Maybe you discovered it during a newborn hearing screening, or maybe they were already a few months old and not responding to your voice. Your child might already have hearing aids, or you might be discussing with an audiologist about getting your child fit with a cochlear implant.
You and your child may just be embarking on their hearing journey, and it may seem overwhelming. Especially because it could take months or even years before your child can be considered and then fit with a cochlear implant. But there are still a lot of things you can do to prepare them for being implanted, and help develop their communication skills long before activation day.
Preparing your child for a cochlear implant can be overwhelming. But from my experience, it’s best to take it in steps. There are still lots of ways to connect and communicate with your deaf child, while preparing them for a new routine with sound. Here’s what I suggest:
Children who have normal hearing can be soothed from a distance by hearing their parents’ voices, but deaf children need a lot more physical interaction to help them feel secure. Lots of cuddles, holding them and positive facial expressions are a good way to soothe a deaf child.
Your voice also makes vibrations, so holding your baby close will allow them to feel your vocals when you speak.
You might not realize it, but your baby or child is already picking up on all of your facial expressions, gestures and movements. This is a really good way to start learning sign language. Deaf children often really easily pick up signs and it really does make communication so much easier.
Sing songs with your little one, especially ones with actions. By repeating songs with hand gestures and exaggerated lip movements, your child will become familiar with it. When they are implemented and can hear the works, they will already feel like they know the song.
This is something we really noticed with Harry and we were really surprised the first time he heard “Row, row, row your boat” he started to do the actions!
Babies and toddlers can discover and learn without having to hear anything.
It is important to stick with the same sort of routine and visit the same places you will go when your child eventually receives their cochlear implant. Don’t stop talking just because they can’t hear you, children need to see that when your mouth moves someone else mouth then moves in response. This is showing them how we communicate long before they realize there is sound to go with our mouths moving!
I think its important to remember that your child shouldn’t feel scared when their cochlear implant is activated. They won’t suddenly be flooded with sound, as it is a very gradual process and the volume is increased little by little, so try not to feel anxious about your little one being overwhelmed as they settle into their new hearing world.