About 20 percent of American adults, or 48 million, have some degree of hearing loss
. Many of these adults are parents, and even more are grandparents. Parents with hearing loss often face additional challenges, from not being able to hear their newborn’s cry to understanding a child’s soft voice. For this Father’s Day, to celebrate the vital role that fathers play in their children’s lives, let’s take a look at a few techniques that can help hard of hearing parents connect with their little ones.
As a parent, regardless of your level of hearing loss, your presence makes your child feel happy, secure and protected. But communication difficulties will still present themselves, and it is important to have strategies to ease understanding. In their article “Young Children in Families with a Parent with Hearing Loss”, authors Deborah Wolter and Kathleen Quinn noted the following issues that may arise:
-Minimal level of dialogue between children and their hard of hearing parents
-Hard of hearing adults relying on older children to interpret for younger kids
-Failure to hear a baby or toddler crying at night, and to be able to identify the cause
-Whining, frustration and tantrums when children cannot the adult’s attention
-Children leading parents, or relying on gesturing and pointing instead of talking
If you are not aware when your children are trying to speak to you or get your attention, frustration can abound. Susan Baird of Ontario, who has had hearing loss since the age of 13, asks her children to tap on her shoulder and say “Mom” clearly before they begin talking to her. This gives her a chance to get close to them and make eye contact. Face-to-face communication is crucial and can greatly assist understanding. Susan also asks her children to speak slowly, and if an important issue needs to be discussed, she takes them to a quiet room to talk so that her children can have her full attention.
“Sometimes if they don't do these things, I just don't answer as I have only heard part of the story,” she said.
Eye contact may help when our children are in the same room as us, but what about hearing little ones when they are in a different part of the house? This task can prove difficult and sometimes even impossible for hard of hearing parents, which is why some parents and grandparents incorporate other assistive hearing technologies into their daily lives, in addition to wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Many parents rely on monitors that vibrate or flash brightly to alert them to sounds coming from a child’s room. This can be especially useful to hear a baby’s cries at night; there is even a device that can shake your bed to wake you up. A video monitor is a also a good option, but only for use during the day.
In a car or noisy restaurant, when loud background noises crowd out your child’s voice, a frequency modulated (FM) system can help. The FM system loop is attached directly to the parent’s hearing aids, and the child wears a microphone receiver. The child’s voice will be heard loud and clear through the FM system.
Trained hearing assistance dogs alert people with hearing difficulties when there is something that needs their immediate attention, such as a knock on the door, a smoke alarm or a baby crying. These canine helpers can be vital in getting your attention right away when your children need you, and can also help with balance support for those who need it.
The task of constantly trying to hear and understand can be tiring for people with hearing loss, and it is important to sometimes give the ears and brain a rest. Have a designated time of day in which there is no pressure to listen: it could be a nap or a half hour of reading or meditation. Let your kids know that you are taking your hearing aids out, and that they will need to write you a note to get your attention. When your children are old enough to have their own phones, texting can be a great tool for these times.
It is also key to reduce surrounding noises and give your children or grandchildren your full attention at other points in the day. Simply turning the TV or stereo off, sitting close and communicating with stories or games is a great way to connect with your little ones.
1. Learning the best communication strategies is a trial and error process, and takes patience. Educate your children about good speech habits such as enunciation, standing close, making eye contact and speaking slowly.
2. Work with your children on proper word pronunciation, teaching them how to emphasize in particular the softer consonant sounds of “t” “s” “f” and “v”.
3. Remind your child to turn off any toys or music before speaking, to eliminate background noise.
4. While driving, especially if your kids are in the backseat, work with them on waiting to speak to you until you are at a stoplight and can look at them. If possible, try not to respond to comments until your vehicle is at a complete stop. An FM system may help in these situations.
5. As often as possible, wait to respond to a child’s words until they are facing you. And if you don’t understand what your child has just said, don’t tell them that you did. Rather, say “My ears didn’t hear you. Please tell me again.”
We hope these tips help with the little ones in your life. Stay connected with healthy hearing! Visit us at Puget Sound Hearing Aids and Audiology
for your annual hearing test.