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Program Allows Kids With Hearing Problems To Not Live Life Of Silence

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DURHAM, N.C. — For children who have a hearing problem, early intervention is the key. A new program in Durham with the help of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill helps kids make the most of their hearing.

Playing with glue is always fun. At the Castle Center in Durham, it is also a tool for learning.

"We're teaching them to talk, to use their hearing to understand what's being said and talk back," Castle program director Beth Whitfield said.

Most children with profound hearing loss have some hearing. Experts say only about 1 percent of children are completely deaf. Through the Castle program, preschoolers learn to use the hearing they have along with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Through repetition and speech therapy, students learn to listen, understand what they hear and build vocabulary. The goal is to get them ready for kindergarten.

"Typically, we want to have them ready for kindergarten by age 5. That doesn't always happen," Whitfield said.

Success can depend on many things.

"Some of the variables include how much hearing the child has when they were diagnosed with hearing loss? At what age? How much of a delay are we talking about?" Whitfield said.

Whitfield said they are not trying to do away with sign language or the need for deaf schools. The program is a new option for parents who want their child to communicate through speaking.

"An opportunity to be in the hearing world if that's what the children decide to do," she said.

Parents also work with instructors to learn how to help their children communicate. There is a fee for the preschool, but families who cannot pay are not turned away. The Durham school system provides financial assistance.


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