The use of pragmatic skills by people who are deaf and hard of hearing: perspectives of adolescents and young adults

The challenge

Language deprivation has significant consequences for children’s and adolescents’ cognitive, academic, and socio-emotional well-being. Many deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children and adolescents are at risk for limited access to language during the early years of life because of restricted access to spoken language and a lack of signed language models.

There is a large body of research that has explored the challenges that young DHH people face when using language in a social context. However, there is a paucity of research that explores these challenges from the perspectives of DHH adolescents and young adults.

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Project overview

Pragmatics is the ability to use language as a means of connecting and engaging with others. Many DHH young people often have restricted access to language which can affect how they use language to interact with others in social situations. This is true among children who use modern assistive-hearing devices and have had extensive interventions. Delays are evident at the time language emerges and persist throughout childhood and into adolescence.

DHH children and adolescents can develop effective pragmatic language skills when optimal conditions for language development are met. There is a need for more research on these optimal conditions and more education of communication partners about conversational strategies they can use to support DHH young people to use language across different social contexts. This project aims to understand the barriers and enablers for pragmatic language development from the perspectives of DHH adolescents and young adults.


Understanding the barriers and enablers that DHH children experience in developing pragmatic language skills will pave the way for the development of supports to reduce these obstacles and create optimal conditions for language development.


Deafness Foundation


More information

Current Research in Pragmatic Language Use Among Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children | American Academy of Pediatrics (


inclusive education, deaf, hard of hearing, language development