How to Talk to Your Child About Their Hearing Loss
Talking to your child about hearing loss can feel daunting at first but the sooner you start, the better off everyone in your family will be. By talking to your child about their hearing loss early and often you’ll build an environment where your child feels comfortable talking to you and advocating for themselves. Here’s how to do it.
No matter where your child is in their hearing-loss journey it is important for them, and you, to remember that it is theirs. Your child should feel comfortable leading the conversation. No matter what they want to discuss about their hearing, be sure that you are listening to them. This will clue you in to potential issues.
If your child complains about their hearing aids being uncomfortable, don’t dismiss this or tell them they’ll “get used to it.” They may be more likely to remove hearing aids that are causing discomfort, reducing their hearing. Listen and take action.
Be sure to listen to your child’s social concerns including concerns about their appearance. Bullying can be a problem for some children with hearing aids and your child trusts you to give them advice.
Understand Your Child’s Hearing Loss
It’s important to understand the type and cause of your child’s hearing loss so that you can’t talk to them about it. You should have a basic understanding of how hearing works and what, specifically, your child is dealing with. The best way to understand this is to be attentive and engaged in meetings with your child’s audiologist and other healthcare team members.
Types of Hearing Loss
Nemours provides an excellent resource written for kids about hearing loss that includes a breakdown of the types of hearing loss. They are:
Conductive. Caused by sound being blocked by a part of the outer or middle ear. Usually mild and temporary.
Sensorineural. A problem in the inner ear or the connection between the inner ear and brain. Often caused by damaged or destroyed cochlear cells. This type of hearing loss varies and can range from the child hearing but the sounds being perceived as muffled, being able to hear in a quiet space, hearing some sounds to not hearing. This type of hearing loss is permanent. It can affect a child’s speech.
Central Hearing Loss. The cochlea works but parts of the brain responsible do not. This type of hearing loss is rare and difficult to treat.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Some hearing loss is from parts of the ear or brain not developing properly. This is typical in the case of people who are born with a hearing impairment. But hearing loss can also happen any time during life due to illness (high fevers, meningitis), injury and exposure to repeated loud sound.
When talking to your child about hearing aids it’s important to be honest and realistic. Never dismiss your child’s hearing loss as “not that bad” or as something they’ll “grow out of.” Instead, speak to your child using actual terms. And be sure to include encouragement!
Sometimes you may have to be honest with your child about their hearing loss and while your child may not like what you have to say (i.e., hearing aids won’t fix their hearing) they will appreciate your candor in the long run.
Balance Your Desire to Help with Teaching Them to Advocate
Something we write about a bit on this blog is the delicate balance between doing for your child, and empowering them to do for themselves. While you should always listen and take your child’s concerns seriously, it’s important to talk to your child in a way that encourages them to come up with solutions and address problems. If your child is having difficulty in school, for example being seated next to a heater or something else noisy, encourage them to ask the teacher to move their seat. Only when this doesn’t work should you step in. When it comes to dealing with other students, talk to your child about strategies they can use to work out differences.
You’ll have many conversations with your child about their hearing loss. These tips will help you navigate them in the best way possible.