The website is no longer being updated. Please be aware that information has not been updated since 2015.




June 7th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments »

One of my favorite Auditory-Verbal strategies is also one that, at first, seems ridiculously couterintuitive — whisper!


Yeah, right.  The kid is deaf and you’re supposed to talk quieter!?!  Doesn’t that sound backwards?  But it works!  Phonemes, or speech sounds, are classified as “voiced” or “voiceless”.  If you put your hand on your throat while saying a speech sound and feel it vibrate — that’s a voiced sound.  For example, the /t/ (as in tip) and /d/ (as in dip) are made at the same place in the mouth, the alveolar ridge right behind your top front teeth, but /t/ is voiceless and /d/ is voiced.  Try it!  Vowel sounds are always voiced.  


So how does whispering help?


  • Sometimes, when a voiceless sound is followed by a voiced sound (usually a vowel), the “voicing” quality of the vowel actually has a backwards effect and acts to “cover up” the voiceless phoneme that precedes it, making that consonant sound harder to hear.  By whispering, you de-voice ALL of the sounds in the word, making the already voiceless consonants more audible to the listener.
  • Whispering also encourages the child do listen.  Any time you change up your voice (acoustic highlighting) by singing, speaking louder or softer, changing pitch or intonation, holding out a sound or syllable, etc. you draw attention to your speech and make it more interesting to listen to and easier for the child to hear.


I love this trick because so many people think it’s impossible.  A child will miss a word and be not getting it, not getting it, not getting it… and the teacher will be talking louder, and LOUDER, and LOUDER… and all it takes is one little whisper for a deaf child to hear it just right!

Written by

Elizabeth Rosenzweig MS CCC-SLP LSLS Cert. AVT is a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist. She provides auditory verbal therapy, aural rehabilitation, IEP advocacy, consultation, and LSLS mentoring for clients around the world via teletherapy. You can learn more about Elizabeth's services on her Website or Facebook.


June 7, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Makes sense, especially if there’s a hard floor (longer T(r) (reverberation time)), as it would tend to reduce upward spread of masking in the cochleas from the vowels & voiced consonants.

And, upward spread of masking is especially bad in damaged cochleas, too.

Nice tip, Elizabeth!


June 7, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Good post! It’s true that we should not underestimate children’s ability to use the cochlear implant.

June 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I also love this strategy because it encourages the adult to be close to the child :)

Deaf Person

June 9, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Thanks for the tip! I will add this to our daily life speaking at home (with son whom has a CI). I will have to remind myself to not speak loudly at times. Since I am a deaf ASL user, I sometimes speak loudly so I will feel or hear with my HA that I am speaking.

Also please email me (I lost your new email address while updating my address book) so I can inform you of how my son is doing! I am so excited.

Carrie Knott

June 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Elizabeth, our AVT (Mary Ann Costin) taught us to whisper the “phonics” sounds of the consonants when our daughter maggie was learning to read – in order to help her hear the difference between the voiced/unvoiced consonants. Prior to doing that, Maggie just didn’t get phonics at all. And she was in a school where phonics was emphasized as the way to learn to read. We did some AV type games with the voiced/unvoiced pairs, and after a short time, her classroom teacher noted that Maggie “got phonics” and within weeks was reading independently. By the end of 5K she was reading chapter books, she just needed that little bit of help to “crack the code.”

Deaf Person

June 25, 2009 at 7:49 am

Guess what? I was just told by my son’s AVT that my voice was soft so I would need to speak close to my son’s processor. Gee..I thought I was loud! Hahaha. Challenges of deaf parents with a child who uses a CI!!!!