Novel Digital Storybook Intervention Aims to Support Children With Hearing Loss

Novel Digital Storybook Intervention Aims to Support Children With Hearing Loss 1024 683 Abbie Miller

Hear Me Read, invented and developed at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, is now being validated in a prospective clinical trial.

For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, access to sound via hearing aids and cochlear implants and intensive speech therapy with highly trained verbal therapists are important parts of developing speech and literacy.

“Children who are deaf and hard of hearing face particular challenges with developing speech and literacy,” says Prashant Malhotra, MD, surgeon in the Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology and Hearing Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Semantics, vocabulary, learning new words and concepts, and syntax and reading — these speech processes are foundational in skilled reading.”

“The challenges faced by kids who are deaf or hard of hearing are not the same as an adult, such as your grandmother, who had hearing and then lost some of it,” Dr. Malhotra explains. “The impact of hearing loss on a child who has so much development to yet undergo is far greater.”

Anand Satyapriya, MD, an anesthesiologist at Ohio Health Riverside Methodist, was thinking about all of these things as he began planning how best to help his newborn son who was diagnosed with hearing impairment shortly after birth. It gave him an idea.

I started to think more and more about this idea that would help my son and other children with hearing impairment navigate the therapy process more efficiently,” Dr. Satyapriya says. “I realized I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to begin or where to begin. And that’s when I approached my son’s cochlear implant surgeon — Prashant Malhotra — to brainstorm about the project.”

From that idea and a conversation over coffee, the project grew.

With the help and guidance of the Office of Technology Commercialization at Nationwide Children’s, and collaboration from experts in speech therapy, user experience and technology development, the team secured several rounds of grant funding to develop the idea into a usable tool.

Hear Me Read is a first-of-its-kind digital storybook innovation targeted toward helping children with hearing impairment develop speech and literacy skills. It is an iOS-based software application that enables parents and speech-language pathologists (SLP) to partner together to help deaf/hard of hearing children achieve reading, speech and language goals through interactive digital storybook reading. Hear Me Read includes audio and visual strategies and guided reading by the SLP and can be individualized to the patient’s needs and level. It is intended to be the one app for reading for all ages and learning styles.


Janelle Huefner, MA CCC-SLP, A/AOGPE, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, parent of a child with dyslexia

Shana Lucius, MA CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

John Luna, MFA, Research Information Solutions & Innovation, Nationwide Children’s Hospital

Prashant Malhotra, MD, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, The Ohio State University

Anand Satyapriya, MD, Ohio Health Riverside Methodist, parent of child who is deaf/hard of hearing

“There are a multitude of reading apps available, but the major issue when dealing with children who are hearing impaired is that you are dealing with different parts of speech on a weekly basis. And every week you’re downloading a new app (that’s not evidence based) to try to attack your child’s goal,” says Dr. Malhotra. “That’s the beauty of our app. It’s all customizable and individualized for what the child needs to work on, and it’s all done in an evidenced-based manner utilizing proven methods of speech therapy and other methods like dialogic book reading and parental involvement at a young age.”

Hear Me Read underwent user feedback trials including a therapist/parent survey, parent/child focus groups and therapist focus groups in 2019-2021. The team has also received funding for a prospective clinical trial, which is enrolling participants now.

“Hear Me Read also has a lot of potential as a tool for conducting literacy research in children who are deaf/hard of hearing,” Dr. Malhotra adds. “With it, we may begin to study the underlying processes of why or how reading interventions work in children who are deaf/hard of hearing. This will enable us to develop new interventions for better outcomes.”


For more information about the clinical trial, or to connect with the inventors, contact:



Image credit: Adobe Stock

About the author

Abbie (Roth) Miller, MWC, is a passionate communicator of science. As the manager, medical and science content, at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, she shares stories about innovative research and discovery with audiences ranging from parents to preeminent researchers and leaders. Before coming to Nationwide Children’s, Abbie used her communication skills to engage audiences with a wide variety of science topics. She is a Medical Writer Certified®, credentialed by the American Medical Writers Association.