What to do when your child is bullied for having hearing loss

In a perfect world, everyone would accept the things that make us different. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and sadly, kids with hearing loss sometimes become the targets of bullying.

The uncertainty of the unfamiliar drives a lot of this poor behaviour. Often, a child’s first exposure to hearing loss is when they meet a classmate with a condition. Of course, while it’s possible to understand the roots of bullying on an intellectual level, when your child bears the brunt of it, it packs an emotional punch. Especially now that we understand the long-reaching impact.

Bullying affects a child’s confidence and their social development. It can make them doubt their ability to communicate and interact with others. These stigmas can last on to adulthood. That’s why it’s crucial to address bullying head on and give your child the tools to stand up for themselves. While most schools do educate about bullying, there is rarely a dialogue about targeting kids due to conditions such as hearing loss.

So, what are the steps you can take to help identify and deal with targeted bullying for your child with hearing loss?

Look for clues

How do you know if your child is being bullied?

  • The big tell-tale sign is any change in their behaviour. Becoming withdrawn, less inclined to speak, quick to anger or a sudden disinterest in activities can be a sign that bullying is afoot.

  • The shame or fear of “dobbing” means your child may not want to speak up. They may even deny being bullied.

  • Trust your gut. If something feels off then it’s better to address it. Gently ask outright or by outlining examples. Say things like, “Do your friends ever say things that make you feel sad?”. If your child confirms they are being teased then it’s time to act.

Build their resilience

When the going gets tough, make sure your kid is tougher. Building up confidence and resilience to negativity gives your child the tools to soldier on. It’s important to go over some key points:

  • Acknowledge their pain and thank them for letting you know. Admitting you’re being bullied can be a very emotional act. Comfort them and let them know they are brave for telling you.

  • Victims often feel like it’s their fault, explain that they are in no way to blame.

  • Emphasise they should never feel ashamed of their hearing loss or apologise for having it.   

  • Tell them that you love them (of course!)

Give them tools

Open communication and understanding builds their confidence.

  • Discuss acceptable and unacceptable words and actions.

  • Practice responses for common situations, such as when a child asks about their hearing aid.

  • Make your child aware of how to appropriately address negative situations and how they can report incidents if needed.

  • Establish a game plan for dealing with mean words or actions arise at school. Since bullying is most likely to occur away from adult supervision, it’s important that your child can confidently address it.

  • Most importantly, make sure your child knows they have strengths and qualities that make them unique and wonderful. When your child is confident and happy, it robs a bully of their power.

Recruit allies

It’s not your or your child’s fault they are being bullied, so it makes sense to get help to combat it.

  • Talk to teachers. Ask the school to educate the class on hearing loss and bullying. While the school may have a general ant-bullying policy, it’s important to specifically address bullying when hearing loss is a factor.

  • If you don’t get the support you need, keep asking. Don’t be afraid to be the squeaky wheel. Take the matter higher, if needed.

  • Suggest your child speaks to their friends about hearing loss, let them set firm boundaries on what is and isn’t okay to say and do to them. Bullies are less likely to act with a strong support system behind your child.

  • Reach out to other parents, particularly the parents of the bully if you can, to make them aware of the situation and needed steps. Talk about your child’s hearing loss and ask them to discuss it with their children. Obviously, this requires some delicacy. Keep the discussion honest and empathetic but offer realistic solutions everyone can agree on.

Lastly, keep encouraging your child to speak up. Emphasise the importance of letting you and others know when something happens, especially when the problem is not getting resolved.

If you’d like more information and resources on bullying with hearing loss, contact us.