Teaching kids about hearing aids and hearing loss
When my kids were little, I fielded a lot of interesting questions. Since the Internet was yet to be invented, we spent large amounts of time in the children’s section of our local library trying to find answers to questions like: what do ladybugs eat? And, what is lightning? I knew their little minds were working all the time, but I wasn’t always prepared for what they were going to ask me.
If you wear hearing aids and are looking forward to seeing your grandchildren during the holidays, you might get a few of these random questions, too. Undoubtedly, inquisitive eyes and fingers will find your hearing devices and want to know all about them. How do you explain hearing loss to a small child? How can you teach them to communicate with you so that you both understand each other? To give you a little help in this area, I asked Shanna Groves, otherwise known as Lipreading Mom, to share some of her Lipreading Tips for parents and grandparents.
Groves writes and speaks extensively about hearing loss. She is also the author of Lip Reader. “If you don’t understand what a child is saying to you, resist the urge to pretend you did,” Groves said. “Instead say, “My ears didn’t hear you. Please tell me again.”
Groves offers these additional tips to enhance communication with your young nephews, nieces and grandchildren this holiday season.
Children at this age love to play games, so encourage them to communicate with you using a variation of the game Peek-a-boo. Groves said Maryland’s Denise Portis invented this game to teach her children to establish eye contact with her before they speak. To incorporate better communication using this game, try these extra steps:
- Cover your eyes with your hands and remain quiet.
- Lower your hands, establish eye contact and speak to your grandchild.
- If they grow impatient and speak before you uncover your eyes say, “Wait! I can’t see you so I can’t hear you!
- Keep repeating until your grandchildren learn to establish eye contact with you before they begin speaking to you.
As a reminder, this age group explores objects with their fingers and mouths so make sure you have a safe place to store hearing aids and batteries when you aren’t wearing them.
It’s a noisy world and competing sounds from toys and other electronic devices can be a distraction when your grandchildren are around. You can help minimize these distractions by turning off the television and reducing other background noise. Before you have a conversation, ask them to do the same with their toys and music. As always, make eye contact, enunciate and speak slowly.
Speaking of toys, it might be a good idea to let this age group know hearing aids aren’t something to play with. When they ask what you’re wearing in your ears, explain that they help your ears hear, much like eyeglasses help eyes see. Of course, it’s also a good idea to keep hearing aids in their protective case and stored so inquisitive minds can’t find them.
By this age, children can understand the concept of hearing loss. Explain that sometimes ears need help hearing and that’s what hearing aids are designed to do. Tell them why it’s important to make eye contact with individuals with hearing loss and to speak slowly and clearly. If you play chauffeur with this busy age group, ask them to wait until the car is stopped to talk to you. You can reinforce this by not responding to questions when the car is in motion.
Technology, such as text messaging and email, works well with this age group. When these pre-teens and teenagers do speak to you in person, encourage them to speak slowly and clearly, stand no more than a few feet away and make eye contact so you can see their face. If you need to have an important conversation, consider going to a quiet room to talk.
Whether you’re planning to travel to family this holiday season or they’re planning to visit you, spend a little time before you get together and consider how you’ll explain your hearing loss to the younger set. With a little advanced planning, everyone will benefit from enhanced communication regardless of their age or ability to hear.
Have your children asked questions about hearing aids or hearing loss? Share your stories and experiences with us! One such family did; requesting we write an article on communicating to adults about your child's hearing loss. Check it out here!