What are the differences between a child who is deaf and hard of hearing?
Having a child first be diagnosed with hearing loss can feel like a completely new world, especially if you haven’t experienced hearing loss in your family before.
Around 90% of all children born with hearing loss have normal hearing parents, so this situation is actually quite common.
Whether the diagnosis came as a surprise or confirmed your suspicion, you will most likely be confronted with many questions coming from all sides – your family members, friends, random people on the street, work colleagues: “Is your child deaf or is your child hard of hearing? What degree of hearing impairment does he/she have? Can he/she attend regular school or must he/she go to a school for deaf children? Will he/she wear hearing aids? Are you learning sign language to communicate with him/her?”
As a parent with normal hearing, you will also soon realize that the deaf and hard of hearing community is extremely diverse: deaf and hard of hearing people, interpreters, teachers, schools, associations, professionals that work with deaf children are all members. Many factors can and will influence how children define themselves and are recognized within a community: How has a child become Deaf or hard of hearing? What is his/her level of hearing loss? Are there other members of the family that have hearing loss? How will the family communicate, through spoken language or sign language?
The term “deaf” often refers to the condition of having one or both ears not responding to sound. The hearing loss of this child is so severe, that there is very little or no functional hearing at all. Hard of hearing means that, even if the child has a hearing loss, there might be enough residual hearing so that a hearing aid can provide adequate assistance to process speech.
From an audiological standpoint, any degree of hearing loss can have an impact on a child’s speech, language and learning.
The cultural definition is much different than the audiological one: being deaf or hard of hearing has nothing to do with how much you can hear, but how you identify yourself – with hearing people or with Deaf culture. Culture refers to the shared language, philosophies and educational experiences. Typically, children who are born to normal hearing parents identify themselves with the hearing world. Children born to deaf parents will most likely feel comfortable among this community and, at a later stage, will consider themselves deaf.
Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing, hearing impaired, mildly deaf, profoundly deaf, single-sided deaf…these are solely labels that cannot define your child as whole. They should by no means restrict the infinite capacity your kid has to develop throughout his/her life. It is natural that humans feel the need to belong and associate with a certain group or society and their minds also find it easier to understand by pigeonholing.
Beyond the Labels
As a parent, the important thing is not to focus on labels but instead to start thinking about your goals for your child: what communication goals should I set for my child? What education do I believe is best for him/her? Which milestones should be reached in term of improving speech and language understanding? What is the best available technology in the market to support him/her in all daily situations: at home with the family, in a car, during teacher lectures or in small group activities in school, at athletic activities, meeting with friends or simply with gaming, listening to music or watching TV?
Learn more about children’s hearing technology.
Far beyond any kind of label your child is given, the goal should be to provide all the physical and emotional support to your little one, so they can to develop endlessly to learn and explore the world with confidence!