Speech, sign, or multilingualism for children with hearing loss

quantitative insights into caregivers' decision making

Kathryn Crowe*, Sharynne McLeod, David H. McKinnon, Teresa Y.C. Ching

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The authors sought to investigate the influence of a comprehensive range of factors on the decision making of caregivers of children with hearing loss regarding the use of speech, the use of sign, spoken language multilingualism, and spoken language choice. This is a companion article to the qualitative investigation described in Crowe, Fordham, McLeod, and Ching (2014). Method: Through a questionnaire, 177 caregivers of 157 Australian children with hearing loss (ages 3;5 to 9;4 [years;months], Mage = 6;6) rated the importance of a range of potential influences on their decision making regarding their children's communication. The majority of children were reported to use speech (96.6%) as part or all of their communication system, with fewer children reported to use sign (20.9%). Few children used more than one spoken language (8.3%). Results: Proportional analyses and exploratory factor analyses were conducted. Overall, caregivers' decisions were influenced by their children's audiological and intervention characteristics, communication with those around them, community participation, access to intervention and education services in English, and concerns about their children's future lives. The advice of speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and specialist teachers was more important to caregivers than advice from medical practitioners and nonprofessionals. Conclusion: Caregivers' decision making regarding communication mode and language use is influenced by factors that are not equally weighted and that relate to child, family, community, and advice from others. Knowledge of these factors can assist professionals in supporting caregivers making choices regarding communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-247
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingual
  • Communication
  • Deaf
  • Hearing loss
  • Language
  • Multilingual
  • Sign
  • Speech

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