The Hearing Hub is a Belfast-based group set up by parents for families of children with hearing loss.
Working with Auditory Verbal UK, Hearing Hub has provided access to a specialist programme for the first time in Northern Ireland (NI) which enables children to develop the speech, language and social skills to thrive at school and beyond.
Auditory Verbal therapy is a highly specialist early intervention programme for children with permanent hearing loss which equips parents with the skills to maximise their child’s listening, talking, thinking and social skills through play. With no specialist practitioners in Northern Ireland, families had to travel to London to access a programme of this kind, before the project launched in 2014.
The Auditory Verbal approach enables children with hearing aids and cochlear implants to make sense of the sound relayed by their devices. As a result, children with hearing loss are better able to develop listening and spoken language skills, with the aim of giving them the same opportunities and an equal start in life as hearing children.
Parent, Abbie McKenna, launched the Hearing Hub, and teamed up with the charity Auditory Verbal UK (AVUK) to bring the programme to NI. The project is transforming lives because without access to hearing technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, and specialist early intervention, many children with hearing loss start primary school with the language skills of a 2 ½ year old. This disadvantage can continue through school where deaf children are at higher risk of social exclusion and bullying and have poorer employment prospects.
35 children attend the Hearing Hub and, thanks to National Lottery, the project covered the cost of bringing a specialist AVT practitioner to support families wanting to develop their child’s listening and talking skills. In addition, AVUK has begun training health and education professionals across NI, including 35 teachers of the deaf, through its internationally-accredited training programme.
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