Language Diet program at suburban Chicago hospital helps preemies’ auditory development

Language Diet program at suburban Chicago hospital helps preemies' auditory development
Written by Publishing Team

As babies grow older, it is important that their hearing development is a positive experience. At the NICU, this concept is enhanced with a new language regime program.

Parents can record to a digital audio recorder, whether it’s talking, reading books, or singing, and the small recorders are placed near the baby when parents are not in the unit.

“Babies have always been surrounded by the voices of nurses who care for them and their parents when they visit. Premature babies now have more time to listen to their parents’ voices in an appropriate way that promotes their development, ”explains Bob covert, MD, Medical Director of the Edward Hospital NICU. “We, as a unit, operate according to evidence-based practices and embrace current research that draws on our protocols and standards. “

Research-based program

Edward’s speech-language pathologists applied for a grant from the Little Giraffe Foundation to start the Language Diet program.

Speech therapists dedicated to the NICU (Marie fantozzi, Tara Kehoe and Rachel Montgomery), say “We wanted to bring this program to our neonatal intensive care unit to create a language-rich environment for babies by allowing them to be exposed to their parents’ voices even when they can’t be here.” We are delighted to see the response from families and staff as we have introduced this program.

Current research recommends that infants begin to experience positive hearing exposure for about 20 minutes per day after 28 weeks of gestation. Over time, hearing exposure is expected to increase to a minimum of three hours for infants after they reach equivalent full-term age, or 40 weeks. Research has shown that audio recorders can be used after 32 weeks gestation in addition to in-person interaction.

Research has also shown that infants in neonatal intensive care units with private rooms, such as at Edward Hospital, experience limited language exposure. The benefits of these devices, especially with parental voices, in the NICU include increased autonomic stability, decreased stress, and improved neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Talk and sing

When a baby reaches 32 weeks gestation, nurses play the recorded messages in low volume, less than 45 decibels, when parents are not at the baby’s bedside. This allows babies to safely “eat” their parents’ voices.

Recorders are typically played after practical assessments, while a baby is nasogastric feeding, and while he sleeps. Parents are encouraged to talk and sing quietly to their baby when they are at their bedside at appropriate times.

“We’ve heard everything from singing ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ to reading books to a mother recalling her own childhood. Covert says,“ Parents are excited about the program and we welcome their involvement in the practices of unit that benefit NICU patients.

Get more information at

SOURCE Edward-Elmhurst Health System


About the author

Publishing Team

Leave a Comment