Children with hearing impairments: enhancing speech and language skills using music
Music is a non-verbal language which provides children with so many different options to express their emotions. It can be used to the benefit of even those with hearing impairments, whether it is assisting with completing simple tasks, expressing emotions, or exploring the vibrations of a drum or a guitar string. Music is an absolute essential for the wellbeing of all human beings and should be easily accessible for people of all walks of life. In the following section recommendations are given as to how any person working with a child with a hearing-impairment can engage with them in a musical way:
1. Introduce your child to music by playing lots of music activities from a very early age (preferably before any implantations or application of hearing aids). After the implantation or application of a hearing aid, make sure to continue with the music activities. This has the potential to improve your child’s speech perception. Activities can range from singing, dancing, attentive listening, or instrumental playing.
2. Make sure to include movement and dance where rhythm is accentuated during music activities. This provides a multisensory experience which can lead to improvement of perception of speech.
3. Use singing as the main musical activity, especially from an early age. It is important for the child to see your lips and tongue movements, especially with vows. By singing with this specific intention, the child’s brain is able to connect the auditory information to lip and tongue movement, thus providing a multisensory experience.
4. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. It is important to sing songs over and over as it is beneficial for auditory memory. A handy tool is to start and end the lesson/playtime with the same hello\goodbye song. This also provides a sense of structure for the child.
5. Make sure to provide the child with lots of opportunities to experiment with sounds. This can be achieved by taking turns singing, singing a section of a sentence or musical phrase and asking the child to finish the sentence or phrase, or play a copy-cat game where the child has to listen to your singing and copy it. This assists with extending their auditory working memory.
6. Support musical hobbies and interests of teenagers with hearing impairments. Hearing impairments should not keep a person from pursuing a musical hobby, career or interest in music.
Music is a wonderful source for self expression, and must be accessible to people from all walks of life. Parents, care-takers, teachers and therapists are encouraged to provide a creative and safe platform for children to explore and experience music in a fun and expressive way.