What to do when you find out your child has a hearing loss
Learning that your child has a hearing loss can be a challenging and confusing time, especially if this is your first experience with hearing loss. And it's normal for parents to wonder what this will mean for their child. The important thing to remember that you’re not alone, there is support out there and it will soon be a manageable part of your life.
Managing hearing loss
In Australia, 1 in 1000 babies is born with significant 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 at 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:
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.
National Disability Insurance Scheme
Your child’s early years are very important as they set up how they’ll learn and develop later in life. Support provided early will help you and give your child the best chance of achieving their potential. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides support for Australians with disability, their families and carers. The NDIS can provide funding, information and support to help people with disability achieve their goals. For more information about the NDIS For information about the NDIS and other government services hearing supports, please visit the NDIS website here.
Your Hearing Australia audiologist will be able to provide you with more information, and help you to apply for access to the NDIS.