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Big impact for deaf toddlers from radio aids technology

Published Date: 17 Jul 2017

New research we published today illustrates that radio aids technology can have a significant impact on hearing and communication for deaf pre-schoolers.

Government data says 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, shows 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.

Despite these benefits, latest figures suggest almost half of all local authorities (46%) don't offer radio aids to pre-school deaf children. Of those that do, some include additional eligibility criteria like requiring families to take out insurance, leaving many with vastly reduced options.

We are urging all local authorities and the Department for Education to ensure every deaf child gets access to a radio aid as early as possible. This is one of the five key asks from our Right from the Start campaign to improve early years support for deaf children.

Ian Noon, our Head of Policy and Research, explained: “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. 

“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. 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.”

Sarah Norton, who took part in the research with her three-year-old daughter Chloe, said: “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 three, 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.”