David Ertmer, who specializes in early speech and language development in children with hearing losses, created www.VocalDevelopment.com, an interactive Web site for parents, students and professionals. The site provides parents with audio examples of baby jargon, such as squealing and babbling, so they can recognize when their child has made progress in early speech development. The site also provides information on how to help infants and toddlers develop listening and speech skills.
"This site provides information about the initial stages of speech development in young children with normal and impaired hearing," said Ertmer, an associate professor in audiology and speech sciences in the School of Liberal Arts. "Infant sounds are difficult to categorize because they fail to conform to adult speech patterns. At the site, we provide audio examples and practice identifying vocalizations so that parents and clinicians can recognize when the child begins to produce more mature speech patterns."
The implementation of universal newborn hearing screening has led to earlier identification of hearing impairments. As a result, within the first two years of life more babies and toddlers are receiving hearing aids or cochlear implants, which are surgically implanted electronic devices that process sound and directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
"More than 40 states now implement universal infant hearing screenings, so the number of infants and toddlers who need assistance learning to speak with hearing aids or cochlear implants is growing substantially," Ertmer said. "Progress in vocal development is one of the first signs of benefit from these devices."