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Bed Time, Bath Time, Swim Time

August 24th, 2010 by | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

What do these three have in common?  They’re all times when wearing a hearing device can be difficult, if not impossible and not allowed at all!  Though there are some great solutions for “water-proofing” a CI, there are always going to be times when your child is “off the air”.  Not surprisingly, because of this temporary gap in hearing, children are sometimes missing the language and vocabulary associated with these everyday experiences.

For example, I once had a four-year-old student, a very, very bright boy.  He had profound hearing loss and used cochlear implants bilaterally.  His mother did a fantastic job as his first teacher, filling his days with rich language experiences, and he was right on track to enter kindergarten in his local public school with his hearing peers.  One day, when I was working with him on a standardized test of vocabulary, he was blowing me out of the water, getting card after card correct… until we got to “toothbrush”.  TOOTHBRUSH!?!  His mother and I were both in shock.  How did he not know this simple word?  Well, we brainstormed about it a little, and realized that he always brushed his teeth at night right after getting out of the bathtub… without his cochlear implants on!  No wonder he knew great words like cauliflower and cotton — those were words he’d been exposed to during the day, with his “ears” on.  But for bath time words, he was at a loss!

This was a huge wake-up call for me.  Logically, I had always known that there were some times that wearing a CI would just not be possible (even more so with the older generations of CIs that were in existence years ago), but I had always assumed that children would learn the vocabulary and language associated with those “off air” times incidentally during other “on air” times.  I still think this incidental learning occurs and it is vital, but I also think that we, as parents and professionals, need to informally assess children to make sure that this learning really is happening, and to consciously plan some opportunities for feeding it into children while they are in their best hearing condition.

For example, I now buy almost every book I see about bath and bedtime routines and water activities.  You can use baby dolls and practice bathing them and putting them to bed.  Keep your child’s devices on for as much of the experience as possible, or as much as you feel comfortable (e.g. keep the CIs on while washing the child’s tummy, and take them off for shampooing the hair, keep the HAs on for wading in the water, but not for splashing or swimming time).  Teach songs for bedtime and bath time so your child can vocally participate in a familiar routine even if he/she cannot hear you singing, too.  Have good bath time toys for creative play — cognitive growth is good, too, even if it is not tied to language every single second.  If you’ve got a hearing child handy, give him a bath and think of all the different words and phrases you use — make a list!  Does your child with hearing loss know how to use and understand all of those words, too?  Parents naturally use a lot of good “parentese” talking during these routine bonding times, and your deaf child deserves this as well, just at a time when he or she can actually hear you!

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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.


August 25, 2010 at 12:14 am

Great tips! When we started Marielle in swimming lessons we would spend 5 minutes before getting in the pool each week walking her around (CI & HA still in) and teaching her the vocabulary (lifeguard, diving board, etc). She also got a chance to talk to the teacher and volunteers about what they would be working on in the pool. After class once she’s all dressed we make sure to go over what they did in class.

We’re lucky she’s in a class where she gets 2-3 volunteers to herself. One stands in front so she can lipread and the other speaks into her left ear while she still has residual hearing. She’s too young to care that she’s in a “special class” and it actually has worked out quite well for us.


August 31, 2010 at 12:16 pm

That’s why sign language and/or cued speech come very handy. If not sign language, then at least fingerspelling and some basic signs would be very helpful. Also, writing on paper or typing on phone or drawing letters in air.

Being oral with a cochlear implant, multilingual, fluent in sign languages and having some exposure cued speech, I believe that a person with hearing loss – regardless of his/her primary communication method – should have a toolbox of all possible communication skills that could be beneficial in specific situations.

I have read some research that kids with CI’s who are exposed to sign language and/or cued speech have very high levels of literacy and social interaction. A good friend of mine is a great example of this – she was raised oral using cued speech with her family and learning sign language with deaf friends. She is also a great lipreader and her command of English is excellent – she has been reading NYTimes since she was 5-6 years old! She can communicate with people with various ranges of hearing loss and communication styles.

Also, there are times when we cannot use hearing aids or implants – like when a battery dies or when we are exposed to water or involved in some kinds of sports. It is important that we feel comfortable with the absence of sound during those time periods and find other ways to access audio – like lipreading, asking to write on paper or in air or to type on a phone, use some gestures, etc.

There are hearing people who have difficulties hearing in noisy situations and are trying to yell at each other. I have some hearing friends who know sign language and can communicate to each other or to me easily in noisy restaurants without having to ask to talk louder. :0) It also helps if people are located far from each other to hear, but near enough to see signs. It’s handy in quiet situations as well or if you cannot communicate via glass windows.

Many of us also rely on vibrations.

Just be creative and open to various ways to communicate. We don’t need to worry about relying on audio all the time.