What are Ling Sounds and why do we test for them?

29 August 2017

We received a lovely video of Hunter learning his Ling Sounds this week, and it made us realise that we have never talked about Ling Sounds and their importance. So with such a fantastic video, this seems like the right time to talk all about Ling Sounds (we've saved the video until the end!). 

What are Ling Sounds?

Dr Daniel Ling OC was a pioneer of Auditory-Verbal practice. In 1976 he created what is now known as the Ling Sounds(1).

Originally Dr Ling identified 5 sounds – [oo], [ee], [ah] [sh] and /s/. This was later updated in 1995 to include a 6th sound [m]. Each of these sounds represents a part of the spectrum of speech frequencies:

  • [m] - a low frequency sound. If a child cannot hear this sound it is likely they will not have sufficient low frequency information to develop speech with normal stresses, intonation and without vowel errors.
  • [oo] – low frequency information
  • [ee] – some high and some low frequency information
  • [ah] – the centre of the speech range
  • [sh] – moderately high frequency
  • /s/ - very high speech range

If a parent or practitioner can confirm that a child can hear each of these 6 sounds then they can be reasonably confident that the child is hearing all the sounds needed to learn to listen and speak.

As the Ling Sounds became a standard test around the world for children who had a hearing impairment and used technology it became clear that there was a need to amend the 6 Ling Sounds.

Why does Australia have 7?

The way in which Australians pronounce certain vowels, namely [or] meant that a part of the speech spectrum was not being tested in Australian children. In 2005 Agung et al suggested the addition [or] (as in hoard) as a 7th Ling Sound Australia(2). The Cora Barclay Centre uses the 7 Ling Sound Test at all sessions.  

The Ling Sound Test is used by Auditory-Verbal programs, including the Cora Barclay Centre, to make sure that a child’s technology is working correctly and that the child has access to all the required sounds.

How do we use Ling Sounds?

It is recommended that parents do a Ling Sound test every day to make sure that their child has maximum hearing capability and so that any issues can be addressed as quickly as possible. In addition, the child’s therapist or Teacher of the Deaf will also use the Ling Sound Test at the beginning of each session.

However, you can’t do the test in the same way with a baby as you can with an older child. However, regardless of how old the child is there are a few important things to remember when doing a Ling Sound Test:

  • The parent / therapist should ensure that the child cannot see the speaker’s mouth by positioning themselves behind the child
  • The sounds should be made at different distances, depending on the age and stage of the child,  but at a conversational speech level
  • The sounds should be made in random order each time so the child cannot guess which one is coming up

With Infants

Obviously an infant or very young child is unable to tell you they have heard a sound, or repeat it back to you, therefore the onus is on the parent of therapist to look at the child’s behaviour as the sounds are spoken. You can watch for a range of things to see if they have heard:

  • Start / stop sucking on a dummy, bottle or nipple
  • Move a little if they have been still
  • Open their eyes
  • Stop moving if they have been wriggling
  • Look for the sound by moving their eyes
  • Raise their eyebrows

It is important to give babies a little time after each sound, as they do not respond as quickly as adults. Once a baby has responded to the sound the parent of therapist will often use the appropriate Ling Toy to show the child and sing the appropriate song from the Cora Barclay Centre Sing A Ling CD.

With Toddlers

Once children are able to interact more with their Ling Sound Test they can be given an activity to do if they hear a word. This could be dropping a block into a container, clapping or taking something out of the box. Some therapists like to use the pictures of the Ling toys for a child to pick up the toy that represents the sound they have heard. E.g. oo; the child picks up the train

We use the same visual representation of Ling Sounds from birth so they are very familiar to the children. The Cora Barclay Centre has developed it’s own set of toys, images and songs that we use for Ling Sounds at the Centre.

Cora Barclay Centre Ling Sound Images 

Cora Barclay Centre Ling Pack Toys

Cora Barclay Centre Ling Pack Toys 

With Older Children

Older children are simply asked to repeat the sound they have heard.

At the beginning of this post we spoke about a great video of Hunter that his Mum, Elle, kindly sent to us. Below you can see Hunter beginning to vocalise his Ling Sounds. This is the [ah] sound which goes with the aeroplane toy and song. The Ling sound [ah] would have been presented to Hunter just prior to this piece of footage and he has now been rewarded by the toy plane and is demonstrating that he can produce the sound, after this the parent and therapist would sing the aeroplane song: 

Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah
Aeroplane flying high
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah
Way up in the sky

If you would like to purchase a pack of Ling Toys or a CD of Ling Songs you can do so directly from the Centre. Just drop us a note to get all the details.

1: Ling, D. (1976). Speech and the hearing-impaired child: Theory and practice. Washington, DC: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf

2: Agung, Katrina B; Purdy, Suzanne C and Kitamura, Christine. The Ling Sound Test Revisited [online]. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Audiology, The, Vol. 27, No. 1, May 2005: 33-41. Availability:<http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=001148965241039;res=IELNZC> ISSN: 1443-4873. [cited 29 Aug 17]



02 September 2018 - 09:32 am

How much are the pack of 7 Ling sound toys and CD? Thank you

Please enter the characters you see in the image below:

Subscribe to our newsletter