We all have that natural instinct to protect our children. When we talk about hearing loss and children we, as parents, need to understand that it goes much, much deeper than simply the loss of sound.
Hearing loss is a disability. People have a tendency to believe that the effects of the disability will be determined by the severity of the hearing loss. That is not strictly true. Some profoundly hard of hearing children will cope better with the level of loss than others that suffer only mild or moderate loss.
Each individual child will be different. No two will be effected in exactly the same way. Even if the hearing loss is identical the reaction and how they cope with a variety of other related issues will not be the same.
Hearing loss can never be treated in isolation. It affects every part of a childs life. From school, to friends, to family. Parents need to know how hearing loss is affecting their child. Only by knowing can we really protect and help our children through the trauma of this disability.
10 other ways hearing loss can affect children.
I have selected 10 other ways that hearing loss can affect children. I don’t make a difference between mild, moderate, severe or profound hearing loss. As I have said children will react differently to each of these 10 situations. Some are more obvious than others and many will overlap but hearing loss can have a negative effect on how children react to all of them.
Hearing loss and school.
If not diagnosed early, hearing loss can have a devastating effect on a child at school. Even with only a mild loss vital lessons can be missed. If a teacher is speaking in class and the child is missing parts of what they are saying then how can they be expected to perform to their maximum ability..
Few children (particularly young children) would be confident enough to say that they can’t hear what is being said. They may just think that everything is normal. As a result, their performance will suffer and with that their confidence in their own ability will take a nosedive.
Once a child loses interest in something they will turn to something else to fill the void. This can lead a child to being classed as disruptive, the class jester or just down right stupid. You may think that is a bit harsh but it happened to myself at the grand old age of 7. No one at the time thought of hearing loss and by the time I was diagnosed at 8 my opinion of school was set in stone.
The early years in school are so vitally important to how a child will perform throughout their school life. I firmly believe that all children should be given a hearing test before they begin their schooling. This simple audiology test would ensure that no child starts such an important phase of their lives at a disadvantage.
Hearing loss and home.
It is so easy to miss the early signs of hearing loss in children at home. If the child has no siblings then it should be easier as home life should be more intimate between the parents and child. If a child is struggling to hear television or conversation in this environment then it should be fairly easy to identify that something is wrong.
However if there are a bunch of kids running round, it can be much more difficult. There were 5 of us at a young age and when kids are playing they tend to be loud. With everyone shouting it was easy for me to hear. When we all sat down to watch television I would struggle to hear but didn’t ask for the volume to be turned up. I didn’t want to be seen as different.
My escape was to read when the rest were watching television. My parents actually admired me for this and didn’t recognise that there was an underlying problem. Why would they, I was completely normal in every other way. Parents need to know what signs to look out for in order to spot the first signs of hearing loss in their kids. The top10 signs of hearing loss in children.
Hearing loss and concentration.
People tend to think that this should be a dead giveaway in terms of spotting hearing loss. Actually it isn’t. Hearing loss will be well down the list of things people blame, especially in a children.
If a child lacks the ability to concentrate on oral stimulation for any length of time, it is generally blamed on things such as, just not interested, got a bee up their backside, wants to play with their friends, wants to play video games etc…
These can all be genuine reasons of course. If this lack of concentration continues over a period of time then perhaps you need to look a bit deeper. It might just be that the child can’t concentrate because they simply can’t hear what is being said.
Hearing loss and behaviour.
This one can be tricky. A child with hearing loss can be very meek and quiet or very noisy and disruptive. The meek child will simply nod at everything you are saying and then carry out the bits of instruction they have heard. They will very rarely ask questions and tend to have that “day dreaming look” on a regular basis.
The noisy and disruptive child will be the exact opposite. Whilst you and others may think a child is just being abnormally loud and disruptive. They may simply be reacting to a hearing loss that they don’t recognise nor understand. This is their way to attract attention.
Hearing loss and isolation.
There can be a terrible feeling of isolation for a child with hearing loss. They may know something isn’t right but can’t understand or express it to others. I know that, even living with 2 brothers, 2 sisters, my parents and my uncle that there were times when I felt an overwhelming sense of being alone.
No child will be able to understand hearing loss in a rational sense. They will be practical about it. This is where a parent can spot that something isn’t right. Simple signs such as the child being withdrawn, playing by themselves rather than a group. Even noticing if a child constantly leans forward towards a tv could indicate that there is something wrong with their hearing.
Hearing loss and bullying.
Thankfully something I have never experienced but I have spoke to others who have. Bullying is a constant source of discussion regarding schools and social media today. Children can be cruel. If a child can’t hear properly and gives the wrong reply in a conversation, this can lead to them being mocked by their peers as stupid.
That child can then decide to withdraw from future conversations to prevent being made fun of again. People can now see the child as being a loner which can lead to further verbal or even physical bullying.
If a child is being bullied, the parents/teachers etc… need to really drill down to try and find the root cause. It may not be superficial but something no one has thought of.
Hearing loss and language development.
Undiagnosed hearing loss in a child can lead to difficulties and delays in their language development. If a child is missing parts of a conversation or even just a couple of words here and there then the whole construction of sentences can be obscured.
People with hearing loss also tend to hear certain words differently from others. As an adult we can learn to adapt to this and adjust to make sentences make sense. A child will not have the skills to do this and can end up with a distorted view of language.
Hearing loss and music.
This is probably the most common missed opportunity of all to notice something is wrong. Every child listens to their music with the volume turned to full. This alone has the potential to cause damage to their hearing in time. You can check out my post on “Can loud music cause hearing loss” here.
A simple test can help here. Every now and then turn the music down to a normal level. If the child consistently says that they can’t hear the sound at that level then it could indicate hearing loss. If a child already has hearing loss then playing loud music (particularly through headphones) can lead to very severe damage in the future.
Hearing loss and relationships.
This is partly covered in the section regarding isolation. If a child is isolated and withdrawn at an early age then it can have a very negative impact on their ability to form relationships later in life.
This lack of bonding with others can impact on everything from finding a partner in life to not being able to hold down regular employment. All employers will tell you that they want team players. If someone hasn’t learned these skills at an early age then they can be very difficult to acquire later in life.
Hearing loss and balance disorders.
Most young children love to play sports. We all know the benefits in terms of a healthy lifestyle etc… Someone suffering from hearing loss can also often experience balance disorders.
If your child tells you that they are experiencing this or if they say they don’t want to take part in sports because it makes them dizzy, don’t just dismiss it. It could signal that hearing loss is a factor.
Even in everyday life, if your child is prone to falling over (I don’t mean the normal rough and tumble of childhood). If you notice that their balance doesn’t appear to be just right. Get them checked out.
How can we protect our children from the effects of hearing loss?
Prevention is always better than a cure. The earlier that hearing loss is detected in a child then the less impact it will have on their lives. I believe that free hearing tests should be carried out on every child prior to starting school for the first time.
I believe that free hearing tests should also form part of a child’s development at least up to the age of 16 or 18. If tests were to be carried out every two years then most, if not all of the above issues, could be prevented.
If a child is found to have hearing loss then the use of hearing aids for most would allow them to lead a pretty much normal life and avoid most of the issues that myself and many others have had to endure.
Some will shout and scream about the cost of such a programme. At the end of the day our children are the future. You can’t put a price on health.