“Bullying” is a catchall term, the true meaning of which has recently lost potency through overuse in the media lexicon and subsequently in social media spheres. But the consequences of bullying are very real, and can be detrimental to both children and adults with hearing loss who already might feel like they live apart from everyone else.
When many people think of bullying, they think of outright teasing and name-calling, or even acts of physical assault. But bullying can take many forms, both aggressive and passive, including purposely excluding or ignoring someone in the office or classroom. School and work environments are meant to be inclusive, so ostracizing someone from the rest of the group can have a profound effect on their happiness and self esteem. Here are a few tips if you or a loved one are experiencing bullying due to a hearing impairment.
In the classroom
Bullying most often occurs among children, mainly because they are unaware of the consequences of their behavior. Differences make easy targets for children and teenagers looking to dominate the classroom food chain, but being aware of the potential for bullying and building a comprehensive response to the situation can drastically alter the impact the mistreatment has on your child.
Resilience: Teaching your child or teen to be tough starts with your own behavior. If you are able to stand up for yourself in tough situations, your child will learn from it and apply it in on the playground. Have a discussion with your child about the possibility of teasing and make sure he knows he has no reason to be ashamed of his hearing loss.
Explaining: A lot of teasing stems from innocent ignorance, so if your child is ready with an explanation for her hearing loss, the other children at school can better understand her situation. Explain the condition to her in a way that she understands, so that she may relay the information to her classmates.
Self-confidence: Above all, your child should be comfortable in his own skin, and especially with his own ears. If you and your child haven’t accepted the fact he has hearing loss, his classmates surely won’t.
Focus on strengths: Instead of focusing on your child’s differences, focus on her strengths. What is she good at? Is she artistic, athletic, or intelligent? Finding her strengths can help her make friends at school.
Build friendships: A group of children is harder to tease than just one. By encouraging friendships (using all of the aforementioned strategies), you automatically create a buffer between your child and his would-be tormentors.
Be involved: Know what’s going on in your child’s life! Be proactive and ask her questions about her day if you notice a change in her behavior. Your children won’t always come to you when they’re experiencing problems with another child at school, so it’s your job to recognize the signs.
In the office
While adults are usually more accepting, you might occasionally run into problems in the workplace because of your hearing loss. Those who are hearing impaired can be passed over for promotions and left out of workplace functions. Another issue is the availability of assisted listening devices for the office, which some employers might be hesitant to supply. Be proactive in your interaction with your coworkers, and be sure to convey the importance of assisted listening devices to you and to the productivity of the office team as a whole.
While bullying might come across as mean-spirited, in most cases it’s just uninformed. The more time a person spends around someone with hearing loss, the more routine it becomes. Prepping the appropriate responses and embracing the condition yourself are both key to showing others you’re okay with who you are.