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Greetings from FIRST YEARS!
by Kathryn Wilson, M.A., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT (
FIRST YEARS Program Director

As we begin a new year, it is a great time to reflect on 2009 and focus on the months ahead.  A new class of 16 students began in August and we look forward to having 11 more graduates in May, 2010.  Admissions for a new class are now open and we invite you to spread the word.  Prospective students can find more information on our website –

In this issue, we welcome a new faculty member, share new ideas with our readers, and learn more about the mentorship component of the program through the eyes of a FIRST YEARS mentor.  Our students place a high value on this part of the program and as you will discover in this newsletter, our mentors take away a great deal from the experience as well.

Joining the FIRST YEARS Faculty
Heather PorterWe welcome Heather Porter, who will join Holly Teagle this semester to facilitate Audiology Interpretation and Hearing Technologies. Dr. Porter manages the Pediatric Auditory Development Laboratory at Vanderbilt University, where she is involved in both behavioral and neurophysiologic research projects. She was trained in Deaf Education at Michigan State University and worked in the public school system in suburban Washington D.C.  She completed her AuD. at Vanderbilt University, with a clinical externship at Boys Town National Research Hospital, and is now pursuing her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt.  The focus of her current research in pediatric audiology includes:  emotion recognition and Theory of Mind development, early-intervention setting comparison, and outcomes for children with minimal hearing loss.

The best ideas …
 …  come from our students.

FIRST YEARS is enriched not only by our exceptional faculty, but by the professional expertise of our students.  In this new column, we share some of these "best ideas," many of which have already inspired additions to our courses.

I'm a Speech Banana! 
The Speech Banana was devised by Dr. Daniel Ling as a "catchy" means to describe the frequency and intensity of normal conversational speech as plotted on an audiogram.  Technically, the speech banana on the audiogram represents the loudness of speech when the speaker is at a distance of 2 meters (about 6 feet) from the listener. The 6dB Rule applies here: As distance between the speaker and the listener increases, loudness decreases, and vice versa.  When the distance doubles, loudness decreases by approximately 6 dB HL. Conversely, when the distance is halved, loudness increases by about 6 dB HL. 

Christine BartonChristine Barton (class of 2011),  a music therapist practicing in Indianapolis, was "musically inspired" upon seeing the FIRST YEARS rendition of the speech banana. (Chris, along with colleague Amy McConkey Robbins, developed the award-winning music habilitation program TuneUps.)

Her tuneful inspiration – I'm a Speech Banana – now appears with the lyrics on the FIRST YEARS speech banana at

Chris Barton, MM, MT-BC 
Central Canal Creative Arts Therapies (
Sound Meter with iPhone
Speaking of the 6dB rule …

This next item, from Kristin Straub (class of 2010), came in as a forum posting in this past semester's offering of Spoken Language Development and Intervention. The forum related to the cessation of babbling. The instructor, Sherri Vernelson, asked:  "What handouts/tools would you use to help explain why the babbling has stopped?"   And, related to keeping in close proximity when speaking to a child: "Did you learn in your audiology class about the 6dB rule?" *

Kristin StraubKristin's response prompted much discussion (and enthusiasm): "As for discussing the need to be close to the child, I would discuss the importance of joint gaze and the child's focal visual distance abilities; but also, and most importantly, discuss that rule of 6dB! THAT IS CRUCIAL!!!  And, I hate to admit it, but I'm finding that the best tool I have in my toolbox for that is a sound meter in my iPhone."

We asked Kristin to elaborate for our newsletter:

I am sure we have all experienced the challenge of trying to clearly explain a technical topic to a student or parent.  So, whenever I attempt to instruct about sound and how we hear, I try to get as concrete as possible, right from the beginning.

This past spring I happened on some iPhone "apps" that offer a perfect hands-on opportunity for learning. I discovered several sound meter options to choose from, as well as another app on hearing loss in general,  called UHear (,  that has a program for measuring thresholds. I downloaded both and have found them to be extremely useful in teaching about hearing loss and, more specifically, about the rule of 6dB:  You can literally halve/double the distance between your iPhone and the source and see the reading increase/decrease by 6dB. Need to demonstrate the impact of noise? Both are useful here, too.

