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Most Moms Not Getting Information About How Deaf Children Can Learn to Listen and Talk, Survey Shows

-Extensive, Multi-Year Campaign Launched to Fill Educational Gap-

Pittsburgh, June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Children with even profound deafness can learn to listen and talk as well as their hearing peers, thanks to advances in technology and education. But nearly 70 percent of mothers and expectant mothers in a new survey said they were not sufficiently informed about spoken language as an option.

However, 98 percent of the mothers surveyed said that if hearing loss affected their own child, they would be inclined to explore spoken language, according to the survey, released today by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell).

The poll results underscore the need to better educate both parents and professionals about available interventions for childhood hearing loss -- and AG Bell is embarking on a multi-year campaign to fill that educational gap. The campaign, called Hear from the Start, Talk for a Lifetime, kicked off today at the association's biennial convention.

"Today, children who are deaf or hard of hearing have the same opportunities to listen and talk as hearing children," said K. Todd Houston, Ph.D., executive director & CEO of AG Bell. "But early diagnosis and intervention are critical to their success -- and if parents aren't aware of their options from the beginning, they could miss this important window of opportunity."

Early diagnosis and intervention are key

Hearing loss affects 12,000 children born in the United States each year - - 33 babies a day -- making it the most common birth defect. Thanks to recent advances, however, most children with hearing loss can learn to listen and talk.

But the earlier parents get all the facts about childhood hearing loss, the better. Experts recommend beginning family-centered early intervention programs before a baby is 6 months old to take advantage of the critical time window for learning language.

According to the new parent survey, however, a third of respondents (33 percent) were unaware of the importance of early intervention when it comes to helping children with hearing loss learn to listen and talk. The survey also showed that:

  • The majority of new and expectant mothers (56 percent) reported being
    "not too familiar" or "not at all familiar" with the issue of hearing
    loss in infants and children.
  • As many as 63 percent of new mothers and 72 percent of expectant mothers
    said that before the survey, they had not been provided with sufficient
    information about spoken language as an option for children with hearing
  • Only 2 percent of the survey respondents volunteered cochlear implant
    surgery as an option for children with hearing loss, and only 5 percent
    suggested hearing aids.

Hear from the Start, Talk for a Lifetime: A multi-faceted campaign

AG Bell's new initiative, Hear from the Start, Talk for a Lifetime, is designed to help parents get the information they need. The campaign raises awareness of the benefits of early diagnosis and intervention for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, including the ability to use spoken language to communicate. AG Bell will develop parent and professional educational materials, drive advocacy efforts at national and grassroots levels, broadly disseminate the latest research and engage media through public service announcements and other efforts to spread information on hearing loss and the options for addressing it.

At the same time, AG Bell will offer continuing education programs and training to hearing-health and education professionals and provide certification to professionals through the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language(R). The goal: to ensure that spoken language -- and the vast opportunities it offers -- become a well-known option for children with hearing loss.

"By launching this campaign, we're opening the door to life-changing possibilities for children who are deaf or hard of hearing," Houston said. "Technologies such as cochlear implants, digital hearing aids and other interventions can help children with hearing loss learn to listen and talk. Now it's time to make people aware of the lasting difference these resources can make."

More information about the campaign is available at www.agbell.org/.

About the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell)

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is a lifelong resource, support network and advocate for listening, learning, talking and living independently with hearing loss. Through publications, advocacy, training, scholarships and financial aid, AG Bell promotes the use of spoken language and hearing technology. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with chapters in the United States and a network of international affiliates, AG Bell's global presence provides its members and the public with the support they need -- close to home.

About the Survey

In April and May 2006, AG Bell worked with the research firm StrategyOne to conduct a 15-minute telephone survey of 816 expectant and new mothers nationwide, including both first-time mothers and those who have other children. Half of those surveyed were expectant mothers, and half were mothers who have a child age 1 or younger. The margin of error for the sample size was +/-3.4 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

Taken from sev.prnewswire.com/health-care-hospitals/20060624/DCF00424062006-1.html

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