It can be especially overwhelming if this is your first experience with hearing loss. The important thing to understand is that there is a lot of support out there, and it will soon be a manageable part of your life.
Managing hearing loss
In Australia, one out of every 1000 children
is diagnosed at birth with some form of hearing loss. By the time they reach school age, two in every 1000 children will have been identified as having a form of hearing loss. Many parents have been in your shoes before so there are lots of resources to draw from. It can be confusing knowing where to begin, as there are so many websites, chatrooms, devices and opinions out there. An audiologist will help you find the best solution for your child.
These could include hearing aids or cochlear implants, as well as various wireless and remote microphone devices that can help to make life easier. Technology and support is available to significantly improve your child’s ability to hear sounds and understand speech during the most crucial developmental stage of their life.
Once your child has been diagnosed with a hearing loss it’s important to look for support as soon as possible. The sooner that their hearing loss is addressed and an appropriate solution is found, the less impact it will have on your child. This is especially true for children three years and under as this is the time where the foundations of speech and language are developed.
At your first appointment with an audiologist, they will assess your child’s hearing and conduct tests to get more detail about your child’s level and type of hearing loss. There they will recommend the most appropriate course of action, such as a hearing aid, referral to another professional like an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) or educational support and specialised programs. All these experts can give you advice on how to help your child make the most of the hearing they have, as well as how best to communicate with them.
Discovering the best options for your child and your family is the first step in achieving the best possible outcome – a happy, healthy child who can communicate with those around them.
Adjusting to hearing loss
Every parents’ adjustment to their child’s hearing loss is different. For those who have a hearing loss themselves, the diagnosis may come as less of a shock. For others, the news can shine light on some concerns about their child’s behaviour and development. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Coming to terms with the impacts of hearing loss is something you should do at your own pace.
Natural responses are just that – natural. You can’t help how you feel when it comes to your child’s wellbeing. It’s important to acknowledge all feelings and understand that while some of the more negative thoughts are valid, they are temporary. Here are some common emotions you might experience:
Guilt - You may feel guilty that you were unable to ensure perfect hearing for your child, or that you didn’t detect your child’s hearing loss sooner. You might recall times when signs of a hearing loss were apparent but you discounted them because your child appeared fine on other occasions.
Anger about your child’s hearing loss can be a difficult emotion to deal with. Anger may erupt unexpected times or it may never be fully expressed. Sometimes anger is unwittingly redirected towards other people, including family members, doctors and teachers. Try to be patient with yourself and others – it can take time for life and feelings to settle down.
Denial - Being told that your child has a hearing loss can be difficult to digest and there may be the temptation to deny (whether consciously or unconsciously) the information presented to you by doctors, teachers or audiologists. However, continuing to deny the diagnosis will hinder your child’s progress and your ability to help them.
Frustration - When you have questions about your child’s hearing loss you may feel frustrated if professionals can’t get conclusive results on every test. You may also feel frustrated about your child’s emotional and social progress.
Concern – It’s natural to worry about the way your family, friends and others will react to your child. You may be concerned that your child will be teased and question how they will handle it. You may also worry about your child’s marital future or their educational and career opportunities.
These are all the natural reactions of a loving parent. If you’re experiencing negative feelings remember that you’re not alone. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that hearing loss is easily manageable with the right tools and support system.
Getting information (and dealing with overload)
When you find out your child has a hearing loss, you’ll have a lot of questions and, in turn, will get a lot of new information. This can be quite overwhelming and hard to follow, especially if it’s your first time being introduced to hearing loss.
Here are some tips:
Ask lots of questions - Professionals are there to help, so don’t be afraid of asking them to repeat information if you need. Get them to explain things until you understand. You want to be as prepared as possible to assist your child’s hearing loss effectively on your own so check anything that you’re unsure about.
Take notes - Don’t just rely on memory during appointments or in-between visits, as you’re likely to forget things. Write down any key points from your audiologist. If something comes up in-between appointments that you’re unsure about, make a list and take it to your next appointment.
Bring family members or friends - Having additional support with you during appointments means other people close to your child are kept in the loop. They can also help with asking questions and remembering information and can make you feel more at ease during appointments.
Contact them if you need - If you have urgent questions, most professionals are happy to speak with you by phone or email. Keep in mind that they may not be available at certain times, so allow for an appropriate amount of time before trying to follow-up again.
Talk with other parents - Online forums or face-to-face groups are a great resource for practical ideas and coping strategies. Talking with other parents of children with hearing loss is helpful as they can empathise with your situation and provide tried and tested tips. Online parent forums are more accessible as you can visit them whenever you like, via your computer or smartphone. Just remember it's best that medical advice comes from an audiologist.
Search the web - Parents often search the internet for information about health concerns, hearing loss and intervention. While the web can be a valuable source of information, it is important to remember that not all information has been scientifically proven. You may find information that conflicts with what a professional has told you so it’s important to discuss any queries you have them. They’ll be happy to discuss it and explain anything you’re unsure about. Always seek a professional’s advice before implementing a new solution or trying something you’ve read about online.
Join the hearing loss community - Adults with hearing loss can offer a different and personal perspective on living a successful life. It can give you an idea of your child’s opportunities and how to give them the best possible chance at living a comfortable life.
Visit counselling and support services - Sometimes, it can be helpful to talk to someone who is just there to listen and support you as you try to make sense of everything.
Over time you’ll gain more confidence in your ability to understand your child’s hearing loss. Through education and guidance from your audiologist you’ll get an idea of how best to manage it. And soon it will just become part of everyday life, like teaching them to ride a bike or getting ready for school.
For more information about hearing aids and services for children contact us.