Following diagnosis, one of the critical elements in the successful habilitation of a child with a hearing impairment is the appropriate fitting of advanced hearing instruments. After the fitting, the child then needs to learn how to make use of this new rich auditory input.
One way of enhancing this process is through the use of multimedia computer tools in the home. Otto's World of Sounds is a new multimedia auditory training tool from Oticon, designed to help hearing-impaired children ages 2-1/2 to 8 improve their auditory skills by detecting, discriminating, and identifying sounds. This interactive CD-ROM brings the family and child together as active partners in the process, augmenting traditional professional intervention.
There is no doubt that hearing impairment presents a challenge to children and their families, as it delays acquisition of speech, language, and auditory development. It also limits the accessibility of auditory information to the child. Because of their reduced input, children need directed intervention to make optimum use of their auditory channel and to develop speech and language. This intervention cannot be limited to pre-defined, traditional therapy sessions. Rather, the rich auditory experiences of everyday life need to be used as part of children's developmental experience, as they must gain an appreciation of the meaningfulness of sound. Having an at-home, game-based tool is a great way to extend the child's intervention program to a less formal, readily accessible setting in which the family and perhaps friends can be included.
Otto's World of Sounds provides the child with 10 different auditory environments, each focusing on 10 different sounds. To foster the development of fundamental sound detection, discrimination, and identification, all of the sounds are representative of those that children encounter in their daily listening experiences.
Within each of the 10 sound environments are several different activities, including discovery, memory, and recognition. The game is structured so that the child must first experience a sound via discovery before that sound can be used in recognition. Vocabulary is also addressed, as the sound is represented on the screen in words and spoken as well.
Through the use of Otto's World of Sounds, the professional and family can provide a fun supplement to the child's intervention program.
Otto's World of Sounds grew out of the successful French training software entitled “La Souris Bleue” (The Blue Mouse), developed in 1999 by the French audiologist Alain Vinet and the computer scientist Denis Barbier.
Initial clinical results from French speech and language therapists who used Otto's World of Sounds in habilitation are very positive. Thirteen children used the training tool over a period of 7 months. After 2 months, several of the children with profound hearing loss obtained 100% recognition of the sounds. Significant changes in auditory skills and in hearing aid acceptance were identified, as was an increase in speech production in some of the children.
Otto's World of Sounds adds an exciting tool to the OtiKids program. Designed for hearing-impaired children ages 2-1/2 to 8 years, it is available now on CD-ROM for at-home use (PC or Macintosh).
The Otto's World of Sounds CD is included at no charge with any make or model of Oticon hearing aid ordered for a child, age 8 and under. The program is also available for purchase separately by both dispensing professionals and institutions. Consumer and professional support materials, as well as a demo CD, are available at no charge from Oticon.