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What a viral tweet on bullying can teach us about raising deaf children

bullying and hearing loss

Why do bullies bully, and how can we stop it?

That’s the question posed by middle schooler, Keaton Jones in a video shared on his mom’s Facebook account, which describes him dealing with bullies at school. 

Keaton Jones’ video invoked an outpouring of support from his community, family and celebrities. He received invitations to visit athletes, a fund was opened to raise money for his college tuition and messages flooded in encouraging him to stay strong. But the emotional video raises an important question: what can parents do to support their children in such situations?

Hearing Loss and Bullies

Kids with hearing loss unfortunately sometimes get bullied and it makes the stigma around hearing aids much worse.

It is estimated that 30 percent of students in grades 6-10 have been involved in some sort of a bullying incident. While there are no specific data on the number of children with disabilities who are targeted, research suggests that children with observable disabilities (such as hearing aids and cochlear implants) may be twice as likely to be bullied, according to AGBell.org.

HearingLikeMe.com author Melissa Hyder recently wrote about her son experiencing bullies because of his hearing loss. 

“There was one boy in particular that picked on Ayden, who wears hearing aids,” she says. “I had to watch him and be extra vigilant when he was around. One day after school, many of the kids from class were playing tag at the park. The boys were running around a huge field. I began to notice the boy singling Ayden out. Suddenly, from afar, the boy headed straight toward Ayden.” 

Luckily, Ayden has an older brother who stepped in to protect him, but the scenario isn’t uncommon. Melissa, however, says there are two key factors in preventing bullies: education and empathy. 

“Educating our children about hearing loss creates empathy,” she says. “We know that empathy leads to understanding and connection for in our family and towards the world.”

Read more: 5 Ways to Teach Children about Hearing Loss to Discourage Bullying 

Teaching children about hearing loss

There are many examples of how children with hearing loss advocating for themselves to educate their peers about their hearing needs and technology. In these cases, the student thrives. 

One recent high school graduate and valedictorian with hearing loss, Catherine Parr, recently shared her story about how she first told her peers about her hearing loss when she was in first grade. 

Catherine said she used a book, Oliver the Elephant, to explain to her classmates how her hearing loss affected her and how her hearing aids worked.

“Oliver was my way of introducing my pink and purple hearing aids to my first-grade friends,” she says. “When I read the book about him to my friends in class, everyone listened carefully and they just got it. Everyone understood what they (hearing aids) were, what they were for and that was that.”

Read more: High school valedictorian gives inspiring speech about achieving success with hearing loss

Bullying is often not about anger, but stems from intolerance toward differences, according to researchers. 

“It’s important to help your child understand that hurtful remarks and behaviors are not about something that is wrong or bad about them. Instead it is the other child who is displaying inappropriate behavior,” says Barbara Coloroso, in the book The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander. 

Helping Your Child be Resilient

Having an open conversation with your child, their peers and teachers can help everyone understand the differences in their hearing needs, making hearing loss seem not so scary. Having the right technology to help them keep up in the classroom can also prevent concentration fatigue and help them keep up with their classmates. 

Read more: What you should know about concentration fatigue 

Ten-year-old YouTuber Skye makes videos to show viewers what it’s like to wear hearing aids. She also uses hearing aid accessories in the classroom, which she demonstrates with her peers.

In the video, Skye’s teacher uses a Phonak Roger transmitter, which picks up her voice and transmits it wirelessly into Skye’s hearing aids. The latest model of this technology is called the Roger Touchscreen Mic. The technology provides students up to 54% improvement of speech understanding over other FM systems.

Through education, empathy and the right resources, children with hearing loss and other challenges can thrive and develop in school.

Have you experienced bullies because of hearing loss? What are ways that you help protect your children from bullies? Let us know in the comments! 

Author Details
The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill Blocker von Bueren and Lisa Goldstein.