Understanding LENA Technology

LENA technology is the industry standard for measuring talk with children, which is a critical factor in early brain development. LENA uses a small wearable device — often referred to as a “talk pedometer” — combined with cloud-based software to deliver detailed feedback that helps adults make proven, sustainable increases in interactive talk with children.

LENA Device

The LENA device is a small, child-safe recorder that children wear for a day at a time. It meets U.S. and international safety standards for electronics and toys. Unlike a cell phone, it does not transmit, and it uses the same type of low-power processors as hearing aids.

LENA Software

The LENA software processes the audio captured by the device into data about talk, which is presented in clear reports that can be shared with caregivers. Secure online tools enable efficient program management with built-in, real-time measures of fidelity and effectiveness.

How does early talk impact brain development?

The science is clear: the first three years of life present a key window of opportunity for all children. School readiness and, more importantly, the path to opportunity begin at birth. Both of these outcomes are heavily influenced by the amount of interactive talk children experience in their earliest years.

The challenge is that simply saying "talk more" or "interact more" isn’t enough. Research tells us that we’re poor estimators of how much we talk: most of us tend to overestimate. In fact, those of us that talk the least tend to overestimate the most (Richards et al., 2017). Thus, objective feedback on interactive talk is needed. This is where LENA comes in.

How does LENA technology work?

After a full day of talk is captured by the LENA device, the audio files are transferred to a cloud processing system that uses complex algorithms to analyze the audio file. The algorithms are trained to identify and differentiate adult speech, child speech, and tv/electronic noise. The algorithms can also differentiate the speech of the key child from the speech of other children and from non-speech sounds like cries. The software does this without knowing any words or the language being spoken. It only looks at the sound frequencies and the spaces between sounds to determine whether noise is human speech or something else. The software then generates objective, actionable feedback reports for caregivers on the quantity and quality of talk in their child’s environment.

What makes LENA technology unique?

LENA produces a robust and statistically valid dataset that sheds light on adult engagement, child development, and TV/electronic media exposure. It is the only validated measure of conversational turns in the world and is normed and validated in eight languages. When coupled with targeted coaching on how to use the information and how to increase interactive talk, LENA feedback helps parents and early childhood teachers improve talk while simultaneously providing evidence of program effectiveness.

How does LENA protect privacy and security?

In LENA Start, LENA Grow, and LENA Home, audio recordings are automatically deleted immediately after processing into data (number of words and turns, etc.). The recorder has no playback capability and the system doesn't recognize the meanings of words, so no one can ever tell what the users talked about.

LENA SP and LENA Pro are the only two versions of LENA that allow the option to retain audio. Each group provides its parents with its own consent form, and parents have the option to participate or not.

LENA takes security seriously. We have built and implemented a multitude of technologies and processes to protect your data - and we stand behind them. We are proud to be Type II SOC 2 compliant, which means that every year an outside group audits LENA to confirm that we have appropriate data and privacy protections in place and are using them correctly. Learn more about LENA's Type II SOC 2 compliance.

Learn more about how we use this technology to power programs that support teachers and parents: