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  • Writer's pictureStacy Crouse

Learning to Listen Sounds Activities for Children with Hearing Loss

As soon as a young child with hearing loss receives a cochlear implant or hearing aid, it's time to start building auditory and spoken language skills. The Learning to Listen sounds make the process developmentally appropriate, interesting, practical, and fun for children, families, SLPs, and teachers.

The Learning to Listen Sounds and Phrases

The Learning to Listen sounds (sometimes abbreviated 'LTL sounds') are a set of common object-sound associations. They are well-known sounds and phrases that can be represented by an animal, object, or simple action.

Examples of Learning to Listen sounds:

  • "baaa" for a sheep

  • "owowow" for a police car

  • "pop pop pop" for bubbles

  • "shhhh" for sleeping

  • "grrrr" for a bear

  • "bye bye" for waving goodbye

examples of the learning to listen sounds

From these examples, you'll notice that Learning to Listen sounds and objects are generally very common in the lives of young children. They are frequently used toys, household items, social routines, and subjects of children's books.

Benefits of Using Learning to Listen Sounds

These everyday items and play routines are naturally the center of a lot of language and play for young children. Whether it's in a therapy session, the home, or a daycare environment, there are many structured and happenstance opportunities for children to see and interact with them.

Not only do the Learning to Listen sounds incorporate age-appropriate play and routines, but they also facilitate auditory development. The sounds include a variety of suprasegmental features, which make it easier for new listeners to detect, discriminate, and imitate.

The collection of sound-object associations also incorporates a variety of segmental features (consonant and vowel phonemes) of language. Using them with deaf and hard-of-hearing children provides explicit modeling of these speech sounds.

The Goal of the Learning to Listen Sounds

The Learning to Listen sounds are used to help new listeners attend to sounds and spoken language. They provide the early building blocks of auditory development, which are that sounds are different and sounds have meaning.

The Learning to Listen sounds are a developmentally appropriate way to highlight speech and auditory differences. Engaging with young children with hearing loss in activities that use them lends itself to many listening and spoken language opportunities. It also facilitates the use of many auditory-verbal strategies such as repetition, providing auditory information first, acoustic highlighting, and expansion.

In other words, the Learning to Listen sounds help lay the foundation for auditory development because they are easy for new listeners to hear and can be incorporated naturally into everyday activities.

Learning to Listen Sounds Activities

The beauty of the Learning to Listen sounds is that there are infinite ways to incorporate them into listening and spoken language activities. Let's explore a few ideas.

A Learning to Listen Sounds Kit

Most Auditory-Verbal Therapists and Educators probably have a container full of toys to represent many of the sounds. For AVTs, this kit gets used in therapy with just about every young child with hearing loss.

A Learning to Listen sound kit for speech therapy or auditory-verbal therapy

My collection of Learning to Listen sound toys and figurines has come from a variety of sources over the years, including Target's Dollar Spot, Happy Meal toys, farm set figurines, wind-up toys, and packages of plastic toy animals and vehicles.

Once you've created your Learning to Listen sound kit, there's so much you can do with it. To name a few, you can hide the objects in containers, make them interact with one another, dig them out of a sensory bin, scatter them across a balance beam, or wash and dry them in a small tub of water.

Other Objects that Represent Learning to Listen Sounds

There are many other childhood toys and manipulatives that can incorporate the Learning to Listen sounds:

  • stickers and stamps

  • Play-Doh shape cut-outs

  • puppets or finger puppets

  • magnets

  • simple puzzles

  • wind-up toys


Because the Learning to Listen sounds include familiar objects, they are often included in children's books. You'll find lots of picture books that have pictures of animals, daily routines, and everyday objects. Use these books as opportunities to model the Learning to Listen sounds, especially if there is a contrast in the suprasegmental properties of the sounds.

A father and daughter with hearing loss looking through the pages of a book and using the Learning to Listen sounds

Play and Routines

Of course, the Learning to Listen sounds can also be used informally throughout a child's day. Engaging in everyday routines such as driving in the car, reading books, washing hands, and playing at the park is a great way to continue building auditory and language skills.

Cards & Printables

SLPs everywhere love quick-print activities that can be modified as needed, stored and transported between sessions, and used over and over again. Printable Learning to Listen sound activities such as sound-loaded picture scenes, Play-Doh smash mats, and simple cards can also be shared with parents to use at home.

Printable Learning to Listen sound activities for speech therapy, including a smash mat and a picture scene

Digital Activities

Ahhh the beauty of digital activities... especially when you're doing teletherapy or want to share a quick activity with a parent to use at home!

Boom Cards are a great tool for Learning to Listen sound activities because they have SOUND! The capability to add and play audio clips makes Boom Cards a great option for incorporating the Learning to Listen sounds into therapy or home practice.

A digital Learning to Listen sounds Boom Card activity being played on an iPad in speech therapy

Google Slides activities also work great for virtual sessions or sharing with families. The platform can be used to create and maintain a digital Learning to Listen sound book (or similarly, an experience book). Children and their parents and caregivers can add their own pictures to make the sounds even more meaningful.

Important Notes about the Learning to Listen Sounds

  • Other than the fact that the Learning to Listen sounds include a range of consonants and vowels, pitches, intensities, and durations, they are not magically selected. Parents and therapists can (and should!) make up their own sounds to correspond with whatever activities they're using with the child.

  • The Learning to Listen sounds should always be accompanied by meaningful activities, they should also be surrounded by grammatically correct sentences.

Learn to love the Learning to Listen sounds! These sound-object pairings guide parents and professionals when working with young children with hearing loss to naturally target auditory and language goals for new listeners.

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