Below are some sound meter app sites to check out.  To my knowledge, they all involve use of the internal microphone within the phone itself, so there is no need for additional attachments. 

  • Also a tidbit of something to keep your eyes open for – an app to measure reverberation time! At a recent presentation at Children’s Hospital, Boston, Frank Inglehart (Clarke, Northampton) spoke about his research on reverberation and mentioned that there are people working on an app for this.

    The iPhones are trendy and fun, but I have found they are also fantastic tools for the work we do – or the work we CAN do. Taking advantage of the apps, I can illustrate a great many things, the least of which is just how common hearing loss is. These apps are helping me create “ah-ha” moments - the understanding necessary to lead to action to get hearing issues addressed. 

    Kristin Straub, M.E.D. (
    CREC Soundbridge, Hartford, CT

    * Our students learn about this rule in the first course, Special Topics in Speech and Hearing: A Survey.

    From FIRST YEARS Reference Library
    The Speech Banana is just one of many publicly-accessible "reference documents" that FIRST YEARS shares via its website. With this issue, we begin featuring other documents of interest, starting with Listening Activity Websites. If you are wondering if you can share these documents with others, the answer is "yes."

    Dr. Holly Teagle, who oversees the UNC Carolina Children's Communicative Disorders Program (CCCDP) and who co-teaches Audiology Interpretation and Hearing Technologies, submitted the original idea for the document's creation. CCCDP's Melissa Hall, MA, CCC-SLP edited and compiled a list of listening activities from: Kuster, JM. (2009). Do You Hear What I Hear? - Listening Activities. The ASHA Leader, p. 26-27. 

    FIRST YEARS then added the click-able links and a bit of formatting. You can see the result at

    An Insider's View: From a FIRST YEARS Mentoring Site
    by Kim Hamren, M.Ed, CED, LSLS Cert. AVT (
    Listen and Talk

    Over the past 3 years, Listen and Talk has hosted 3 FIRST YEARS  students – all remarkable professionals who are talented, dedicated and eager to further their knowledge and teaching skills.  I can honestly say that the mentoring experience has been an absolute joy, privilege and growth experience for all of us – and has offered some surprising outcomes. 

    First of all, I didn't expect to participate in such an amazing professional skill-building opportunity for myself. During each mentorship assignment I reviewed tapes, described our auditory-verbal/auditory-oral program philosophies, and supported the students in their teaching and/or therapy environments. In the process I found myself revisiting my own philosophical foundations, reflecting on my skills and experiences, and ultimately highlighting skills that I subsequently targeted to focus on for professional development. 

    Another surprising outcome was witnessing an amazing philosophical shift for a couple of the students themselves – and for the districts they serve. Backed with FIRST YEARS training, the students returned as agents of change in their school districts. Despite initial resistance of some of their colleagues, the students transitioned their own classrooms and/or therapy settings from a primarily visual learning system to an auditory learning environment. In addition, their efforts and persistence in implementing these auditory-focused strategies and goals gained notice, acceptance, and increasing participation from colleagues beyond their own setting, to additional classrooms in their respective school districts. 

    The FIRST YEARS program has been a powerful, skill-building opportunity for everyone involved, from the students themselves, to the Listen and Talk team, and to the staff and families in the respective programs.

    Kim Hamren, M.Ed, CED, LSLS Cert. AVT (
    Listen and Talk (
    8610 8th Ave NE
    Seattle, WA 98115
    Listen and Talk
    In the next issue, we will take another "look from the inside," from the point of view of one of Kim's students, Susan Ericksen (class of 2009).

    new topic
    Now it's your turn!
    Job changes? Interesting training opportunities? Additional certifications? New tips & tricks? Please send us your news at FIRST YEARS Webmaster.

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    © 2010, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill FIRST YEARS Certificate in Auditory Learning for Young Children with Hearing Loss. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in any medium for non-commercial purposes. 
    Publication date: January, 2010