You might be asking yourself, “What does a trip to the deli and the salon have to do with hearing loss and listening practice?” Well, everything actually. Sandwiches and highlighting are the pinnacle of auditory training, so incorporating these into your day will help to improve listening skills tremendously. Ok. I’m not actually talking about sandwiches that you eat and highlighting your hair. What I am referring to are two therapeutic techniques crucial to listening development. These techniques are the auditory sandwich and acoustic highlighting.
What is great about both techniques is that they can be used at any point as you move up the auditory hierarchy. They are appropriate to use with the baby who just received hearing aids or a cochlear implant, as well as with the child who has been listening with their devices for a long period of time, or the adult receiving a cochlear implant for the first time.
So what exactly are these techniques and how can they be implemented?
Acoustic highlighting is exactly what it sounds like, emphasizing the important acoustic information from the message. This technique is beneficial in that it makes known the part of the message to which you want the listener to attend.
When working to improve listening and spoken language skills, you can acoustically highlight a phrase, key word, or even a single sound. By changing a feature of just one part of your message, you draw attention to its importance. Duration (how long you stretch out a sound, word or phrase), intensity (how loud or soft you say a sound or word), and pitch changes (an increase or decrease in pitch/tone or singing) can all be effective ways to highlight the important information.
You might use acoustic highlighting when giving directions, if there is a part of the direction you want to be sure the listener doesn’t miss. For example, “Go down to the end if of the hallway and turn (pause) left“. Acoustic highlighting can also be great when you are working to increase the length of you child’s utterance. If your child says “Want milk,” you can respond with “I want milk,” emphasizing the first word. You can also use acoustic highlighting to work on speech production errors, especially those that may have stemmed from a speech perception error. By emphasizing the sound that was incorrect, you can help the child to hear/focus on the correct sound. For example, you can stretch out the “s” sound and say “ssspoon” when the child had produced “poon”.
While the emphasis of listening and spoken language treatment is on increasing the ability to maximally utilize the auditory information that technology provides, listening alone is not always enough. The auditory sandwich technique places the emphasis on listening, but allows for other ways to get the information across when needed.
1. Present the stimulus auditory only
2. Re-present the stimulus providing cues as needed
3. Re-present the stimulus auditory only
After presenting an auditory message, if a misperception occurs, you can to provide a cue for the listener to “get it”. Cues can be visual, verbal, or even tactile. Visual cues might be allowing your mouth to be seen, signing, writing, or using pictures. Verbal cues can be descriptions, synonyms, or definitions. Tactile cues might be tapping to demonstrate syllables or providing PROMPT cues for improving speech movements.
What is beneficial about this technique is that it allows the listener to receive the prompting needed to perceive the message and obtain the skill, but then returns it back to audition again. We are ultimately looking to train the auditory centers of the brain.