing-impaired adolescents. Volta Review, 91, 69-86.
Ling, D., & Ling, A. (1980). Aural habilitation. Washington, DC: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
Simmons-Martin, A. & Rossi, K. (1990). Parents and teachers: Partners in language development. Washington, DC: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
Stone, P. (1988). Blueprint for conversational competence Washington, DC: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, 3417 Volta Place, NW, Washington, DC 20007, (202) 337-5220.
The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf is an international organization of parents, oral hearing-impaired adults, and professionals dedicated to ensuring that every child with a hearing loss grows up given the opportunity to learn spoken language.
Dr. Stone is Director of the Tucker-Maxon School for the Deaf in Portland, Oregon and a past president of the AG Bell Association for the Deaf and the Council on Education of the Deaf.
ERIC Digests are in the public domain and may be freely reproduced and disseminated, but please acknowledge your source. This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR93002005. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions of policies of OERI or the Department of Education.