How Can I Support My Teen with Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is often associated with growing old. However, statistics show that one in five U.S. teenagers has at least slight hearing loss. Prevention is still key to teen hearing loss so it’s important to know its causes. If you suspect your teen may be experiencing hearing loss, there are signs to watch for and if they have been diagnosed, there are ways you can support them.
Causes of Teen Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is the main reason for temporary or permanent hearing loss among children and teens. Kids’ exposure to environmental sounds – like snowmobiles, audio on earbuds, live music/concerts, lawnmowers, woodworking tools and sirens – can cause noise-induced hearing loss if the exposure is too loud, too close or lasts too long. Other causes can include congenital defects, ear infections, autoimmune diseases or head trauma.
Signs of Teen Hearing Loss
Your observations can be key to recognizing the first signs of potential hearing loss. Teens may be embarrassed or scared if they are experiencing some hearing challenges so you can also ask your teen’s teachers about their observations. Some common signs of hearing loss include:
· not responding to others when they’re talking;
· moving one ear forward when listening;
· performing poorly in school when he/she has previously done well;
· appearing to day dream;
· speaking louder than usual; and
· looking at you intently when you speak.
Supporting Teens with Hearing Loss
The teen years are fraught with their own unique complexities. If you add in a hearing loss diagnosis and the introduction of hearing aids, teens and their parents are in for a whole new set of challenges. There are three key areas where your teen is most vulnerable.
Once your teen is diagnosed with a form of hearing loss, you should contact your child’s school counselor so all necessary accommodations are made available and consistently used. It’s also a good idea to meet with teachers to explain what type of hearing loss your child has and what they can do to assist with his or her learning. Some of these options could include FM technology and closed captioning on videos. During these visits, it’s important to communicate that your teen will not want to be singled out so teachers should not draw attention to your child and/or the accommodations.
During the teenage years, the most prevalent need is that of fitting in, so a hearing loss diagnosis can feel devastating for your kid. Your audiologist may recommend a counselor for your teen to process this new part of his or her identity.
Even though teenagers are expressing their independence at this age, they still need their parents’ support. The more you are open about, and accepting of, the hearing loss and use of hearing aids, the more likely they may be to communicate with you. Try approaching them with open-ended questions and letting them control the direction of the conversation. Even if they turn down your attempts, they know you’re there for them.
Relationships and socializing are an important part of feeling connected with others and having a sense of belonging. It’s crucial that a hearing loss diagnosis doesn’t negatively impact this. Sometimes teens will withdrawal from activities or situations they used to enjoy because they can’t hear or participate due to their hearing loss. Most hearing aids or other tools can help teens communicate in all kinds of situations. Your audiologist can help your teen address specific environments that are proving to be challenging.
When a teen is diagnosed with hearing loss, there will be a period of adjustment for the entire family. Once the news settles, the important thing to focus on is navigating how it will impact your teen’s academic, emotional and social health. Your audiologist, as well as numerous resources can help.
This information is provided by the Georgia-based Sounds Waves Pediatric Hearing Aid Program which provides children, ages birth to 19 years, with audiology services and hearing aid devices. The organization operates under the principle that no child should be denied hearing aids due to the inability to pay. Learn more or apply now!