When a child receives any diagnosis, it can be accompanied by feelings of fear, frustration, and confusion for a parent. When a child is diagnosed with hearing loss, parents are often stepping into uncharted territory in parenting that many of their friends and family have not navigated.
Often the first emotion for parents when a child is diagnosed with hearing loss is guilt. They may wonder if they could have prevented this hearing loss or may be upset with themselves for not detecting the signs of hearing loss sooner. The most important thing to remember at this time is that the child is now exactly where they need to be, and the first step is to move forward with getting them the most appropriate hearing care.
After diagnosis, the first step is to make a treatment plan with your child’s audiologist. Depending on the specifics of their hearing loss, your child may be a candidate for traditional hearing aids, cochlear implants, or a bone-anchored hearing system. Early treatment and exposure to sound is important for the child in reaching developmental milestones. Your child’s audiologist will help you find the most appropriate devices and program the hearing aids to best fit your child’s hearing loss.
Once a child has been fit with their hearing aid, many parents face the daunting task of teaching their children to keep the hearing aids in throughout the day. For good retention, try pairing wearing the hearing aid with a positive activity. If you establish rules in your family that hearing aids are worn during snack time, reading a favorite book, or playing with his or her favorite toy, they will learn to associate their hearing aids with doing enjoyable activities. If the child removes a hearing aid, the activity stops until the hearing aid(s) are returned to their ears.
See the following links for other products that can assist with hearing aid retention:
Pediatric hearing loss affects more than the child. Families of children with hearing loss need support and resources to help guide them through this transition. It is important to utilize early intervention services (Kansas Infant Toddler Services or Missouri First Steps for local families), which provide support for families and therapies to help keep children on track with their language milestones. Another resource to explore is finding support groups for families with children with hearing loss. These are available through online and local community groups.
Throughout this process, speak with your child’s audiologist about their hearing loss. You are your child’s best advocate. The more you understand about your child’s hearing loss, the more you can understand what they need to be successful educationally and socially. Learn about the details of your child’s hearing loss. What is the degree of hearing loss? Do they have hearing loss in one ear or both? What is the type of hearing loss - conductive, sensorineural, or mixed? Regardless of the severity of the hearing loss, continue to talk to your child. As children develop, it is important to learn the social cues of conversations and relationship building. This can assist your child in their development of speech and communication skills.
Talk to teachers, day care providers, and other caregivers in your child’s life to educate them on the specific needs of your child to ensure their safety and well-being as well as to spread awareness of pediatric hearing loss in your community. As your child grows up, teach them to be proud of their hearing aids and what makes them unique. Consider allowing them to have a say in the color of their hearing aids or earmolds or find other ways to involve them in their hearing aid care. Teaching them to put the hearing aids away each night and take them out of their case each morning can establish a sense of self-advocacy. If children at school make comments or have questions, equip your child with phrases to explain their hearing loss to their peers and practice saying them as home. There are many ways to help educate your child’s classmates about hearing loss such as having a hearing professional come speak to the class when learning about the five senses, asking your child if they would be comfortable speaking about their hearing aids at show-and-tell, or having the teacher incorporate a children’s book about hearing loss into their curriculum.
Parenting a child with hearing loss comes with its own set of unique challenges, but with support from your community and hearing care from your child’s audiologist, you can form a team that will help your child reach their communication goals successfully.
If you have questions about your child’s hearing loss, contact Professional Hearing Center at (816) 478-3008.