Guide for parents
Being a parent is the most wonderful thing! Regardless if you are expecting your first born or if you are parent of a child with hearing loss, informing yourself about childhood hearing loss will make you a better advocate for your child.
BE ALERT OF SYMPTOMS OF HEARING LOSS
The earlier hearing loss it is discovered and audiological care is provided, the greater is the opportunity for your child to acquire spoken language and develop at an age-appropriate rate. Knowing the symptoms of childhood hearing loss and staying alert to these are in the interest of your child’s hearing health. Here is how:
Know what to look for: Even when your baby is still an infant, you should try to maintain eye contact when speaking to him or her. The feedback from your child should match the surrounding sounds. Your child, regardless of age, should react to loud noises such as fireworks, dog barking, doors slamming etc.
Get your child tested: If you suspect your child may have hearing loss or suffer from an ear infection, make sure to get your child tested by a pediatrician, an ear-nose & throat specialist or a pediatric audiologist immediately. The clinician should be testing both ears.
Support your child on the hearing journey
Confronted with a child’s hearing loss, many parents intuitively see tremendous difficulty for the future of their child. This does not reflect modern reality. Your child with hearing loss has infinite perspectives in life – but to unlock the full potential he or she will be needing your full support. Here is how:
Once diagnosed, inform yourself and stay in the loop: Once your child has been diagnosed, understanding hearing loss is half the solution. Seek information pro-actively and continuously from professionals. The latest research and technology – hearing aids, cochlear implants, hearing assistive technology and more – open up the possibilities for a child with hearing loss.
Be open and pro-active: be engaged and pro-active in helping your child to become confident in life. Inform the people around your child about hearing loss. Children with hearing loss will thrive and develop when their families and other caretakers are aware of the impact of hearing loss on learning and development. Invite an open dialogue and meet ignorance with facts.
Get professional help: Whether it involves hearing aids or cochlear implants, the most effective therapeutic measures involve professional audiologists. Make sure to get an experienced audiologist whom you and your child trust.
Encourage ownership of hearing aids: If your child is benefitting from new hearing aids or cochlear implants, encourage your child to take ownership of his or her hearing instruments.
Encourage your child to communicate
Children with hearing loss acquired at a very early stage in life and who receive appropriate interventions within six month of age are par with their hearing peers in terms of language development by the time they are five years old. In most aspects of your everyday interaction with your child, using small tricks will support successful language development. Here is how:
Be patient: For a child with hearing loss, learning to speak and to listen is difficult. Be patient and establish a stress-free space for the child to communicate.
Set your stage before talking: It is important in day-to-day communication to get the full attention of the child before starting to talk. Position yourself correctly by facing the child and minimize any background noise.
Speak in a relaxed manner & use body language: Don’t shout. Speak clearly, at moderate pace and try to avoid over-emphasizing words. Try not to hide your mouth, chew food, gum or smoke while talking. Use facial expressions, body language and gestures to underline your points.
Check balance comprehension: Encourage a sign to use when your child or you have not understood a sentence. Encourage even at a young age, a comprehension feedback such as nodding. If you are not understood, patiently reword your sentence.
Humour disarms: Maintaining a sense of humour, a positive and relaxed attitude when talking to your child helps to disarm and build confidence. This attitude will rub off on the child. A relaxed atmosphere helps your child to focus on the conversation instead of tensing up.
Help your child to master school life
Regardless if a child is born with hearing loss or have developed it at a later age, appropriate intervention in pre-school and school can help limiting its adverse impact. Here is how:
Build confidence: For a child with hearing loss, attending school can be an everyday challenge, both academically as well as socially. To overcome this, help your child to build self-confidence and take ownership for the condition of hearing loss.
Be open: be engaged and pro-active in sustaining your child though the school age. Inform the educators and class mates about hearing loss and hearing aids – maybe together with your child. Invite an open dialogue and meet ignorance with facts.
Get aid: Appropriate aiding systems for the classroom, could help your child hear or access and understand classroom instruction. An appropriate solution such as a wireless microphone systems, should be implemented in close collaboration with qualified professionals. Professional planning and providing services should collaborate with the child, family and/or caregivers and educators to ensure the highest possible success of the intervention program.
Get specific therapy: There are many different options of therapy for children with hearing loss to develop their speech and comprehended language skills. Speech-, language- and music therapy are the most common ones. Seek information about the options for your child and make sure to choose a therapy form together with your child.
Exchange with and learn from others: if possible seek contact to other families in the same situation. Try to encourage contact between children with hearing loss. Learn coping strategies from other families and inform yourself about local resources, laws and rights which may protect and support your child.