Listening, Language, Learning Lab Highlights Deaf Awareness Month

Marshall University provides the only listening and spoken language lab in W.V., leaving the lab and the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association to highlight the National Deaf Awareness month of September. 

The Luke Lee Listening, Language, and Learning Lab, also known as “The L”, was founded in 2006 as the first preschool program in W.Va., to provide listening and spoken language outcomes to children with hearing loss. Jodi Cottrell, program director, is also the only listening and spoken language specialist in the Mountain State. 

Cottrell said her goal now is to get more people certified in this field because she should not be the only one providing the learning and listening services. 

“If you were to ask me how I felt about my position six years ago, when I got my certification, I would have said super happy,” Cottrell said. “But now that I am the only certified person in the state, it makes me sad because that just means there are not enough people certified for these kiddos.”

Cottrell said she does not work with deaf and hearing children that use sign language, instead she teaches the children how to talk by using technology and cochlear implants. She said these deaf children, similar to her students, do not get recognition. 

“Deaf people that get cochlear implants, who do not learn sign language, get people who say they are not part of the hearing society,” Cottrell said. “I think it is important for people to understand that even though they are deaf, and they use technology to communicate, they still struggle in certain situations. We need to be more understanding and patient.”

Cottrell said cochlear implants are a life-changing piece of technology that allow deaf people to have access to all the sounds of speech and be a part of their family through speech. 

“We do have to teach them, so they can’t just get a cochlear implant when they are a year old and go about their life and develop a spoken language,” Cottrell said. “They have to be taught in a very structured way using specific strategies and also making sure the implants are programmed correctly.”

According to the World Health Organization, over 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss by 2050. With the lack of specialists and the growing number of deaf people, the NSSLHA at Marshall University is driving the focus of raising awareness. 

“With this being my fourth year at Marshall, I can confidently say that I have struggled to find awareness towards all disabilities and ways to support those individuals on campus,” Allison Buroker, NSSLHA president, said. “Our mission as NSSLHA is to actively advocate and raise awareness monthly on different disabilities. Everyone must be heard and know that they are not alone.” 

Having worn a hearing aid since she was in fourth grade, Buroker said she was bullied by students and friends. She said schools should make American Sign Language a requirement for students and that they should embrace the differences with their peers that have hearing loss.

“Society must do better,” Buroker said. “There are many misunderstandings about hearing loss and the majority of these misunderstandings come from the social stigma. The best way to support could be doing something as simple as learning a few basic beginner signs in American Sign Language.”

The association met on September 16., at the Memorial Student Center Plaza, providing factual information about deafness and hard of hearing, to get Marshall students involved with the awareness month.

NSSLHA activities chair and senior communication disorders major, Haley Black, said it is important to take the time to educate people who do not think about deaf awareness.

“Deaf and hard of hearing people are fairly common these days so it is important that we know how to communicate and remember to have patience,” Black said. “I think it is important to understand that not all people who are deaf think that they have a disability, they just have a difference.”

Xena Bunton can be contacted at [email protected].