Learning to Listen

Listening is a skill that's pretty popular right now. Whether you're talking about the Ling Learning to Listen Sounds or being an active listener in the work place.... you've probably heard about listening. Pun intended!

It's super helpful to know how listening skills progress when you're helping your child learn to listen. There are several theories/models of auditory development and in this post, we'll chat it up about the developmental model and Erber model.

Developmental Model of Auditory Skills

The developmental model is exactly like it's name. It's the natural progression of listening skills for a child with typical hearing. This is what happens when you talk, read, and sing songs with your baby. Everyday interactions are how listening skills typically develop.

I have a whole new understanding of auditory development after having Baby Boy and I really try to be cognizant of any new skills that he demonstrates. I can confirm that these skills are very observable....like waking up to any sound! (Which is why we use this white noise machine.)

Here's a brief overview of some of the early auditory skills.

0-3 Months

  • Recognizes familiar voices (like mom's voice!)
  • Startles to loud sounds

3-6 Months

  • Looks for sounds
  • Wakes up to sound

6-12 Months

  • Recognizes and responds to name
  • Understands familiar first words

Thinking about it, you've probably noticed these skills before in your child. It's a really special experience when baby recognizes momma's voice and turns to look for her!

Erber's Auditory Skills

To compliment the developmental model, there's Erber's model of auditory skills. These are the skills that you've probably encountered in discrete auditory skills training or auditory discrimination. I've used this model to assess children's auditory development and pick out the skills they needed to work on. Here is your brief overview with a few examples.

  1. Detection
    1. Recognizing that there is a sound.
    2. Example: Turning your head and opening/widening your eyes. (I'm sure you've seen a baby do this!)
  2. Discrimination
    1. Recognizing whether sounds are the same or different.
    2. Example: Hearing "meow" and "woof" and knowing that they are different.
  3. Identification
    1. Knowing what a sound belongs to.
    2. Example: Hearing "meow" and knowing it belongs to a cat.
  4. Comprehension
    1. Hearing something, knowing what it means and thinking about it.
    2. Example: You hear your mom call your name and you know that it means you need to go in the house.... probably right now.

Auditory Training Examples

Now that you've had a refresher on your child's stages of auditory, let's get to the 'what to do next.'

So if you have a child with typical hearing and no language delay, then you're probably not going to do anything extra. You'll continue reading and playing with your child and providing positive interactions.... stay an engaged and loving parent 🙂

If your child is DHH and potentially does have a language delay, then you're going to stay a loving and engaged parent and also help your child develop her auditory skills. (Try using these Listening & Spoken Language strategies.)

Household Sounds

As a Teacher of the Deaf, I've helped kiddos work on their listening skills with games like "What do you hear?" This game is pretty straight-forward. I present a common, everyday sound and help the child learn to identify it in this simple exercise.

It's really important to me that I help kiddos develop skills that are useful in their real, everyday life. That's why I like to work on household sounds, because the child will encounter them literally every day.

To set up this activity, first you need to identify what sounds you'll be working on. This is your 'set.' When first starting on new sounds, I prefer to work with a 'closed set' which means I use the same five sounds and don't deviate to others until the child has these mastered. An 'open set' would be selecting a category of sounds but not limiting it to a specific number or specific sounds.

For my closed set, I have picked the sounds: microwave, doorbell, water running, vacuum, and garage door. A fun toy to use is this puzzle by Doug & Melissa so far it's a preschool favorite!

Work on auditory discrimination and then auditory identification if you're following Erber's model.

  1. Auditory Discrimination
    1. Show two different pictures (ex: vacuum and doorbell) and present a sound then have your child select the sound she hears. Encourage her to label it... or even better to say "I hear the ____" so you're also incorporating a language opportunity.
  2. Auditory Identification
    1. Without using any pictures, present a sound. Ask you child, "What did you hear?" or use sabotage and say "I think you heard a (wrong answer)." Sabotage is a great way to get your child talking! Kiddos love it when adults are silly and need some obvious help.

Activities like this can be helpful to 'fill in the gaps' with listening skills. But don't overly focus on them and neglect opportunities to support auditory development in natural interactions.

Pulling It All Together

In other words- keep reading together, make sure your child's CIs have up-to-date mapping, provide language opportunities, and talk about what you hear. Stay the loving and engaged parent that you are! 🙂

Use the information you have to help your child, not as a reason for mom guilt! There are lots of opportunities for mom guilt but don't let them get to you!

Auditory and language development is a journey that takes time so enjoy the time you have to interact, bond, and learn with your child!

(P.S. This post contains affiliate links because momma's gotta bring home the bacon. If I receive a negligible kick-back from a purchase, thank you!)


Erber, N. (1982). Auditory Training. Washington, DC: AG Bell.

Typical Auditory Development Reference: http://ceid.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Stages_of_auditory_development.pdf

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