How to Talk to Children about Hearing Loss
You can tell if a child has good hearing from day one. In our case there was a metal bin in the hospital room several metres from her cot which I just couldn't seem to close without a loud slam, despite my best efforts, and every time she jumped out of her skin and cried. A baby's hearing is sensitive from birth and some are more receptive than others â€“ seeing that startled look was actually quite reassuring.
So once your baby has been tested for hearing impairment (and indeed all other normal functions) you'll know that she will start to acquire experiences of different sounds. From recognising her name to music to doorbells to pets, a database of recognised noises will form in her little head.
At some point at an early age, when your child begins to comprehend the world more fully, you will need to start pointing out dangers. But how do you explain about hearing loss, and what could lead to it? How does one teach a youngster how to communicate with those who are deaf, such as another pupil? And when do you explain to them about the kind of hearing aid that someone may have? You may need to explain that, as people get older, Hidden Hearing tests are required.
Your child will know that some sounds are louder than others, and that the louder sounds can sometimes be uncomfortable. They may ask why your ears become damaged, and you can use their experience of loud roars or music to show that if that noise becomes louder it can sometimes become uncomfortable.
Your job is then to convince them that they do not need to take things to the extreme and permanently cover their ears when negotiating traffic or the school playground, or avoid all loud sounds all of the time. A simple way of explaining what they should do is to encourage them to follow what their parents or teacher does.
You can explain that there is an outer ear that they can see, and also a bit â€˜inside' that they can't see that is just as important. It is that bit that hurts when sounds are loud, and if the sound is always loud it can make the ears stop working. As they get older you can add a little more detail about the biology - here's a more in-depth explanation from Child and Youth Health.
Explain that all children are different. Some children are tall and some are small, some are better at football or dancing than others, and some have ears are also different and cannot hear as well as others. Some children wear little boxes to help them with their hearing just as some children wear glasses, and a child should treat them as your friends.
Hopefully you will have some help in explaining the issues from your school.
A good, caring school should implement procedures supported by NDCS (National Deaf Children's Society) that teach staff how to teach deaf children, how to treat them like other pupils while recognising a disability, and also how to teach children without normal hearing in the correct way to speak to their classmate who does have hearing loss â€“ using short, slower sentences, and remembering not to shout or cover your mouth. This is often as educational for adults as it is for children.
Above all, depending on the confidence and curiosity of your child, you may find that they learn about hearing and good health all on their own. Guide them so they behave sensibly, and sensitively with other youngsters with hearing loss, and the issue will become child's play.
Louise Wood is a freelance writer who is an experienced journalist and blogger with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for writing.
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