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National Acoustic Laboratory Research

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​​In 2014, VDEI commissioned two studies recently completed by researchers from the National Acoustics Laboratory (NAL). Their findings provide interesting insights into Victorian children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH).

Study 1: The Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment

NAL submitted a report to VDEI on the Victorian data from its Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI). The study investigates the speech, language, academic, and functional outcomes of children who are DHH at various ages. The children were five years old when these data were collected. LOCHI is the largest study of its kind globally.

More children in Victoria

  • only communicated with sign language and not spoken language at home and during early education than in NSW and Queensland
  • changed from communicating with sign language to speaking than in NSW and Queensland

We do not currently know the reasons for these trends, but future research may explain why. 

The study further found that five-year-old children who were born deaf achieved norms-based spoken language milestones due to several factors

  • early identification of hearing loss
  • early educational intervention
  • earlier age of hearing aid fitting or cochlear implantation
  • less severity of hearing loss
  • absence of an additional disability
  • normal or above normal nonverbal cognitive ability
  • fluency in spoken language
  • having a tertiary educated mother


Study 2: Literacy skills, social capital, and online social participation

Little is known about how adolescents who are deaf or hard of hearing socially participate online. VDEI wanted to see if the adolescents’ literacy skills and social capital were influencing factors. 

The NAL researchers surveyed the online habits of 29 adolescents who are DHH aged 11-18 from Victoria. The main findings suggest

  • that the internet is frequently used for social participation by teenagers who are DHH
  • ​forty per cent used the internet 2-3 hours per day, and another 40% for five or more hours daily
  • over 70% of adolescents used social networking sites. Facebook was the most frequently used

The findings further suggest links between

  • online social capital and the number of hours spent online
  • strong literacy skills and offline social capital

The internet may be useful for adolescents who are deaf or hard of hearing for sharing their opinions and broadening their worldviews. However, online interactions do not substitute the value of face-to-face interactions in providing social and emotional support.

The researchers stated the results remain inconclusive until further research with a larger sample size is completed. They also recommended further research to understand how adolescents who are deaf or hard of hearing use and gain social capital.