Rather than look the other way, I wanted us and him to learn to embrace his hearing loss, to teach him that what sets him apart can be a strength rather than an obstacle. Raising your child to be comfortable with hearing loss will pave the way to their success. Even though he was only six weeks old when we got his diagnosis, we began implementing these ideas immediately so that they were second nature to us and him. Raising your child to be comfortable with hearing loss can happen with these easy tips.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth stressing over and over. The way to normalize something is to make it part of daily life and every day conversation. Obviously Cooper will grow up knowing he is a little different than other kids. I think acknowledging this rather than looking the other way is a vital part of teaching him to be comfortable. The sooner he realizes that his hearing loss will not limit him, the sooner he can just accept it as part of what makes him who he is.
“The sooner he realizes that his hearing loss will not limit him, the sooner he can just accept it as part of what makes him who he is.”
One of the ways I remember learning most as a child was through reading. Even before Cooper’s diagnosis, I knew I wanted books to be a big part of his life. But after his diagnosis, I wanted that to be the case even more so. I wanted to be able to find books that discussed hearing loss, both in easy-to-understand terms and straight forward ones. There are actually a number of kids books out there that cover this topic. A quick Google search will turn them up. I also began looking into kids’ books about signing right away and purchased a few so that Coop would be familiar with basic signs right off the bat.
Living in a small town in rural Minnesota, I was so worried there wouldn’t be any kids like Cooper in our area. But even here, there are. Through social media, we were able to connect with other families near us. There are at least three kids in the same school district who wear cochlear implants, and others wearing hearing aids. We’ve also connected with other parents outside our area but still in the state who have kiddos around the same age with hearing loss. As Cooper gets older, I know it will be important for him to have relationships with other kids similar to himself.
We can only be our child’s main advocate for so long. There comes a point where they need to learn to be their own advocate in certain areas. By teaching your child about their hearing loss and any hearing tools (like hearing aids and cochlear implants) you are setting them up to be successful. Also, you are setting them up to be confident in describing their needs without fear of what others may think. By being able to speak matter-of-factly about their hearing loss, you are instilling confidence in them, whether intentional or not. Raising your child to be comfortable with hearing loss will, in turn, make others comfortable as well.
While it would be great if every person in the world had knowledge about hearing loss, this isn’t the case. Prior to Cooper’s diagnosis, I didn’t know much about it either. By explaining to our children that some people may not understand their needs, we are setting them up for realistic expectations. The fact of the matter is that they may have interactions with people who are naive about what it means to be hard of hearing or d/Deaf, and they will have to learn how to handle such situations. Teaching them to do so kindly and gracefully will not only teach them to have confidence in how they talk about their hearing loss, but will also instill values of kindness and patience in them.
Of course, it’s important to note that every child is different and so are their needs. When it comes down to it, you, as parents, you know your child best. You know what they need in order to succeed and be confident in who they are. In order for your child to grow up with a strong sense of self, you need to be confident in the calls you and your partner are making. Also, how you are teaching your child about hearing loss. Of course, this means you need to have extensive knowledge yourselves. So be willing to put in the work. Spend time researching not only the factual aspects of hearing loss, but also the social and behavioral aspects of raising a child with different needs. Being the parent of a child with hearing loss is a commitment, but it’s rewarding in ways you wouldn’t expect.