Aural habilitation. This is probably not an everyday term used in your home, and likely not even for those who require the service. Let’s break this down…
Aural is defined as: of or relating to the ear or to the sense of hearing. Be sure not to confuse this with the term oral. Oral is defined as: of or relating to the mouth and/or speaking. They absolutely go hand in hand, particularly if you are working with an auditory-verbal approach, which basically means learning to hear and speak vs. sign language, cued speech, total communication, etc. There are many options for a family with a deaf/hard-of-hearing (HOH) child, but that is a separate write up!
Habilitation is the intent to improve communication with deaf/HOH children who have not yet developed spoken language skills. Rehabilitation is different, however. Rehabilitation refers to improving communication skills of those who have spoken language skills prior to acquiring a hearing loss. So to recap: to habilitate is to improve what did not already exist, to rehabilitate is to improve or restore what has previously existed.
In my career as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, I have worked primarily with children who are receiving aural habilitation with an auditory-verbal approach, with and without sign language supplementation. Specific activities within the aural habilitative approach are dependent on the child’s age, the age onset and identification of the hearing loss, the type and severity of the hearing loss, amplification type (hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone-anchored hearing aid, etc.), and age at amplification. Specific strategies include auditory perception hierarchy (detection, discrimination, identification, and comprehension), using visual cues, speech and language development, and managing their amplification devices and hearing environments.
It is important for your speech-language pathologist to be well-versed and experienced with hearing loss. The process should be a team effort between the child, family, speech-language pathologist, hearing support teacher, audiologist, etc. Always ask questions and be involved in your child’s speech treatment!
Need to learn more about how aural habilitation or American Sign Language can be incorporated into your child’s speech therapy? Get in touch!