How to make it to the World Series with hearing loss
With the World Series just around the corner, your mini-baseball fanatics are probably glued to your TV set with visions of their own championships dancing in their heads. If your child has hearing loss, there isn’t any reason to hold them back from living their athletic dreams, because some of the most iconic sports practices came from deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes. The football huddle, for instance, was the brainchild of deaf Gallaudet University quarterback Paul Hubbard, who devised the huddle in the 1890s as a way of keeping opponents from seeing the teams' hand signals. And as for baseball, a couple of major league players in the late 1800s and 1900s are also credited for the rise of hand signals.
Since hand signals were initially developed by and for deaf athletes, many sports are already specially tailored toward those with hearing loss. Coaches, umpires, referees and teammates all use hand signals to communicate on the diamond, the field, the ice, the court or whatever other venue in which they’re playing. This should be encouraging for your little athlete not only because his or her teammates already speak a little of the visual language, but because it’s proof that successful innovation to integrate those with hearing loss does exist. Some efforts have become so entrenched in practice, in fact, like the use of hand signals in sports, that many people don’t even know how it all started.
Though your child’s coach may be fluent in sports hand signals, he or she is likely not fluent in American Sign Language. Your child’s school may be able to provide an interpreter to facilitate communication between your child and the rest of the team. If your child can be included in the classroom, he or she can be included in the sports arena. Work with your child’s school administrators to figure out a reasonable accommodation that works for everybody involved.
Helmets can further impede hearing since they cover the ears, but they can be modified to work around your child’s hearing loss. If your child wears hearing aids, helmets can cause feedback. One solution is wearing a helmet that only covers one ear, though if your child wears two hearing aids, this may or may not be helpful. Another option is to drill a hole in the top of the helmet, then fit a microphone in the opening that connects to the hearing aid sitting in or behind the ear.
You know how sweaty your child can get running the bases, so make sure to buy the proper protection to keep the hearing aid from malfunctioning. To prevent moisture build-up in your child’s hearing aid, you can either order water-resistant or water-proof hearing aids, or order a protective slip to cover the hearing aid. Other accessories, like sports loops, also exist to help keep the hearing aid in place while your kid is at play.
Above all, give your child the motivation he or she needs to excel. Self-doubt can be exacerbated from stress caused by physical differences from others, such as hearing loss and hearing aids, and children and teenagers are especially susceptible to a suffering self esteem. But as previously mentioned, sports are a field in which children with hearing loss have a lot of opportunity. As a parent, it’s your job to help them realize their potential.