Big impact for deaf toddlers from radio aids
17 July 2017
Research  published today by the National Deaf Children’s Society illustrates that radio aids technology can have a significant impact on hearing and communication for deaf children.
Government data  shows that around half of deaf children (48%) start school having failed to reach the expected level in communication and language. This new research, undertaken by The Ear Foundation, demonstrates that being able to hear their parents’ voice clearly and directly by using radio aids promotes markedly better parent-child communication.
Key research findings are that radio aid use led to:
• A 144% increase in conversations between parent and child when in the car.
• An 88% increase in conversations between parent and child when outdoors.
• An increase of 72% in speech sounds and words at nursery.
According to the latest figures, almost one in two local authorities (46%) do not make radio aids available to pre-school deaf children.  Of those that did make them available, some included additional eligibility criteria like requiring families to take out insurance, leaving many with vastly reduced options.
Sarah Norton, who took part in the research with her three-year-old daughter Chloe, explained: “The radio aid really helps her understand and communicate; there’s a noticeable difference if we don’t use it, especially at nursery or going out and about. We’ve found it so useful, but sadly from speaking to other families at National Deaf Children’s Society events, I know lots are desperate for this support and struggling to access it.”
Kate Matson, who took part with her son Ollie, also 3, added: “Every deaf child should be able to try a radio aid because it just makes daily life easier - I don’t know how we managed without it now. His speech has improved and he can hear me clearly, even in noisy situations, which gives me the confidence to let him be more independent.”
The National Deaf Children’s Society is urging all local authorities and the Department for Education to ensure every deaf child gets access to a radio aid as early as possible.
Ian Noon, the charity’s Head of Policy and Research, said: “With the right support right from the start, deaf children can do anything their hearing friends can – but if this isn’t provided, they can face a real struggle.
“The early years are critical in developing language and communication skills, and we know that interaction between parents and children is an essential part of this. However, everyday situations like being in a buggy or car can be a noisy minefield for deaf children, making it impossible for them to hear their parents.
“We want the 50,000 deaf children in the UK to be given access to a radio aid as early as possible, to help ensure they are not left out and left behind.”
Giving deaf children access to radio aids from an early age is one of the five key asks from the charity’s Right from the Start campaign to improve early years support for deaf children. Find out more at www.ndcs.org.uk/rightfromthestart.
1. Full report available at www.ndcs.org.uk/research.
2. Child vocalisations and conversational turns between parents and children were measured using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) devices. LENA devices are worn by the child and records all speech and environmental sounds which occur around the child during their normal daily activities. Measurements were taken on similar days/activities with and without the use of a radio aid.
3. Consortium for Research into Deaf Education (CRIDE) report on 2015/16 survey of educational provision for deaf children in England available at www.ndcs.org.uk/CRIDE.
Notes to editors
• The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity for the UK’s 50,000 deaf children.
• 34 babies are born deaf every week in the UK – the equivalent of a classful of children. More than 90% of deaf children have hearing parents, so independent expert support is a vital lifeline for families.
• The National Deaf Children’s Society helps deaf children and young people thrive by giving independent expert support to them and their families, and working with decision-makers and professionals to overcome the barriers that hold deaf children back.
• Deafness is not a learning disability and deaf children can do anything others can, if given the right support from the start. We believe deaf children should be valued and included by society, and have the same opportunities as any other child.
• For more information visit www.ndcs.org.uk. For support, parents can contact our Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), email firstname.lastname@example.org or chat online at www.ndcs.org.uk/livechat.