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Destigmatizing Childhood Hearing Loss

Children often tease or make fun of things they are not familiar with or do not understand. It’s a sad reality, but one that little ones in today’s world encounter. Reasons for this behavior vary from race, gender, socioeconomic status, looks and disabilities. A recent article in the October issue of The Hearing Journal, titled Peer Victimization with Hearing Loss, discussed a study on adolescents with hearing loss and the different forms and degrees to which they are bullied, teased, threatened or victimized. This study shows that, sadly, adolescents with special needs are teased more often than their typically developing peers. This includes those with hearing loss or the use of amplification which can be hearing aids, FM devices, cochlear implants or personal amplifiers. It is important to have proactive ways to combat bullying and address children with hearing loss in the classroom and their communities.

For parents, if you think your child may be experiencing bullying in the classroom, there are a few ways you can approach this.

  • Talk to their teachers and other school staff about hearing loss. Educate them on the basics and explain to them how hearing aids work – like powering them on/off and changing their batteries – so they are better equipped with the technology should they ever need to help your child.
  • Prepare your child for questions from other students so they aren’t alarmed when someone asks them about their hearing aids. Practice role playing a typical conversation with peers and point out the cool things about hearing amplification – as if they have a super power, for example!
  • Give your child positive reinforcements about wearing his or her hearing aids so they feel empowered about wearing them instead of treating them as a limitation.

For teachers, if a child comes to school wearing hearing aids for the first time, here are some suggested tips on how to help them feel comfortable.

  • Address the situation as soon as possible. Children are curious and will ask questions regardless, so it’s important for you to drive the conversation. Share with them what they are and how they will improve the child’s hearing. Children are much more accepting when they understand something and when it isn’t made out to be a big deal.
  • Reinforce the idea of celebrating differences and create activities that center around individuality. For example, craft an “I am Unique” book where each child can write or draw something that makes them unique.
  • Hold a classroom discussion about “things I love to hear,” in which the students can share things they enjoy listening to. This can help them find common ground and realize they share more similarities than they may realize.
  • Designate a “safe base” or “safe person” to whom the child can share his or her feelings with about their hearing device. Having a close confidant at school can make going to class an easier barrier to climb for your little ones.

The first step in addressing these kinds of challenges is by destigmatizing hearing devices for other children. Increasing awareness and establishing a plan of action can create a social atmosphere that discourages teasing and bullying. To parents and teachers of adolescents with hearing loss, we need your help in implementing these ideas into our community! Share these ideas with anyone you feel could benefit from them, as it is our responsibility to provide a safer environment for the children in our care and maximize the quality of life for those with hearing loss.

If your child has hearing loss and you have any questions or need advice on how to familiarize their siblings or peers with their challenges, contact our Audiology Department at 225-343-4232.